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By A.P.J. Abdul Kalam & Srijan Pal Singh
Penguin Books
300 pages, 299

 

Our rural areas will become sustainable sub-centres of economic growth and development only when there is economic empowerment coupled with capacity-building. These twin objectives are the goals of the PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) model as envisioned by the authors, former President APJ Abdul Kalam and Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) alumnus Srijan Pal Singh in their book, Target 3 Billion.

The Warana PURA complex in rural south Maharashtra is one such example where the cooperative sugar and milk industries form the backbone of the economy in this region. Warana also has good schools and professional colleges, health services and a retail chain that brings the best of products to the doorstep. Such examples hold the key to transforming rural India and the poorest parts of the world with a population of three billion, say the authors. Edited excerpts:

Effecting a Social Transformation

The aim of a sustainable development system is not confined merely to generating higher income and a better economic growth. The evolution of such a development is complete only when the monetary benefits can translate directly into human development; be reflected in literacy and health care; and result in the reduction of poverty and eliminating other conflicts in a society. Such a planned system, with close integration between incremental income and capacity-building, is the key to creating happy and prosperous societies.

The Gap in Rural-Urban Amenities

Across the world, whether in developing or developed nations rural areas lag in terms of providing basic amenities with quality and consistency. Most public and private employees in India- as in most of the world- find rural postings equivalent to a reprimand, with leading doctors and engineers doing their best to remain in cities. This lack of amenities has its effect first and foremost on rural talent itself, when the search for education or skill-building is often the first step towards migrating to urban regions.

It is a well-known fact that the basic human amenities of health care, education, sanitation and access to goods and services are the fundamental building blocks for empowering rural regions. Their coexistence with augmented income levels through enterprise or job creation is paramount to the sustainability of the initiatives. Skill and talent cannot be sustained in rural complexes without creating social assets.

The Linkage Between Economic And Social Assets

The concept of a PURA is fully achieved only when there is a dynamic linkage between economic development and social and cultural transformation in real time and in a seamless manner. What this means is the realization of the following two dynamic scenarios:

  1. All income-generating activities which lead to the better economic condition of households should be matched by the creation of social assets in which the excess income can be can be invested for building a better life and hence, for capacity-building.
  2. As capacity-building occurs in terms of knowledge and skill, economic development has to evolve dynamically in order to provide employment or entrepreneurial opportunities for a workforce with a higher set of skills, and to accommodate the expansion of the existing set of skills. With economic empowerment and access to social assets and amenities, a gradual cultural change and moral upgrading will set in.

    The two aspects- income generation and capacity-building- will be cyclic and will reinforce each other to promote better living standards for all in the PURA complexes.

    We can visualize a typical empowered household in one of the PURAs at Warana in Maharashtra. It is a complex with a cooperative sugar and milk industry, a retail chain, a hospital, schools and colleges. I visualize a joint family household owning about 10 to 12 acres of land where sugar cane is being cultivated and then processed in the cooperative factory.

    The women of the house are active and skilled members of the cooperative network which manages the various retail outlets across the region. The children receive quality education in the Warana schools and the youths of the house are students of advanced learning available locally in the Warana engineering, medical or commerce colleges. Through the local retail outlet, the household has access to all the best quality products available in any of the cities and to health care in the hospital. Since the household is technologically empowered through the network of cooperative enterprises, it is economically independent and able to avail of the services.

    It has access to clean drinking water and nutritious food; the children use modern technological tools for e-learning, through the Internet; and the farmer-parents practise advance methods of agriculture for improving the yield and sustainability. Every member of the family is empowered, knowledgeable and productive.

    This is the goal of sustainable development through PURA. Every rural household in the world needs to be propelled into becoming an empowered household on the lines of Warana or any other PURA.

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