It has a strategic focus on micro welfare ensuring ease of living and foundational infrastructure in rural India
The Budget focuses on strengthening the rural economy and providing livelihoods to the rural poor.
By NN Sinha
The Union Budget FY23 has created an engendered and sustainable approach for economic growth, as well as a plan to achieve macro level growth with a focus on micro welfare. India is in a strong position to leave the challenges of pandemic behind and prepare rural India for rapid strides. The Budget focuses on strengthening the rural economy and providing livelihoods to the rural poor. The budget assures access to livelihood, basic Infrastructure, and climate resilience with focus on housing, agriculture, healthcare, multimodal connectivity, and expansion of road and digital infoway in rural areas.
Strengthening the Rural Economy and Livelihood
Central to realisation of the prime minister’s Vision for Ease of Living and Leaving No Citizen Behind in rural areas is universalisation of quality livelihoods. In line with this vision, the Budget lays an ambitious foundation for India@100 with an unprecedented focus on building economic enablers like infrastructure, digital connectivity—additional allocations include
1 lakh crore for capital expenditure, which includes supplemental for PM Gram Sadak Yojana, Vibrant Villages Programme in border areas, affordable broadband and mobile service proliferation, digitisation of land records. Har Ghar Nal Se Jal, PM Awas Yojana, Har Ghar Ujjwala, Saubhagya, have changed village life for better. Together with funds available under 15th Finance Commission (1.42 lakh crore) grant to panchayats for water & sanitation and Rs 70,000 crore for development of frontline health infrastructure, this is an unprecedented push for quality of life, and will also enable panchayats to function as local ‘public utilities’ with a focus on ‘service delivery’. With the ongoing improvement in delivery of civic services, we will soon see villages with decent social amenities.
Universal coverage of housing piped water supply, road and infoway connectivity will have multiplier impact on rural jobs. Building on these opportunities, the ministry of rural development has made plans for rapid creation of livelihoods and set an ambitious target 2.5 crore livelihoods in next 3 years. In FY23, the department of rural development has been allocated Rs 1,35,94 crore, with demand-responsive supplemental allocation in MGNREGS—in the last seven years, there is continued focus on rural infrastructure, social protection, and livelihoods. The ministry is in a good position to eliminate poverty through promotion of diversified and gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities much before SDG targets of 2030.
The pandemic has seen emergence of a new governance coalition of panchayats and women collectives, we have taken measures for integration of livelihood planning process with panchayat planning mutually strengthening both and ensuring inclusion of all households particularly the most vulnerable. The Government has doubled collateral free loans for SHGs from
10-20 lakh; now, the government is also planning to ensure that the SHGs get such loans to strengthen their activities without any hassles. Use of technology for digital transactions and improving access to banking services and financial literacy should form the core of the efforts. The new and more challenging area of work would be credit mobilisation for the SHG members taking up enterprises. At present, DAY-NRLM provides women members of self-help group access to capital through grants to the women’s institutions from the mission as well as credit from the financial institutions (close to4.5 lakh crore of credit has been mobilised by women SHGs since 2013-14). In addition, recent efforts at convergence have resulted in asset-support from MGNREGS, skills/technology-support under DDGKUY, support through PMFME and various government schemes that could enable members of SHGs to livelihood intensification.
Watershed Development Component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana and Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP) will also make a huge difference and expedite rural development as the Budget brings them under focus. The scheme allocation has been increased by 64%, convergence with MGNREGS will ensure climate adaptive future livelihoods. DILRMP is a part of the Digital India initiative. Major components of the programme include: (i) computerisation of all existing land records, (ii) digitisation of maps, (iii) survey/re-survey, and updating of all settlement records, and (iv) computerisation of the registration process and its integration with the land records maintenance system.
Leaving no citizen behind and ease of living
The government has identified that scaling up structured social development efforts under DAY-NRLM through the community institutions are immensely important and bringing awareness and access to services related to nutrition, health, sanitation, and gender issues under focus , to ensure quality of life for the SHG women as these are important for curtailing expenditures on health. The ministry now has adopted a Whole of Rural Development (WRD) approach to target supporting additional livelihoods activities, integrated approach would entail a seamless matching of the supply of livelihoods schemes and programs from governments—the Centre and the states—skills, assets, services, and resources available with the demands of the community. It will also be important to focus on striking partnerships and coalitions with CSOs, agri-sector players, including start-ups that provide access to value chains leading to consumers/end users as also technologies and other services outside the public ecosystem. It is further important that all levels of governments and sectors concerned adopt additional livelihood development as an important yardstick of their success. Further, banking, and financial system also enable access to financial resources for enterprise development.
Fortunately, most of the above architecture is ready, as a component of the broader anti-poverty strategy. Along with other measures of rebuilding rural economy, the government is continuing to provide food and cash support to Jan Dhan account holders and other poor by expanding its outreach. It is also taking steps to make social security entitlements such as ration cards portable across the administrative boundaries, as well as outside the states.
Budget FY23 has followed a prudent strategy of driving growth through direct support to poor in rural areas, capital expenditure and encouraging private giving a strategic focus on micro welfare that will bring ease of living for each and every citizen of India.
The author is Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development