Economic and social development is considered an essential goal for a society. The progress on rural development initiatives in the country depends on how well these programs reach the grassroots level. However, in a populous and diverse country like India, development efforts do not fully reach the masses, despite the intentions of the government, due to structural inefficiencies. The lack of awareness about and benefits of the programs for sustainable rural development in India often result in lapses in execution.
Though many decades have passed since independence, poverty remains a core challenge in development efforts. There is a growing recognition that all stakeholders in the country should benefit from efforts targeted at economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The true path to progress is dependent on programs that ultimately benefit marginalized sections of society. The last-mile reach of these efforts is key to sustainable rural development solutions that would make India an economic power.
Community-Driven Rural Development In India
Success of development programs is dependent on building transparency, a participative approach, and local capacity. Community-driven rural development is the way to reach remote and vulnerable groups in India. Thus, community participation is essential so the intended beneficiaries are aware of the issues on the ground and can work toward their own betterment.
Local participation and sustainability programs create awareness among communities and tend to have a beneficial effect in the reach of government programs. Working with communities to enhance knowledge and choices in village development programs is the way forward for inclusive and sustainable development. The last-mile delivery can be facilitated through PPP (public/private partnerships) with a social perspective.
Objectives and Scope of Community-Led Initiatives
The prime objective of initiatives targeted at sustainable rural development in India is to upgrade the standard and quality of life of people in areas that are bereft of policy initiatives. Community participation is critical for:
- achieving rural growth and progress in communication, education and health;
- transforming socioeconomic life through sustainable rural development in India, through a process of integral cultural change;
- sensitizing communities about the environment, sustainable rural development, and building capacities for preservation and conservation of environment;
- creating awareness and support infrastructure to tackle pollution, wastewater management, water management, and soil health; and
- assisting in technology and support for setting up of community-driven projects, such as solar energy, sewage treatment plants, etc., and assuring their maintenance.
The scope of community participation is vast. To correct the imbalances in development, efforts are possible in some of the following areas:
- Agriculture. This major area is where the benefits of community-led development initiatives have been active and visible. Agriculture is a priority area since it contributes a significant chunk to employment and GDP. Some of the monitoring efforts of the community in this area have been in wastewater management, repair of basic irrigation infrastructure and roads, modernization of agriculture (seeds, fertilizers, equipment, etc.), agri-financing, etc.
- Rural Education In India. With the government failing to reach remote areas, community-led development initiatives play a major role in access to primary education. Imparting social education through communities is a key area that helps in changing regressive social norms and mores.
- Healthcare. Another key area that has benefited the rural development in India through community efforts is access to healthcare facilities. Communities help reach out to the people in emergencies, spreading awareness, maternal and child care, etc. Creating and maintaining infrastructure, albeit on a small scale, would not be possible without community participation. Last-mile extension of basic health services is entirely dependent on community participation.
STORIES FROM THE GROUND
Fakruddin Creates Cleaner And Safer Surroundings For His Family.
Waterlogging and poor liquid waste management were longstanding issues plaguing inhabitants of Punhana, Nuh, Haryana. Lack of awareness on water management and the importance of sanitation and wastewater management practices resulted in people suffering from diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, and dengue.
Fakruddin had constant waterlogging in and around his house due to lack of proper liquid waste management system. With no drainage system to take care of the household’s wastewater, it remained stagnant in the passage of his house.
As part of a CSR project implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation, he attended sanitation-awareness sessions where the objective was to sensitize villagers to maintain good hygiene and sanitation practices in their daily lives.
Fakruddin learned the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene and creating cleaner surroundings for a healthy and disease-free life. He was inspired to install a low-cost underground pipeline system from his home to his agricultural land for the disposal of wastewater. His family now has fewer incidences of diseases, and has saved a considerable amount of money on medical expenses.
Fakruddin recalls how earlier his family was facing great inconvenience due to odor, mosquitoes, and diarrhea, and lived in unhygienic conditions because of stagnant wastewater in and around his home. “Awareness sessions organized as a part of the project changed my outlook toward sanitation and waste management practices.”
Anganwadi and Health Sub Center Repaired in Teharki’s School
Village Teharki in Meerut District of Uttar Pradesh has an Upper Primary school where 138 children study in grades six to eight.
The school was in a dilapidated state with weak doors and windows, broken walls, and a filth-strewn courtyard. The anganwadi and health center inside the school were also in a deplorable condition.
In a CSR-supported partnership project, S M Sehgal Foundation took up the initiative of repairing the anganwadi and hospital and repairing and beautifying the school. A discussion was held with the school’s headmaster, the sarpanch, and community members, who also put in their wholehearted effort.
New strong metallic doors and windows were installed, flooring in classrooms and veranda was redone, brick benches were constructed, new doors in toilets were fixed, the school compound was leveled, whitewashing and wall paintings were done, among other improvements. Now the school looks attractive and has become a place of pride in the village. The enthused community and school committee have taken charge to keep the premises clean, and the children are studying better.
Development of rural India is attracting investment from government, corporates, and civil society/ nonprofit organizations, among others. However, the objectives remain partially fulfilled due to lack of community participation and structural deficiencies. Rural institutions remain constrained through lack of awareness and skills. A concerted effort is required to bridge the gap, cut through gender gaps, promote skill development, and education. Healthcare is neglected and the lack of financial security is a dampener, leading to a general lack of confidence.
Local participation and sustainability program of one of the best rural development NGOs in India, S M Sehgal Foundation, works relentlessly toward the success of sustainable rural development in India. Communities must play an active role and eventually own the development programs or initiatives, thus validating the effort of agencies and ensuring sustainability of the impact created. This is achievable through community participation and can lead to equitable and sustainable outcomes.