Smart village – The real future of India

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“If the facilities available in the cities are not made available to rural population, the Governments will not have done their duties” – Dr. A.P.J.AbdulKalam, Former President of India.

The change in political leadership with Mr. Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister of India has infused a sense of progress and change of mood to an extent among the common man. The policies of the present Government have been recognized and have come for appreciation even at the International level. The launch of Jan Dhan Yojana, land Reform Bills, Real Estate Bill and others have been welcome steps and may auger well for the countrymen sooner than later. These are all positive developments though the outcome and impact may be seen a little while later as all of these are in their nascent stage. The completion of one year by the Modi Government may not have resulted in clear visible tangible results but the euphoria of projected schemes of development like ‘Make in India’ has definitely brought India into Focus once again in the International arena.

The concept of 100 smart cities is definitely an eye catcher and welcome move by the Prime Minister and should be pursued in the right earnest. The initiative of Prime Minister to receive and pursue positive suggestions has enthused me to put across my own thoughts. I wish that my contribution, however small could help in improving the lot of the common man.

Seventy percent of population of India lives in villages and the youth belonging to this segment are passing through a dramatic psychological turmoil. The invasion of bedroom from the skies in the form of television and the advancement in telephony through internet has given his mind dreams that were unthinkable few years ago. However, the ground realities around him by way of minimum educational avenues, minimum basic needs of life and same age old shabby surroundings are deterrent for his talent and the dreams to take shape and flourish.

The ratio of school dropouts at school or college level is quite high amongst the rural youth which is negatively impacting the education policy and targets of the Govt. Added to thisis the non-availability of vocational avenues in rural environs which is further adversely affecting the aspirations of the youth from the rural areas. All such youth with little education, no vocational skills and passing through utter poverty, find their way to nearest urban cities or large cities where they migrate to find some source of livelihood. This has two major negative impacts on the county and also on the youth of rural background.

The cities face invasion by illiterate, uneducated,untrained youth who find themselves unfit thus create more problems for the cities resulting in law and order problem, unplanned excessive burden on each facility of a city, which is unable to cope up with such an influx.

The rural youth finds a great disconnect with the way of life in cities which impacts him culturally, professionally and mentally only to add to his woes and thrusts him on the path of crime, except in few cases. This results in tremendous socio-economic disconnect.

If we look at this trend, this trend has been going on for decades after India’s independence and very few reluctant halfhearted measures have been taken by some states without much success. Now that the young population of workable age is going to be highest in India across the globe and stay that way for atleast two to three coming decades, it is the right time if the Government also looked at an idea of “looking to villages” to tap the rural youth and make them vocationally trained assets. In a recent statement the Prime Minister opined that India can supply young professionally trained manpower to all the countries of the world. This idea of the Prime Minister can be fulfilled with adaptation of ‘look at villages’ policy.

As per available statistics there are 676 districts in 29 states and 7 Union territories in India with a total number of 6,38,000 villages. 72.2% of population of our country lives in villages where as remaining 27.8% lived in about 5,480 towns and urban agglomerates.

The policy of “look to villages” should envisage to create and develop SMART VILLAGES across the country. This would need a shift of thought process of the authorities. On the lines that 100 cities being shortlisted to become SMART CITIES, each district may be divided in cluster of 10 to 15 villages (consisting of a specific number of population say 50-75,000). Each district could have 7to20 such clusters of villages depending on its size of population {One cluster of Villages should be picked up by local authorities with the help of public leaders} since it may seem impossible to take up one village at a time to make it a smart village, it would be more practical and convenient if a cluster of villages is formed in each district. All the clusters should be assigned to create a team of thinkers whowould prepare a complete blue print of the requirement of the cluster including need to develop Infrastructurelike roads, buildings, bridges, water, sewage, schools, colleges, hospitals and other facilities as per need based on local talent available, local vocations available, local raw materials/facilities available, service/vocational avenues available locally or in the district or within the state.

A plan for 50 years could be made and implemented as a five year plan spread over next 50 years. Each cluster of villages once finalizes its blue print it shall also mention the contribution that thelocal population can make available like funds, shram-dan, infrastructure, trained/untrained manpower to make their cluster a fore runner to be selected to make it a “Smart village cluster”. The Government should allocate funds for development of rural clusters as per their plans and take up this project along side of Smart cities projects. Foreign countries could also be involved in this process in due course.

