The present essay focuses on the Gandhian Model of promoting rural technology and its role in promoting rural education across India. The features of the model have been discussed first followed by its implementation in the form of technological innovations for rural development. The importance of dissemination of rural technology and its role in imparting rural education have been assessed to highlight the nature of linkage between the two. Conclusion has been drawn after the juxtaposition of facts and figures at hand.
“India needs production by the masses and not mass production”
The above line, once said by the Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aptly brings out the methodology for achieving a sustainable growth in a developing country like India. It points to a path leading to prosperity. It has a deeper meaning than what may be conveyed literally. On one hand it may appear that mass production using machinery and new technology is desirable, but careful juxtaposition of thoughts of Bapu reflect his vision of self-reliance and rural development. He was in fact in favor of the use of most elaborate machinery to avoid idleness of individuals (Fischer, 1997). His philosophy of self-reliance and his paradigm of using technology for social progress of rural India have worked effectively in the past during the British Rule.
It was because of him that the Swadeshi movement could gain immense momentum and it resulted in a significant increase in production of goods by the Indians themselves (Bakker, 1990). In wake of his approach, the dissemination of rural technologies becomes very important and it can be achieved through effective channelization of the technological innovations in rural regions of the country. At the grassroots level, technological advancement is possible through education for all sections, so that it is engrossed in the society. In this regard, the new innovations should also aim at developing and promoting rural education in the country.
2. Need for Rural Technology
The analysis of the need for promotion of rural technology would result in focusing on the basic necessities of people. We can separate five elements of social and economic infrastructure, which should be taken care of effectively by the local bodies and central government. They are – health, education, drinking water, housing and electricity. Followed by these the need for roads, efficient agricultural output, employment at grassroots level and telecommunication cannot be neglected as well. All these goals of rural development converge towards development of effective rural technologies and a sound rural education to absorb the technological innovations.
Promotion of small scale industries through Rural Entrepreneurship and traditional job creation is one of the effective ways of adhering to the problem. Rural technology is also important for strengthening our rural economy and to make it self-dependent. The approach of Five Year Plans in this regard aiming at growth, equity, social justice, self-reliance, improved efficiency and productivity, calls for a sharper focus on employment generation and poverty alleviation through development programs. The provision of these programs will help people to stand on their own feet and work with self- confidence and self-respect, which in turn will help in people’s participation in development tasks.
3. Technological Developments So Far
3.1 Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
The strengthening of rural communication services through ICT is an important ingredient for the welfare and development of rural India as it has many advantages. Mobile Phone revolution has almost redefined the meaning of connectivity. In today’s world when man is trying to automate every single process of manufacturing through powerful computers and machines, computer literacy has also become an important issue. Computer Literacy Missions have been launched in various states to incorporate this objective. ICT also helps in accessing health care in times of urgency and in cases where a village is located far from a city. It also gives timely information on business, price, market, demands etc. so that the people in rural regions can respond to changes in the market. It also provides information about employment and generates opportunities to women and underprivileged people regarding self-employment and income resources.
3.2 Low Cost Water Technologies and Energy Innovations
Water is crucial for drinking and for irrigation purposes in rural areas. This is directly related to the agricultural yield. Though India is a monsoon dependent nation, the sporadic and erratic nature of monsoons causes a reduction in the output every year. Various technological advancements have been made to counter the danger of droughts. Manual well drilling, water pumping, water storage techniques, low pressure drip irrigation, water filters for purification of water etc. have been designed and are available at economical costs. Bio-fuel construction in recent years has accounted for growing energy demands in villages. It is an economical means of energy generation as it uses agricultural waste to produce fuel. Many such technological advancement efforts were launched by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in 1970s. Centre for ASTRA (Applied Science and Technology for Rural Advancement) was formed in 1974 at IISc to cater to developing technologies for sustainable development. This centre has now been renamed as Centre for Sustainable Technologies (Reddy, 2004).
3.3 Flagship Programs Allocation in Financial Budget 2009-10
Through the process of microfinance, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been promoted to raise development funding for carrying out their small scale productions. These SMEs also provide employment to rural people in the villages. The Government of India has allocated various flagships programs in the new financial budget. Bharat Nirman has been given Rs 40,900* crore (comprises 6 components such as rural roads, telephony, irrigation, drinking water supply, housing and electrification). National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme (NREGS) has been allocated Rs 39,100 crore. Sarva Siksha Abhiyan is given Rs 13,100 crore. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been allocated Rs 12,070 crore. Rajiv Gandhi Rural Drinking Water Mission (RGRDWM) has got Rs 7,400 crore. Total Rural Sanitation Programme (TRSP) has been apportioned Rs 1,200 crore etc.
