India lives in its villages and serves as a food basket of the nation. Village Panchayats are the centres of grass root democracy. However, the holistic development of rural India is still under tremendous pressure owing to the declining farm output, increasing trend of distressed migration, absence of basic amenities and emerging problems of environmental pollution and conflicts. As per Census of India statistics, the rural population in India, stands at 833 million, constituting almost 68% of the total population. The rural population has shown a growth of 12% during the 2001-2011 period and there has been an increase in the absolute number of villages by 2279 units, during the same period, and all of these makes India a rural dominated country. To respect and implement the vision of Mahatma Gandhi of a sustainable village, we all need to have the responsibility to make our villages smart, i.e. self-sufficient, efficient, healthy and educated villagers considering that the villagers have all the potential of development socially, scientifically, economically and environmentally.
Currently, for a smart village major thrust is given on the technology as a means for development, enabling education and agricultural entrepreneurial opportunities, improving health and social welfare, enhancing democratic engagement and overall enhancement of rural village dwellers. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has proved its potential in various sectors of development in some of the rural areas.
At a village level, majority of citizens are dependent on government infrastructure and schemes, so the delivery of government services has to be efficient to ensure that the maximum number of citizens in a region are able to avail benefits and entitlements. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to have an efficient, transparent and accountable service delivery system.
In the villages the school dropouts at school or college level is quite high amongst the rural youth which negatively impacting the education policy and targets of the Indian government. There is lack of availability of vocational avenues in rural areas which further adversely affecting the aspirations of the rural youths. Such youths with little education, lack of vocational skills and pass through utter poverty and they migrate to the urban cities for employment.
Pure drinking water and good sanitation are essential prerequisites for good health and hygiene. Most of the epidemics and ill health in India is mainly due to communicable diseases caused by oral faecal routes. Open defecation along with contaminated water are still the major challenges in our villages. A smart village must have this aim to eliminate the above mentioned problems. Innovative approaches to improve water supply and sanitation must be introduced in the villages.
Solar powered street lights have all the required means today to lighten up the villagers in terms of the sense of security. Solar LED street lighting will provide a high quality, sustainable lighting solution for people in remote areas who don’t have access to the conventional electricity grid. It will help in increasing the level of safety on roads and streets and allowing for more economic and social activity.
Unorganized growth model has seen in the forms of mammoth heaps of waste in many cities. This form of growth that generates more waste than efficient consumption of resources must not be replicated in our villages. Sustainable waste management, conversion of rural waste into rural wealth can help our villages to become free from unwanted waste that is left uncollected. This will make the working conditions much better and will definitely help in improving the life expectancy of the locals.
The smart village concept is needed for a sustainable and a secured future of the villages. It is about understanding the villages towards the growth model which is inclusive. It’s about achieving a higher goal without compromising the roots and the sense of belongingness of the masses. The concept of smart village is contemporary and very reliable today as there is a limit of the growth of cities which is leading to creation of urban jungles, where the population ratio and its related issues per km of land is way above the expected targets. A smart village should be interactive and multi-functional and provisions must be there for active participation of people in various developmental activities. A smart village is one which will automatically link local production with local procurement and local and outside distribution. A smart village will also have the power, knowledge, healthcare, technology, entrepreneurship and quicker connectivity in terms of information acquiring and dissipation. A smart village will not only bring internet connection to the rural areas, but also provides support to sustainable agricultural practices. Simply parroting the much standardized views and ideas of some selected institutions shall not suffice the needs and requirements of our villages. Indian villages are located in different geographies and ecosystems with definite and concretely embedded respective differences in terms of needs, cultures, values, norms and requirements. Focus is made on the village economy with sincere efforts to increase the economic growth such that more and more people contribute to the growth of the village economy, farming on their own land, producing more from their own fields. There is need of adequate financial support to the farmers and good prices for their produce.
If such an approach is adopted, efficiency will start moving from the bottom to the top, rather than a top-down approach. This will also curb migration to cities and reduce the burden on infrastructure in the cities.
To deliberate on the actionable solutions for these pressing needs of villages, to learn from the pioneers of this concept and to contribute in the roadmap for this initiative for the whole country, the One Mega Event is orgainsing one of its kind Smart Villages Conclave with the theme of “Making of Smart Villages for a Sustainable Future” on 25 May 2018 at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India. We invite you to be a part of this conclave and take a part in the deliberations. There is no participation fee for attending the conclave.