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The Transformation of Rural India

Rapid agriculture growth and rapid rural employment growth were always the focus of India’s policymakers.

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Rapid agriculture growth and rapid rural employment growth were always the focus of India’s policymakers. Mahatma Gandhi envisaged India as a Nation of self-sufficient autonomous village republics. Land – the summum bonum of rural existence, and the agricultural structure was the most important determinant of India’s development. Highly skewed distribution of land was responsible for agricultural backwardness. As land was the critical income generating asset of rural India, changes in agricultural holding structures were necessary to ensure the prosperity of the rural population. Accordingly, India’s State policy focused on State Governments formulating and implementing Land Reforms legislations. These included the Land Ceiling Act, the Tenancy Act, the Land Revenue Act and broadly adopted the land to the tiller policy. Surplus arable government lands were distributed to the poor and needy peasants for livelihoods. These policies were envisaged to promote agricultural growth and alleviate rural poverty.

After the bank nationalization in July 1969, a big push was given towards expansion of banking activities. Rapid expansion of bank branch network into rural areas and expansion of bank credit to agriculture and related activities. Priority sector lending targets and interest rates were introduced as part of a social banking approach. The rural bank branch expansion significantly lowered the rural poverty and increased non-agricultural growth. However, as time progressed, divergences emerged between the levels of development in States. The richer and faster-growing States were better at reducing rural poverty while growth was volatile in the poorer States. The faster-growing States had formulated laws for an amalgamation of farm holdings into viable units for investments, productivity and growth. In the poorer States, the alienation of small and marginal farmers from their lands and subsequent conversion to landless agricultural labour made them entirely dependent on the vagaries of the market. Large scale labor migration was witnessed in areas where rainfed agriculture practices were prevalent. The richer States also attracted higher investments and had better infrastructural development which resulted in higher per capita incomes as compared to the poorer States.

It was in this backdrop that the Indian State implemented a series of welfare programs for the rural population. These included the Desert Development Program, the Drought Prone Area Development Program and the Watershed Development Program. These programs were taken up in a decentralized participatory developmental model. The objective was to treat vast stretches of land areas with watershed treatment practices including construction of check dams, development of pastures and promotion of improved animal husbandry practices. A second crop in rainfed areas, essentially meant higher farm incomes and lower migration of farm labor.

The Indian State also implemented several major direct beneficiary programs for asset generation, skill development, residential housing and employment generation. The Department of Rural Development implements the major schemes of National Rurban Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU GKY) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) programs. The implementation of the MGNREGA on a pan India basis with assured employment on individual and community-based programs has resulted in significant employment and asset generation in rural areas. The National Rurban Mission was launched in February 2016 as a new initiative for the development of a cluster of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with a focus on equity and inclusiveness without compromising with the facilities perceived to be essentially urban in nature. The DDU GKY essentially focused on youth between 15 years and 35 years from poor families, is tasked with the objective of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and caters to the career aspirations of the rural youth.

Indian farmers were always concerned about the availability of adequate credit at a reasonable cost in a timely manner. One of the major steps forward in this direction was financial inclusion. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana represents the National Mission for Financial Inclusion to ensure access to financial services. The Jan Dhan Yojana provided the bankers with the necessary confidence to promote credit culture across the deprived population and resulted in significant increases in credit flows to the rural sector.

A Nation of India’s size requires significant increases in food production. The year 2016-17 witnessed the highest ever food grain production of 273.38 million tons which is 6.37 percent higher than the last 5 years average production and 8.6 percent higher than 2015-16. The government introduced the Soil Health Card Scheme (SHC) in 2015 to be issued on a bi-annual basis to all landholders of the country with the objective to conduct farm-level soil analysis. In July 2015, Government introduced the National Agricultural Market (E-NAM) to link 585 wholesale agriculture production marketing committees across the country through a common e-platform. The portal has been made available in several Indian languages and has empowered the farmers with vast information dissemination. The State continued to make rapid strides in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana covering all risks of the crop cycle and providing incentives for improved irrigation practices.