In the recent years many stories about residents of villages having taken upon themselves to transform the lives of their village and its residents. The villages have chalked out the plans for their village not only according to their needs/requirements and choices but have contributed financially and by labour (shram- dan)in carrying out the transformation of their villages. Stories from Rajasthan where water based projects were taken up not only by one village but by a cluster of villages thereby constructing small dams for conservation of rain water, resulting in transformation of their lives in a big way. Their achievements were appreciated at National as well as International level. These are not one off stories but there are plenty of such cases. This should prompt the Goverments at State level and at Central level to shift part of their focus to this need.

The idea of smart village in the present day context seems more plausible as there is a limit of growth of cities which is leading to creation of urban jungles, where the population ratio per km of land is way above the desired norms. To take baby steps initially would lead to a compaign at National level once the fruits of this effort start bearing fruits, which surely would be visible for all to see sooner than expected.

A State level bodymay be formed which should divided its state in a group of districts say a Zone of 4 to 5districts consisting say X number of such Zones in a state. Each Zone should be divided into cluster of village in a congruent manner which could consist of 12 to 15 villages based on population/socio economic background. Each cluster should be considered for one big project in such a way that this project serves a complete requirement of its Zonal (consisting of 4/5 Districts) needs or even the needs of whole state depending on the size of the project. For example if an educational project is taken up for a particular cluster this would serve the whole Zone and cater to all the residents of that Zone or even serve as a nerve centre for that state. Each Zone should be given a major project for its state based on its geography, local talent available etc.

The state Governmentsmay prepare a 50 years plan for these clusters based on the lines of ‘Smart Cities’ where they should allot manufacturing industry/educational hub/IT hub /university/tourism hubs/Medical Centers/Vocational Training centersetcetcas per the available natural habitat, raw materials and human talent keeping in mind the futuristic needs of eachcluster and also as per the national development plans prepared by the ‘NITI AYOG’. These plans should be at par with their counterparts available anywhere in the world.Having identified each cluster of districts, the projects of university/hospitals/colleges/tourist spots/IT hub/ manufacturing industry hub/railway/metro yards/sport hub etc. should be allotted to each cluster depending on needs and geographical location where ever they suit best and would bear fruits for next 50 years as a ongoing developmental programme. All the necessary quality and other controls for this development need to be specifically laid down and followed diligently.Having done this a time frame plan for each need should be identified.

The needs of next five years should be identified in such a manner that each cluster of districts is allotted at least one major project. Next logical step should be form a cluster of 10 to 15 villages dependency on population in at least one cluster of districts and the allotted project should be allotted to this cluster of villages. All the project could be finished with the help of local population/leaders where in the local population voluntarily comes forward to contribute by way land, subsidized labour, physical help etcetc to make this project a success in their own cluster of villages. In view of recent incidents of earthquakes it becomes imperative for planners and thinkers to modify their laid down norms in the changed scenario and scope of compromises on quality checks are made zero percent and defaulters treated like enemy of the nation. Strict compliance rules on these fronts need to be put in place.

We may start at a slower speed without compromising on quality and as per the plans and acquire greater speed in due course and at a high pace once the experiment bears good results.

The following criteria and more such requisitions as per need should be made prerequisites of a smart villages cluster:-

