On June 07, 2023 The Union Rural Development Ministry organised a conference on “reimagining rural India” in partnership with the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ramesh Chand, a member of the NITI Ayog, said that a large portion of funds allocated for rural development were spent on social programmes and emphasised the importance of investment for overall development.

As stated by the experts at the conference, India no longer has a clear rural-urban divide and should consider bringing manufacturing to its rural communities in order to close the income gap and meet its development objectives.

Nagendra Nath Sinha, a former secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, stressed the importance of developing policies for rural areas that are quickly becoming urban areas.

The goal of the two-day conference, “Evolving India: Re-imagining Rural Development for Shared Prosperity,” was to develop a road plan for rural India during the Amrit Kaal.

Chand stated during the two-day conference’s closing session that a distinct tendency had developed over time in the rural sector and that there had been a shift in emphasis from a development-focused approach to one that focused on allowing a certain group of targeted populations, the ultra poor.

“Look at it in terms of total resources spent by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2022-23, the Budget was Rs 1.8 trillion for central schemes. Out of that, Rs 1.6 trillion has gone for NRLM and MGNREGA…” he said.

Chand added, “Somehow, I feel the approach shifted to uplifting individuals rather than the whole rural area. Rather than supporting economic activities that will help everyone, focus shifted to the bottom 25 percent or 30 percent, I am talking of balance, I am not against it”.

The discussion covered topics like utilising digital opportunities for rural India, enhancing the connections between agri-food, climate change, nutrition, gender, entrepreneurship, and employment for young people in rural areas, investing in rural-urban transition, re-imagining the design of collectives, and financing for inclusive rural growth.

–By Divya Swaraj

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