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India cannot make rapid strides without paying attention to the development of its rural areas which account for 750 million people, including 80% of below-poverty-line families. Former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has proposed the PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) model for development as the way forward to achieve inclusive, sustainable growth. The following is a report by Abhay Vaidya based on the book Target 3 Billion by Dr. Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh

Soon after his term as President of India ended in 2007, one of India’s leading scientists, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam began teaching at the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky and at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).At IIMA he took a course called Globalizing Resurgent India through Innovative Transformation and it was during this teaching experience that he dwelt at length on issues of inclusive development. He thought deeply about the idea of empowering the world’s poorest people, who number around three billion and arrived at the conclusion that the key to this empowerment and inclusive growth lay in rural areas as more than three billion people- roughly half of the world’s population- lives in rural areas.

Seven out of ten cases of extreme poverty live in rural areas where there are poor facilities for health, education and employment. Life in rural areas is characterised by “archaic technology, untapped resources, underdeveloped skills and assistance”. Consequently,the poor migrate to urban areas in search of jobs and a better life but suffer exploitation there too.As pointed out by Prof. C.K. Prahalad through his research on urban poverty, “the urban poor actually end up paying a ‘poverty penalty’- as is happening in the slums of Mumbai where the dwellers pay “five to twenty five times more for basic products like water and medicine than the rich in the posh areas of the same city.”

India’s Neglected Villages



This picture of a poor girl in a Rajasthan village with her father gambling in the background is typical of many neglected villages in the country. (PIC:



With about 750 million people in the villages, India has the highest rural population in the world, living in 638,588 villages spread across 612 districts in the country. It accounts for more than 500 million youths below the age of 35 years, largely with unrealized potential.

Nearly 80% of India’s below-the-poverty-line population of about 300 million lives in rural areas. According to a report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), The Rise of Rural India, 2010 the average rural consumer expenditure stood at Rs.625 compared to Rs. 1,170 in urban areas. Data showed that “53% of the total expenditure of rural households was on food while only about 10% was on capacity-building expenditure like on healthcare and education.” For the BPL population, the expenditure on food alone was as high as 65%.

While at IIMA, Dr. Kalam worked extensively on exploring solutions to the problems of widespread poverty and conceptualizing sustainable models of development for rural India which could be applied to other rural areas of the world in the hope of targeting the three billion poor of the world. He was assisted in this effort by his student, Srijan Pal Singh, who won a gold medal for the best all-rounder student at IIMA.

The desired model of development would foster a conducive environment for empowerment and entrepreneurship and ensure economic growth that was inclusive of the villages where 750 million people- 70% of India’s population lived. The result of these efforts was the PURA model- Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas.

Problems of Urbanization

Existing models of development are city-centricand have been resulting into serious problems of urbanization. The Millennium Development Goals Report, 2007 noted that about 37%city-dwellers the world over lived in slums. By 2030, the population of slum dwellers could reach a staggering two billion according to a 2007 UN-HABITAT report, ‘Slum Dwellers to double by 2030: Millennium Development Goal Could Fall Short’.

Rising civic population leads to enormous pressures on the infrastructure- think of the over-crowded trains of Mumbai- and huge price escalation on housing. It leads to the mushrooming of slums and the cost of living rises substantially on all fronts. Clearly, city-centric growth models are not sustainable and what is required is to develop the rural areas where the potential is yet to be realised.

This can be done by avoiding the mistakes of the past and paying attention to economic, social and environmental sustainability; using technology to drive development and promoting values to “bring about tolerance and respect for diversity, harmonious interaction and a reduction in crime.”

Moving Towards PURA

Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) is extremely important as this would help erase the stigma of underdevelopment from rural areas and make them attractive for all. The village household is the atomic unit of PURA where thefocus is on the capacity-building of the household members and on ensuring that they have access to basic amenities.

The next PURA level is the village where the opportunities for growth are identified, priorities listed and community participation encouraged to pursue various initiatives.

Dr. Kalam has identified PURA Village Clusters as the next level of development in this model. A cluster is formed by groups of villages “sharing basic economic and social assets such as connecting roads, markets, advanced healthcare services, higher educational facilities and electronic connectivity.” A PURA Cluster can have 10 to 50 villages depending on the terrain and population.

According to Dr. Kalam, planning should start at the level of PURA Clusters which could coordinate and partner with one another for mutual benefit.

As against the haphazard manner of development that has been witnessed all along, “PURA envisages an integrated development plan with employment generation as its focus, driven by providing good habitation, health care and education, and, by developing skills; through physical and electronic connectivity, and marketing. This will lead to the generation of stable employment for sustainable development.”

