The upcoming 2024 general elections in India have thrust rural development into the spotlight as a key campaign issue. To bolster its electoral prospects and usher in transformative change in the countryside, the central government is working relentlessly to saturate welfare schemes across villages. This comprehensive approach spans a multitude of sectors, including infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, drinking water, financial inclusion, skill development, and economic opportunities.
Government’s Mission Antyodaya- what is it?
Under the umbrella of the Mission Antyodaya, the government is optimizing the utilization of resources allocated by more than 24 central ministries and departments. Since 2017-18, surveys have been conducted to gather critical data, which serves as the foundation for crafting development plans for approximately 2.7 lakh gram panchayats (village councils) across the nation. The overarching goal is to bridge the divide between urban India and Bharat’s rural heartland, a mission initiated since May 2014.
Over the years, the government has rolled out several high-impact initiatives that have already begun to transform rural life. For instance, the Swachh Bharat Mission has provided toilets to around 12 crore households in villages, while the Ujjawala scheme has delivered 9.6 crore free cooking gas connections to impoverished households. Additionally, schemes like PM Suraksha Bima and Jeevan Jyoti yojana have covered approximately 45 crore individuals, and more than ₹2.60 lakh crore has been disbursed to over 11.4 crore farmers through the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi. These initiatives have not only improved the quality of life but also laid the foundation for rural political support.
The core strategy revolves around ensuring the inclusion of every intended beneficiary into these welfare schemes. This approach aligns with the government’s overarching vision to not only propel India towards development by 2047 but also secure political dividends for the incumbent leadership.
The Department of Rural Development plays a pivotal role in implementing these transformative initiatives, managing a budget of about ₹1.58 lakh crore. Some key schemes under its purview include the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojna-National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Rural, and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Furthermore, other vital schemes focused on rural India encompass the Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) with a budget of ₹7,200 crore in 2023-24, the ₹70,000 crore Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)/National Rural Drinking Water Mission, and the ₹76 crore Svamitva program. Svamitva, initiated in 2020, streamlines property registration for residential properties in rural areas, simplifying land documentation.
The government’s efforts don’t stop at saturation; they are committed to taking these schemes to the next level. For example, DAY-NRLM has successfully mobilized rural women into 8.1 million self-help groups. The next phase involves elevating these groups into larger producer enterprises, endowing them with capital, technology, branding, and marketing support to access consumer markets.
The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has set ambitious targets to empower rural women entrepreneurs and ensure widespread access to housing. Their vision includes creating 20 million “lakhapati didis” (millionaire women entrepreneurs) and constructing 30 million new houses under the PM Awas Yojna by March 2024. This initiative aims to provide skill training to women and connect them with self-help groups, fostering financial independence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of empowering women to earn at least ₹10,000 every month aligns with this objective.
What will happen because of this Government plan?
Institutional mechanisms, primarily panchayats or village councils, play a vital role in executing these rural welfare schemes. The government recognizes the importance of strengthening this system to ensure the effective delivery of services. Empowering Panchayati Raj institutions has been a priority for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. In 2022, the party passed a resolution during its national executive meeting, urging the union government to introduce a new law for the speedy devolution of financial and administrative powers to panchayats. This move aims to enhance grassroots governance and participative development.
To underscore the commitment to inclusive development, Prime Minister Modi emphasized the equitable distribution of resources, with a focus on needy areas. This focus dovetails with the government’s commitment to fulfill the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified by the United Nations. These goals encompass critical areas such as eradicating malnutrition, reducing maternal mortality rates, ensuring access to amenities and housing, and providing skill training and employment opportunities.
Building on the success of the aspirational district program for 250 million people in 112 underdeveloped districts, the government launched the aspirational blocks program in rural India. This initiative, implemented in 500 blocks across 329 districts, seeks to improve governance at the subdistrict level, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for citizens.
In conclusion, the central government’s ambitious plan to saturate and elevate welfare schemes in rural India is not just a political strategy for the 2024 elections; it represents a profound commitment to transform rural lives and bridge the urban-rural divide. By focusing on inclusive development, strengthening grassroots institutions, and aligning with the UN’s SDGs, India’s rural landscape is poised for a remarkable transformation, with the potential to shape the nation’s future.