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Smart villages for a powerful & resilient Bharat

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As we approach the 105th Birth Anniversary of Bharat Ratna Shri Nanaji Deshmukh what is evident is that Nanaji never got the credit for revolutionizing the socio-economic model of rural India despite its resounding and evidential success in UP and MP. His commitment, steadfastness and exemplary initiatives in evolving the right social entrepreneurship model that empowered local citizens in these villages, focused on indigenous or inherent strengths and ensured that Swaraj was at the heart of every output, is today used extensively by start ups, packaged in modern day parlance, to design, produce and market local produce including artisanal and agri items. 

Inspired by Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Integral Humanism Bharat Ratna Shri Nanaji Deshmukh one of India’s leading social reformers and politicians (& an esteemed member of the Rajya Sabha) implemented the principles of integral humanism in 100s of villages of Bundelkhand, both in MP & UP. As a Pracharak Nanaji’s evolution in the RSS & his subsequent leadership by example gave him the insights, opportunity & skill sets required to set in place a new model of ‘rural development’. In this endeavour he amalgamated the ideals of socialism and capitalism in the right balance to ensure that villages and those in the rural areas evolved into: 

  • – Self-reliant individuals who contributed exponentially but synergistically to a larger ecosystem 
  • – Societies that had the right balance of religious & moral values
  • – Culturally enriched Varna-Dharma based Communities

The emphasis was on “sustainable industrialization” with respect to man, nature and values alike” and this model of Swadeshi was in sync with what The Father of the Nation Gandhiji espoused. 

Well into his prime years in 1991 Nanaji walked into a semi-arid area riddled with poverty, drought, diseases prone and ignored by politicians called Chitrakoot in UP (close to MP) where the only source of income was single crop agriculture and remittances from the labour who used to work in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. What started off from one become 600 villages revolutionised by the vision, persistence and tenacity of Nanaji where his efforts resulted in:

  • – Building Micro Economies
  • – Reversing poverty led migration
  • – Eradication of adverse & water borne diseases
  • – Transformation from a drought led agri society to multi cropping
  • – and Sustainable Livelihood to the rural families.

This model was later replicated in Gonda and Beed but later forgotten and empowerment was replaced by appeasement, marginalization, divisiveness and disenfranchisement by short sighted politicians. This model of building SMART VILLAGES can not only radically eliminate poverty in India but stop the mass migration of the rural population into overcrowded cities and infact empower men and women including future generations through the adaption of Nanaji’s work through the adoption of technology, innovation and new methods.

India or Bharat like we would like to call it, is undoubtedly a civilization that has evolved across centuries through the sharing of knowledge, our principles of dharma and our definition of humanity which goes beyond compassion into empowerment. Our inherent attribute of Santana Dharma, whilst it’s been attacked time and time again by foreigners and outsiders, has been inclusive, universal and cogent enough to have sustained centuries of civilizational morphogenesis which Nanaji realized and despite all the hurdles he came out with a model that was ‘exclusive to every village or rather situation”.

Much before our SMART CITIES evolved with Citizen participation under the aegis of our Honourable Prime Minister Shir Narendra Modi, Nanaji had started a rural revolution contrary to the Maoist philosophy through empowerment, participation and evolution of individuals and communities. In the layman’s words the key difference between the Integral Humanism model and the Maoist/ Naxal model of development is “teaching to farm” (or empowering) versus “doling out free food”(or weakening by creating dependence).

Whilst Nanaji’s legacy has often been relegated to case studies in text books this is the apt time to take it up back again as a pragmatic model in developing SMART VILLAGES where microeconomies are amplified with strong intrinsically distinctive and extrinsically scalable attributes or community based business models. So how can we make this work in today’s context? The key is in:

  1. – Co-opting the younger generation (mentored by pragmatic & dynamic social entrepreneurs) in rural development empowering them with modern skill sets & the percept’s of Garmodaya & Swalamban.
  2. – Integrating Technology, Ecommerce and sharing Global Best Practises for the broader exchange of ideas that could be contextualised.
  3. – Focus on building Micro Economies after mapping indigenous produce, strengths and heritage and in the event that it is scalable then to proliferate it as a rural business model to build a growing & sustainable ecosystem.

Sanatana Dharma in the modern narrative has been relegated to religious discourses on various social media platforms nonetheless its pragmatic application in the transformation of 100’s of villages by Nanaji is emblematic of its civilizational lineage, its cultural potency in every aspect of life and it’s ability to transform societies (rural & urban) into progressive, sustainable & vibrant communities.

While Nanaji institutionalized the philosophy of Integral Humanism by establishing the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) as an ode to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in 1972, with the focus on healthcare, education, agriculture, hygiene and conservation of resources, heritage & moral values we have yet to scale it to the proportion of villages (or rather opportunities) we have of over 600,000 potentially powerful microeconomies or SMART VILLAGES.

Today we need to re-design our rural model going back to our Vedic roots and amalgamating it with modern practises, technology and expertise. It is high time that we take up this task as it is the most potent weapon against poverty, cultural degradation, unemployment, falling societal values, poor rural healthcare, illiteracy and rampant exploitation of resources. Nanaji recognized it and didn’t hesitate to dirty his hands so that something beautiful would bloom out of the very heart of his implementation of integral humanism in a pragmatic manner in the villages he undertook to transform.

As an ode to him let us take this model of building SMART VILLAGES or powerful Rural Micro Economies that have the true spirit of Swadeshi so that so that through them we will be able to build a powerful and resilient BHARAT.

  • About the Author: Joseph Sam is the Chief Business Officer of a Mining Group and his special area of interest is in issues related to Rural development, Agriculture, the Environment, developing Micro-Economies, Entrepreneurship, Biodiversity and Sustainable mining.  He is a double Post Graduate & BTech in Production Engineering, a Certified Director, Certified in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Negotiation and currently pursuing his third Post Graduation from the National Law School of India University. He travels extensively in the Northern heartland and lives with his wife Ritika Maheshwari and sons Kabir & Kiaan in New Delhi. 

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