Rural India is going through a slow and at times, agonizing transformation. As agricultural incomes have stagnated, inflation has kept costs high. More-over, aspirations are on the rise – as the migration to the cities acquires pace, more and more rural youth look to a life beyond farming.
A lot of attention has been devoted to these aspirations by the Government of India. Launched under the UPA regime, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was aimed at tackling disguised and real unemployment n rural areas by providing an employment guarantee, an all things considered, the scheme has worked well.
But the NDA government proposes to take things a step further. First through the ambitious start-up India campaign and later with ‘Skill India’, which envisages a series of steps for enabling mass training of youth for jobs and entrepreneurship.
What has been the practical impact of this on the target of such schemes? If one looks at recent trends, the appetite for entrepreneurship in preference to employment is definitely on the rise among rural youth. Around 5.66 lakh youths have evinced interest to becoming entrepreneurs under the ‘Project for Livelihoods in Full Employment under MGNREGA (Project Life- MGNREGA)’. While still less than the 8.10 lakh who opted for employment-oriented training, this shows a healthy trend. Another interesting finding of the survey was that these same youth were more interested in entrepreneurship options within the agricultural sector.
This implies significant change in both the urban landscape as well as the rural one. For decades now, rural migration to urban areas has been the source of cheap labour. Already we see that with entrepreneurship beginning to catch up among the youth, wages for unskilled and low-level jobs are on the rise. In the longer term, if the skills acquired through such laudable initiative as the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and the new National Policy for Skill Development lead to establishment of businesses throughout the villages, there may even be a reverse migration to rural areas.
This will have a number of positive effects for the country.
- Rising rural incomes leads to a multiplier effect on the GDP.
- Employment levels will rise, which is essential for a country with India’s demographic make-up.
- Decongestion of cities as availability of employment spreads more evenly between cities and villages.
- Improvement of infrastructure – As a natural consequence of the emergence of businesses in rural India, the road and electricity infrastructure will have to improve due to demand-pull effect.
For all this to happen, however, a sustained effort from both the Government and the Youth themselves is necessary. From the Government, this takes the form of continued investment in the Skill India and the Start-up India programmes. Regardless of the party in power, there is a need to understand the importance of these initiatives and encourage them. Similarly, the rural Youth need to sustain the ambition to succeed as entrepreneurs against what is likely to be years of struggle against inadequate infrastructure, indifferent bureaucracy and social opposition.
So let us look to the future with optimism, and hope that the fire in their bellies never goes out. Only with these budding entrepreneurs of India we can truly achieve dream of developed India.
“We must be number one in start-ups… Start-up India; Stand up India.”