What is Rural Development?

Rural development refers to the actions and initiatives taken for the social and economic development of the rural or backward areas. It aims at a continuous rise in the standard of living of the rural poor.

Key Issues in Rural Development

Rural development involves the following key issues.

Human capital formation: Quality human capital is missing from rural areas. The reason for this is the absence of basic health and education facilities that are necessary for human capital formation. People in rural areas often have to resort to far-flung places for these facilities. This has the effect of reducing the quality of human capital. Thus, an important part of rural development is the production of quality human capital out of the human resources available in rural areas. For this, it is important to invest in such areas as education, technical skills development through on-the-job training and healthcare.

Development of productive resources: Agriculture is the main occupation of people in rural areas. There is, thus, an excess burden on the agricultural sector. This sector also suffers from low productivity, lack of infrastructure, and disguised unemployment. Hence, there is the need to develop productive resources to help generate alternative employment opportunities for rural people. This would increase the productivity and income of the rural people and also reduce the strain on the agricultural sector. Therefore, the creation of alternative sources of income via the growth of productive resources is an important part of rural development.

Development of rural infrastructure: Infrastructure such as banking, credit societies, electricity, means of transport, means of irrigation, and facilities for agricultural research are crucial to the development of rural areas. These facilities provide the necessary support to all production activities. The absence of these facilities makes economic growth and social development a difficult task. Thus, infrastructure development is of critical importance in rural development.

Land reforms: As mentioned before, agriculture is the primary occupation in rural areas. The agricultural sector has several shortcomings such as small land size, presence of intermediaries, dependence on moneylenders, employment of traditional techniques of farming, and lack of a marketing system. These shortcomings can be removed through various land reforms and technical reforms. Land reforms include abolishing intermediaries, consolidating landholdings, imposing land ceilings, and regulating rent. These help in increasing the productivity and aggregate volume of farm output. Technical reforms include encouraging the use of HYV seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, providing irrigation facilities, and promoting modern techniques of production.

Land reforms and technical reforms together lead to efficient and optimum use of land, thereby resulting in large-scale production. This would in turn increase the income and standard of living of the rural people.

Reducing poverty: Poverty is one of the main causes of rural underdevelopment. While not a problem in itself, poverty does give rise to many interrelated problems such as unemployment, inferior human capital, underdevelopment, backwardness, and inequalities. Poverty alleviation should be integral to government plans and policies. The increasing number of schemes should be launched by the government for the upliftment of the rural poor. Developing income-earning assets is an important step in tackling poverty. Such steps would help generate income, raise the living standards and make the people in rural areas self-sufficient.

Generation of new employment opportunities: Agriculture, as stated before, is the primary source of income for rural people. Low productivity and output characterize the agricultural sector. For this reason, the income of farmers remains low. Moreover, as agriculture is a seasonal occupation, there exists a time lag of approximately 5 to 7 months between the cultivation of two crops.

During this time, due to the lack of alternative employment opportunities, farmers remain without any job. Thus, emphasis must be laid on the development of alternative means of income such as cottage industries, fisheries, and handicrafts. The greater the employment opportunities, the higher would be the income generated. This increase in income would help reduce the poverty persisting in the rural economy, thereby making the people of rural areas self-sufficient.

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