On 30.08.2015, when Mr.Lalu Prasad Yadav, spoke about the need to create Smart Villages as against Smart Cities, some memories of my work came flooding in. When I was District Collector Sivaganga in 2003 for a short stint of about 8 months, I started a campaign called 100% Village. If any Village Panchayat achieved 100% in 8 out of the 10 items of social change I had delineated, then that village would be nominated as a "100% Village Panchayat". Obviously the question that arose was, as to what would be the incentives for the Panchayat President and others in Government to take up such a cause. Other than giving priority to such villages while taking up developmental projects and making them dream that these villages will be trendsetters for India, I had no other incentives to give!
The ten items were:
1. That 100% of children would go to school; dropouts from any standard would be reenrolled and monitored.
2. That every child would be immunized for all vaccine preventable diseases
3. That every home had a modern toilet, which will be used by every household member, and personal hygiene would be top priority in every family
4. That everybody in the Village Panchayat would be made literate
5. That every woman in the Village Panchayat would be part of a Self Help Group
6. That every deserving family was issued with a community certificate
7. That every family was issued with a bank account compulsorily
8. That every deserving villager was brought under the ambit of social pensions like OAP/WP/PCP
9. That every landholder was given a title to his/her house site or land
10. That every delivery in the village would be conducted at hospitals
One thought I always had and have is that, while we have a Directorate of Town and Country Planning to take care of our towns and municipalities, we haven’t extended the concept of physical planning to our Village Panchayat, so much so that these villages are haphazard and disorderly, from the point of view of providing common services, and also from the point of view of aesthetics, obviously because there is not much revenue that is forthcoming.
I could implement the first ideal when I was District Collector Krishnagiri in 2006-2009 through the www.baack2school.in initiative and the ideal of livelihoods creation was demonstrated through the creation of the rural BPO FOSTeRA
When Dr.Kalam visited our Rural BPO FOSTeRA (Fostering Technologies in Rural Areas), India's first rural BPO, I had the audacity to propound my concept of PUORA (Providing Urban Opportunities in Rural Areas) to Dr.Kalam. This thought was ignited by Dr.Kalam’s as PURA concept (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas). Dr.Kalam being the great man he was, immediately approved of the idea.
I am of the firm opinion that in the life cycle of any product, a few processes can be outsourced to villages. For e.g. Titan watches are assembled and Tanishq jewelryvillage boys and girls in Krishnagiri district, through a partnership with MYRADA, a renowned NGO. When boys and girls start earning, the economy will grow and there will be demand for better services and natural growth will happen, and most importantly, migration to our already congested cities will slow down. Yes, I think it is time to think about Smart Villages!