The Government’s initiatives for empowering the farmers and improving the infrastructure at the village level have been largely successful in reducing poverty and enhancing education and health care indicators. The improvement in farm incomes and the transparency in subsidy transfers would enable the creation of a 21stcentury India that is dynamic and forward-looking.

V. Srinivas is an IAS officer of 1989 batch and is currently posted as Chairman Rajasthan Tax Board with an additional charge of Chairman Board of Revenue for Rajasthan.

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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

Jaipur’s Gandhi Nagar Becomes India’s First All-Women Main Line Railway Statione

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Gandhi Nagar of Jaipur became country’s first all-women railway station in the Main Line category of the Indian Railways on February 19. Gandhi Nagar railway station has a footfall of nearly 7,000 passengers per day and of the 50 trains which pass by, 25 trains halt here.

From station master Angella Stella, ticket collector Vandana Sharma to virtually every single post including station superintendent, head ticket collector, point woman, RPF constable, station master, ticket reservation clerk and enquiry clerk has a woman employee at the Gandhi Nagar station are women.

They looked visibly happy in the glory of being on duty at the country’s first all-women railway station and were congratulated by TP Singh, general manager, NWR on the inaugural function on Monday afternoon.

Singh told the media that Gandhi Nagar is now first all-women railway station in the Main Line category of the Indian railways. “Matunga railway station of Mumbai is also managed by women and it is in the sub-urban category while our station is first in the Main Line category,” he added.

Station Master Angela Stella, who completed one year in the Indian railways was excited and happy with the new responsibility. “I have never thought I would be handling a station which would be all-women within one year of my job. I will abide by all the safety norms and apply standard operating practice while working,” Stella said.

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India’s Forest and Tree Cover Rises by Over 8,000 Sq Km

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Photo: PIB

The latest India State of Forest Report released on Monday says India has now come to occupy the 10th spot in the world where expansion of forest and tree cover is concerned.

Compared to 2015, India has increased its forest and tree cover by 8,021 square kilometres.

The green credentials of the country have risen in a commendable manner.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 has reported an increasing trend in the forest and tree cover, in comparison to the global trend of decreasing forest cover during the last decade.

Now, India ranks among the top ten countries in the world in terms of forest area.

The report states that there is an increase of 8, 021 sq km in the total forest and tree cover of the country, compared to the previous assessment in 2015.

Much of the increase in the forest cover has been observed in Very Dense Forest which is an encouraging sign as the Very Dense Forest absorbs maximum carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

With an impressive statistic of 2141 sq km, Andhra Pradesh tops the list of states that have shown the maximum increase in forest cover.

Karnataka is second after adding 1101 sq km while another southern state of Kerala came in close third after adding 1043 sq km to the forest cover.

Odisha is at fourth place with adding 885 sq km while Telangana grabs the fifth position with 565 sq km of increase in forest area.

While the states where forest cover has decreased are Mizoram (531 sq km), Nagaland (450 sq km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq km), Tripura (164 sq km) and Meghalaya (116 sq km).

In the North Eastern region, the total forest cover is very high i.e. more than 70% in each state.

Madhya Pradesh remains the state with the largest forest cover of 77,414 sq km, followed by Arunachal Pradesh with 66,964 sq km and Chhattisgarh with 55,547 sq km.

Forests play a vital role in water conservation and improve the water regime in the area.

As per the latest assessment, water bodies inside forest cover have increased by 2,647 sq kms during the last decade. Mangrove forests have increased by 181 sq km.

Mangrove ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and play a major role in protecting coastal areas from erosion, tidal storms and Tsunamis.

India is striving towards achieving its goal of creating additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030

The information given in the report will serve as an important tool to monitor the country’s forest resources and plan suitable scientific and policy interventions for its management.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 is 15th such report in the series.

Forest Survey of India has been assessing the forest and tree resources of our country on a biennial basis since 1987.

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India’s Rivers are Being Cleaned up by These Newly Designed Boats

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