  1. Smart Security.
  2. Smart traffic control (traffic signal)/only one way roads without crossings etc.
  3. Smart & effective emergency response systems.
  4. Zero tolerance on crime.
  5. Smart policing.
  6. Usage of technology like CCTV/speed monitors/smart surveillance systems.
  7. Speed cameras for detecting speeding vehicles.
  8. High resolution cameras for detecting stolen vehicles.
  9. Equi-distribution of facilities across all corners of cluster.
  10. Smart Sewage treatment facilities.
  11. Smart rain harvesting/rain water drainage system.
  12. Smart and efficient public transport system.
  13. Adequate & latest firefighting systems.
  14. Disaster management trained officials (only Disaster Management trained officials from paramilitary/NCC be deployed).
  15. Renewable energy/Solar Energy systems should be installed.
  16. Vehicle emissions should be controlled/private vehicle holding to be controlled by law.
  17. Make adequate green areas/parks/sanctuaries/water bodies mandatory for each cluster.
  18. No beggars (All beggars should be provided residential areas (boarding/ lodging) by Government and provided vocational training to sustain life independently).
  19. Smart garbage collection/recycling system should be put in place.Different color coded dustbins should be promoted.
  20. Provision for seniors’ citizen homes should be made.
  21. Smart E- Governance should be put in place.
  22. Smart collection of all kind of bills like electricity, gas, water, fares, tolls, property tax etc. should be put in place.
  23. Smart/Automated hazard detection, weather forecast, calamities should be put in place
  24. Public address system in any emergencies should be put in place.
  25. Smart electricity grids compatible with renewable energy systems should be put in place.
  26. ‘No vehicle’ areas should be earmarked.
  27. Cycling only zones should be developed.
  28. Adequate leisure activities should be developed and provided to public.
  29. Latest and affordable medical facilities should be made available.

Finally thiscluster of 10/15 villages prepares a blue print of the cluster for roads, infrastructure, Industrial area, educational area, parks, tourism spot development, hospital, water/sewerages etc. as per requirements as above. All the facilities that the villagers of the cluster can provide from their own resources should also be incorporated in their blue print. There should be various thumb rules as to which cluster of villages out of the cluster of 4/5 districts is allotted a particular project. One of the thumb rules could be that whichever cluster of villages is ready to provide maximum land and financial/other contributions in the execution of the project.

The suitability of that cluster for a particular trade/vocation for its maximum participation/utilization should also be kept in mind. The strengths and weaknesses of each cluster from all angles should be weighed at the time of finalizing allotment of project.

Likewise every year one or two clusters of villages could be short listed for development of smart and safe cluster of villages. A homogenous project made for next 50 years could start as a small step in paving way in easing burden of villagers drain to cities. A time may come, if the project succeeds that the reverse drain (from cities to villages) eventually takes place in due course of time. The whole state shall gain and non-ending process of all states can be chalked out and developed in a dedicated time frame over next decades. This shall help absorb newer upcoming projects/requirements which could be taken up for fulfillment in the next upcoming cluster. This may result in even foreign nations making a beeline to adopt one or more clusters of villages in different states for different streams of professions. For example if a cluster is allotted an Auto manufacturing hub, some foreign country joining ‘Made in India’ may like to adopt the cluster. Similarly some other countries may vie to join in for education/ medical/ engineering/ IT/ aviation/vocational training hub or any other stream.

The major gains of the country from this project may bring a wind fall for the rural school dropout youth belonging to these clusters of villages, who could find ample avenues to take up one vocation or the other and help the nation to grow in the villages rather than depending heavily on the cities. Taking education, skill for vocations etc to villages can well channelize the energies of the youth as a powerful tool for the nation. An educated rural youth will be an asset to the country and even if he shifts to a city he shall prove to be an asset rather than a burden as is happening now. India needs educated population and not literate but uneducated otherwise all the smartness of cities or villages will result in failure.

Coming to villages and making their youth educated can only be achieved if we plan smart village and this is the right time under the dynamic and pragmatic leader Mr. Narendra Modi.


Satinder Kumar ThakralAbout the Author:
Satinder Kumar Thakral is an accomplished Security professional with 38 years of Govt. Service in the Ministry of Home Affairs and 4 years in the private security Sector.For the last one year he is working with college of Security Studies under Hariom Shakti Charitable Trust. Thecollege of Security Studies besides training security personnel of all ranks have recently entered into the field of skilling. Mr. S.K.Thakral is also the member of research body of the Institution constituted to bring about practical changes in the training of private security personnel in India. During his job he was posted in Nairobi (Kenya) and London (UK) and has visited at least 20 countries and has a vast exposure. The experiences of Singapore during his two stays there has enthused him to write this particular article on smart villages. He can be reached on – Mobile number 09810289649 or Email: sathakral@yahoo.co.uk for any query.

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