[Gist of Kurushetra January 2021] Adopting a Holistic Approach towards Rural Development

Mains Paper 2: National
Prelims level: Atal Tinkering Labs
Mains level: Emphasis on AatmaNirbhar Bharat


• Today, India is also well known globally for its rapidly growing digital prowess, technological capabilities and its innovative spirit. With over 55000+startups, 400+incubators and over 34 Unicorns India is rightly being perceived as one of the fastest growing Startup Nations of the world.

• Yet over 70 percent of the population of India are in Tier-2, Tier-3, cities and in rural agri dominant India. Over 70 percent of the formal and informal labour workforce of India is associated with the micro, small and medium enterprises of rural India.

Emphasis on AatmaNirbhar Bharat:

• The article will focus on this ‘Bharat’ which encompasses and integrates rural India. This Bharat is tremendously aspirational and is ready to leapfrog to the future.

• This Bharat believes that it can and will make India self-sustainable through the clarion call of a self-reliant “AatmaNirbhar Bharat” by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi this year, that has galvanised a series of steps across the country for the achievement of same.

• The global economy is galloping towards growth by leveraging emerging technologies like 3D printing, robotics, IoT and sensor technologies, augmented and virtual reality that are becoming advanced yet affordable, accessible and available.

• Automation of mundane tasks leading to higher productivity, and technology driven growth will become key enablers which will inevitably change the way we interact, communicate, transact and reach global markets soon.

• The current education system needs game changing radical transformations in its approach and methodologies keeping pace with rapidly changing trends and digital capabilities of technology.

• The time thus has come to focus on building sustainable technology driven plans and approaches to drive the Indian economy to leapfrog towards the 5 trillion-dollar economy goal; with the right push towards creating more job creators and better job seekers this can be achieved.

• As per a study conducted recently, percolation of the startup environment and innovation has been fragmented and has not reached the rural, Tier III and Tier IV cities due to various factors. The focus of these less percolated regions has been to create job seekers rather than encouraging/enabling new entrepreneurs and job creators.

• It is time that we drive a focussed approach in all such regions by providing them with basic factors viz. startup capital, skill building institutions to boost innovator confidence, risk appetite culture etc. Some of the factors which would contribute in create a sustainable approach to solving this problem holistically are been highlighted here.

Delivering Quality Education:

• The need for technology driven practical education has been stated in the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The NEP strives to make us realise the importance of experiential learning and also emphasises on the importance of developing relevant skillsets for an agile world that we live in today. The Indian education ecosystem took a leap when computers were introduced and today, we are standing at a similar cusp.

• Tomorrow’s world shall be focussed on data driven approaches to solve the problems at hand. The education ecosystem thus needs to incorporate and grow, keeping these incoming changes in mind.

• The demographic dividend is on our side and we must focus on building experiential model of learning for the school kids.

Atal Tinkering Labs:

• The Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) launched by the Atal Innovation mission, NITI Aayog. Atal Tinkering Labs are state of the art labs created in schools where children are introduced to new emerging technology toolkits.

• These toolkits are miniaturised electronics devices, 3D printers, sensors, Robotics, Arduino kits etc. These toolkits introduce the kids to a whole new world which runs on data and emphasises importance of computational thinking along while driving creativity.

Developing Youth as Change Makers:

• The focus of this decade is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 and this can be achieved by enabling the youth of the country to be at the front and centre of the solutions that are being created.

• There has been low penetration of the self-employment and startup ecosystem in the rural, Tier III and Tier IV cities of the country and an even lower penetration of the understanding of the SDGs.

• One such effort is being done by the Atal Innovation Mission of NITI Aayog by establishing Atal Community Innovation Centres (ACICs) in the underserved/unserved regions of the country. These ACICs will focus on creating awareness about the SDGs and focus on providing young innovators with an opportunity to grow and make a difference.

• It is also imperative that this fellowship program is strongly supported by a Public Private Partnerships (PPP) network. The private sector may drive the fellowship by providing the fellows with a relevant business challenges derived from triple bottom-line goals and guide the fellows through the entire process of developing and implementing the solution.

• This fellowship can also be treated as an on-job-training for the fellows, at the end of which the fellow may receive a placement offer from the associated corporate or a certificate recognising the efforts made by the fellow during the entire year.

• The fellowship should also explore liaising with the state and district innovation cells and tapping into the currently unutilised District Innovation Funds to create a holistic approach to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.

Way forward:

• It is appropriate here to applaud the efforts taken by the local civil society organisations/NGO’s which are helping in the formation of local Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO’s).

• These FPO’s also can work with the startups in all the above-mentioned activities. The FPOs provide the farmer with an added opportunity of creating a bigger value adding network and driving an integrated approach towards creating a vibrant rural economy.

• All these efforts stated shall not only be beneficial for the holistic development of the rural economy today but also will have a sustainable future for an AatmaNirbhar Bharat that can serve the world.

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