4. Technology Dissemination in Future
There is a requirement of a speedy growth in rural telecom sector. This can be ensured by evolving appropriate mechanism for regular monitoring of progress of rural telecommunications both at state and national level. High technology devices are needed for rural areas as efficient devices allow maximum energy and materials to be extracted for useful purposes. For example, use of high technology for lighting and cooking, since around 75% of total household energy is used for this purpose (Boateng, 1997). There is also a requirement of liquid fuel for lighting, simple hurricane lanterns are used presently which have very poor light output. Noorie lanterns are a major improvement in this direction. Research and Development (R&D) is also required for biodiesel and pyrolysis oil in stoves to improve their efficiency. Improvement is required in high-tech biogas reactors and storage of biogas in hydrates, porous carbon, etc. Developing nano-materials for such structures is a challenging task ahead.
Technology dissemination process also differs from generation to generation. It requires understanding of economics, financing, institutions, management, stakeholders etc. So the learned planners of government bodies should be efficient enough to take into account all the factors.
5. Rural Education
As discussed above, the rural education framework is very important for absorbing technological innovations specially meant for rural areas. With the help of education, people develop a sound reasoning of what is good and what is bad and this also makes them self-reliant. Technology plays a crucial role in achieving this goal. There is a need to develop good infrastructure for education in villages. Proper schools need to be built instead of running classes in kachha houses. Low cost computers need to be invented which are affordable by poor people. In this regard, it is noteworthy that 100 $ (approx. Rs. 5000/-) laptops are under construction phase which when launched will cause a revolution in computer education across the world.
Apart from this more number of Rural Technology courses need to be floated in Polytechnics where youth can learn about these technologies and then start production on their own. For instance, knitting and sewing attracts large number of girls. They also get health and child care education through this in the polytechnics. Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) are also helping to promote start-ups in villages. Gandhiji had proposed the idea of Nai Talim or ‘New Education’ for educating whole India which was largely followed at the time of its emergence in 1937. It is working as a model for imparting education by many Rural Institutes across the nation today.
6. Role of Technological Institutes of National Importance
The varsities and other institutes of national importance such as IITs, NITs etc. can play a very important role in dissemination of technology in rural regions. With special R&D programs and curriculums in these institutions, various innovations can be done for developing low cost machines, cheaper and effective means of transport and other developments for rural education etc. The government should promote such courses and activities in these institutions of national importance and should accordingly fund these institutions to carry out research activities for rural uplifting. With the liberalization of the economy in the recent years, there are more such cases involving private industrial establishments and university – industry cooperation e.g. setting up of the Oysters Lab (OLAB) in BITS, Pilani. It is a semiconductor R&D lab and is the first campus based VLSI Design facility in India. Texas Instruments has set up second development facility in India in IIT- Madras.
Any developing country cannot become developed without the development of its rural base. For a country like India, where almost sixty percent of the country’s population lives in primitive conditions, it becomes even more important. This development is possible through technological advancements in the nation. These advancements can be channelized to improve literacy as well, which is a major obstacle in the path of development.
Rural regions in our nation are still deprived of electricity and basic necessities. Modern technology has not touched the lives of people even after sixty two years of independence. Thus the Gandhian Paradigm of social progress needs to be followed effectively in our villages. We have to ensure that rural beneficiaries are not just introduced to new technologies but also entrusted with their use. A number of schemes and programs have been made for providing employment opportunities to the rural youth over the years but due to poor implementation of the programs and the absence of proper monitoring almost all the schemes have not shown expected results.
India must also tap Information Technology to the maximum extent for its development so that many of its problems can be checked through new public policies, which are supported by the scientific data. Poverty in rural areas has resulted in suicides of a large number of farmers. Therefore, the rural problems are manifold in nature but the solution is only one — ‘Technological advancements coupled with increase in literacy in rural areas.’
— Reddy, K.N. A. 2004. Science and Technology for Rural India. Current Science. 87(7): 889-898.
— Fischer, L. 1997. Life of Mahatma Gandhi. London: Harper Collins. 359-413.
— Bakker, J. I. 1990. The Gandhian Approach to Swadeshi or Appropriate Technology: A Conceptualization in terms of Basic Needs and Equity. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. 3(1): 50-88.
— Ajim Premji Foundation. 2004. The Social Context of Elementary Education in Rural India. http://www.azimpremjifoundation.org/downloads/TheSocialContextofElementaryEductaioninRuralIndia.pdf (accessed on 20/10/2009)
— Boateng, Y. S. 1997. Coping mechanisms and their unintended consequences: a realist approach to a rural technology transformation programme. GeoJournal. 43: 153—162.
— James, J. 2006. Information Technology and Development: A New Paradigm for Delivering the Internet to Rural Areas in Developing Countries. New York: Routledge. 82-123.
— Moni, M. 2005. Rural India Different Meaning to Different People. http://www.bhoovikas.org/BVF/conference_pdf/discussionpaper.pdf (accessed on 25/10/2009)
— Tilak, B. G. 2002. Determinants of household expenditure on education in rural India. National Council of Applied Economic Research. 88.
The writer is a Goa based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz, pursuing Computer Science Engineering in BITS, Pilani – Goa Campus