By: Prof. J. S. Yadav
NEW DELHI: As the number of corona virus cases increased in India the inadequacy of health infra-structure became stark. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a clarion call to turn this huge covid-19 adversity into an opportunity to turn around our economy and social life. India needs to be self-reliant and give boost to rural economy. Along with traditional agriculture / labour we need to have work opportunities in modern sector- production, distribution, marketing, sale and logistics in rural India to facilitate rural resurgence in post covid-19 era.
Covid-19 started from China, spread across the world in short span of time and became pandemic. It is a new virus. Little is known about the nature of virus, and the level of risk involved. Lakhs are affected and thousands died. It is a massive health emergency and huge challenge for public health. The countries responded to the pandemic in trial and hit manners. ‘Lockdown’ that is closure of airline, public transport, business, offices and education was resorted to by many countries including India. Stay home stay safe became a new mantra. Accordingly do’s and don’ts to protect the citizens and the country as a whole are issued.
Though lockdown helped in saving many lives, it shattered the economy and brought miseries for millions. With lockdown lakhs of people lost jobs / work opportunities and their monthly wage earnings to pay for their daily basic needs of food and shelter. The danger of corona virus and fear of hunger made them to leave cities and go back to their homes in villages. The result we saw in the form of haunting images of helpless migrants walking on roads /railway tracks bringing home the uncomfortable truth about continuing huge inequalities in our society.
Public health experts’ view now is that corona virus is not going soon and we have to live with it for months if not years till we have effective vaccine for it. So, unlocking process has been started in many countries including India to revive economies. In the Covid-19 era the business cannot be as usual. We have to make social distancing and sanitization as a part of our lives both at home and work. In cities working from home necessitated during lockdown period is likely to be the new norm after unlocking too. The trend may also be followed in rural areas as today villages are well connected with outside world by roads and mobile phones.
With the covid-19 there is influx of people returning ‘home’ from cities. They need work. The work under MGNREGA (“Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”) and dole outs in the form of money transfer to their accounts under different schemes /helps are welcome immediate relief but not enough.
The need is to start small and medium size industries & production units in rural India. These will provide work, other than manual work, ‘locally’ as many returning from cities in the context of covid-19 have talent and skills that can be used provided there are opportunities available ‘locally’. Better education and training facilities are also needed in rural areas to meet the growing demand for quality education and training for the children.
Post Covid-19 India opens new vistas for entrepreneurs to set up new business and production facilities in rural India and suburbs. A whole range of products and services need to be created in each state and even each district depending upon the available resources / raw materials. For example, in Bihar and U.P. where potato is grown in abundance local brand of potato chips /products need to be created with local flavours, marketed and consumed. India is a huge market. Persons with financial strength should seriously think about setting up production/ businesses in rural areas as a good business proposal. And the young management / engineering graduates should consider setting up such new enterprises, providing logistic support for marketing and sale as a promising career option.
India needs in large number:
- Good health infrastructure including in rural area: this would require setting up more hospitals and medical colleges
- Work opportunities in modern sectors for rural people: setting up small and medium production, distribution and business units in rural areas
- Good schools both public and private to provide quality education to all children including those living in villages: this would mean opening up more schools in private sector and improving education in government schools.
To attract investments in rural areas for setting up small and medium size production, distribution, and education related businesses, advocacy with business houses / individuals and their organizations like FICCI, Chambers of Commerce will be required. The central and state governments should take steps towards ease of doing business.
Production of goods using local talent, skills, and resources, and marketing these to meet the needs of the countrymen /women will be the priority and not just for export creating export dependence of the economy. Travel long distances to cities in search of earning livelihood would not be necessary. This will boost the economy and resurgence of rural India.
For this to happen, strategic communication and advocacy with different target groups / communities is needed to accomplish specific actionable tasks with their partnership and ownership. Creating mass awareness through media is necessary but not enough. Strategic communication is required for social and behaviour change.
Prof. J. S. Yadav is former Director General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, and is Founder Chairman of Communication Management Foundation & International Media Institute, New Delhi & Consulting Editor-ICN Group.