India would need about 7,000 PURAs for its 600,000 villages. While focusing on agriculture, these clusters would not lag behind in realising the potential of agro-processing, dairy farming, fishing, silk production and handicrafts to generate non-farm revenue. These clusters would generate power through renewable sources of energy such as the Sun, wind and biofuels and municipal waste.

Four kinds of connectivity would be important for PURAs-

* Physical Connectivity through a network of good roads or waterways

* Electronic Connectivity through broadband/ satellite/ wireless or leased lines that would enable distance-education and facilitate tele-medicine

* Knowledge Connectivity for capacity-building of the local community through schools and hospitals; vocational training, better farming practices and better management of valuable resources including water and forests.

* Economic Connectivity for employment generation and promotion of entrepreneurship.

Creating a PURA

A cluster of villages that is throbbing with economic activity can be created by any of its multiple stakeholders, be they the government, private sector, NGOs, financial institutions, academic institutions or individuals driven by a vision. The government and public-private partnerships could lay the basis for physical, electronic and knowledge connectivity.

From there on, any of the stakeholders, individually or collectively could drive an economic activity to create an economically-empowered PURA cluster.A number of such clusters are already in existence, as for example, the Warana PURA run by a chain of cooperative societies, Loni PURA initiated by a medical university, Chitrakoot PURA started by an NGO under the leadership of a visionary leader, Periyar PURA run by an educational institution, Bakhtara PURA initiated by the state government of Jharkhand and the Madurai PURA initiated by an alliance between a hospital, social organization and corporate bodies.

The Warana PURA


Warana Bazar is an example of Dr. Abdul Kalam's vision for PURA-Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas. The nation's first consumer co-operative store founded in 1976, this massive departmental chain with two mega stores, 55 branches and three franchisees has a daily turnover of more than Rs. 35 lakhs. PIX Credit: Vaibhav Photo, Warana



The Warana PURA is an example of what can be achieved.

Located in Kolhapur district, the Warana Valley was transformed economically by Tatyasaheb Kore through the sugar cooperative movement. The cooperative network has more than 60,000 farmers, women entrepreneurs and villagers as its membersand the various enterprises initiated through cooperative effort has benefitted four lakh people in 69 villagers.

In March, 2010, a PURA Centre was inaugurated by Dr. Kalam at the Tatyasaheb Kore Institute of Engineering and Technology, Warananagar.

According to Dr. Kalam, “The Warana PURA programme has succeeded in creating income generation through value addition to sugar and dairy products, innovative agricultural practices and entrepreneurship, striving towards literacy and providing health care for all. “ Warana’s economy was made inclusive and the Warana Poultry and Warana Dairy were established by Tatyasaheb Kore for the welfare of the landless villagers.

The dairy has more than 16,000 milk producers spread over 78 villagesand collects and processes more than 500,000 litres of milk from its 1,753 collection centres.

Warana Dairy not only supplies 1,50,000 litres of milk to Mumbai daily but also manufactures and exports value-added dairy products to the Middle East.

As Dr. Kalam noted: “The Warana PURA complex has a message: innovative missions with a focus on better technology and sound management, can fulfill socio-economic objectives of creating a prosperous and happy society emanating from thebottom of the pyramid. The cooperative model, the product diversification, the process innovation and market understanding have all been the hallmarks of creativity of Warana’s citizens.”

The PURA model for India’s diverse terrain

Plain PURA: Would cover a population of 20,000 – 100,000 across 20-30 villages. Would be based on the diverse competencies of the region with a focus on agriculture and forestry products.

Coastal PURA: Would cover a population of 20,000 – 80,000 across 20 - 25 villages in the coastal region with a focus on marine occupations.

Desert PURA: Spread over 30 – 50 villages with a population of 7,000 – 15,000 people. The management of scarce water resources would be a key challenge.

Hill PURA: Spread over 30-45 villages with a population of 7,000 – 15,000 people. Physical and Electronic Connectivity would be a challenge and an opportunity, says Dr. Kalam.

Island PURA: Similar to Coastal PURA but faced with the challenges of establishing connectivity within the PURA and with external markets.

Delta PURA: According to Dr. Kalam, the Delta region of the lower Gangetic course in West Bengal is rich in soil fertility and has unique natural resources of bio-medicinal value, especially in the fragile ecosystem where fresh water finds confluence with sea water. PURA implementation would be challenging. About 20 – 40 villages would be covered with 20,000 – 50,000 people.

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