Sep 1 - 7, 2008

Approximately more than two third of our population are living in rural areas. About more than half of these people are neither land-owners nor they are directly concerned with agriculture. Mostly their means of livelihood relate to non-agricultural activities but they have a significant role to play in the development of agriculture. These professions include farm labour, iron smith, carpenter, barber, cobbler etc., who perform vital services in the rural economy. Small shopkeepers, retailers, grain merchants, people involved in the construction and masonry and social services in the rural areas do not fall under the agriculture sector. Similarly tractor drivers, mechanics, and those responsible for ploughs making, thresher operators and agricultural implements mechanics do not directly fall in the agriculture sector.

Economic development cannot exclusively be linked with economic factors. Some of the non-economic factors still play an active role in the economic development. In this connection social behaviours of the community need to be changed. As is evident, our social and cultural structure is very backward and outdated. Old customs, traditions and practices are very common. We are still tied up and bound in chain of old culture and civilization. Our entire society is divided in caste, creeds and Biradari system. There is a big status gap between people belonging to high and low castes. People belonging to low castes are known as "Kammis" (menials). These people are unable to benefit from their talents and potentials because of the social restrictions as they are discouraged to rise to be in parity with big landlords, feudal lords and waderas. We need to bring a better change in our social attitude to arrange uplift in non-agriculture economy so that self respect, individual freedom and self confidence of suppressed classes of society are restored. To achieve that end proper planning is needed to bring about a social transformation, which can end class distinction. Of course, electronic and print media can be used usefully and effectively to reduce this gap and bring about change in their attitude and culture.

People living in rural areas are under great stress and strain in earning their livelihood and for ensuring their sustenance respectfully. Lack of resources especially financial resources is a great set-back in the way of their progress, prosperity and welfare. They are badly stuck up in the vicious circle of poverty, frustration, humiliation and intimidation. The condition of labour in the rural areas is most miserable. They work day and night in the farms and fields. Neither their work hours are fixed nor their wages of compensation. Both male and female labour work in the scorching heat of the summer and shivering and freezing cold of the winter, at times bare footed and improperly and inadequately clothed.

It is the height of things that no serious planning has ever been made to better the economic conditions of these suppressed and deprived class of society. It has just been assumed that only increase in agricultural production is the exclusive remedy of poverty alleviation. This assumption and supposition has served no fruitful purpose in improving the lot of this neglected class. The fact is that even if the agricultural production increases considerably, it will not be a source of progress and prosperity to all the people living in rural areas because a good number of people living in rural areas are neither land-owners nor they are directly involved in agriculture. The income obtained from agriculture goes to those, who are either landowners or are involved in cultivation like haris, muzaraieen (tenants) or contractors (thakedar and pattadar).

Now-a-days a cultivator or a tenant gets about 30 percent of his livelihood by performing non-agriculture jobs. These non-agriculture jobs include threshing and packaging with the help of agricultural machinery. These jobs also include agro-processing like grinding of wheat i.e. preparing of flour, rice husking, cotton ginning, serving in village bakeries, sweet shops, basic industrial units, repair and maintenance shops of bicycles, motor cycles, driving bullock carts, donkey carts, horse and push carts.

In rural economy non-agriculture sector has a great significance. This sector not only provides services and material to agriculture sector but is also responsible for providing basic commodities like food products and several other services and facilities. This also helps to bring stability in the income of rural population. Progress of non-agriculture sector also plays a positive and vital role in the development and progress of agriculture sector. Its benefit and importance is very significant for landless people living in the rural areas.

It is clear that agriculture and non-agriculture sectors are inter-dependent to a greater extent. It is, therefore, essential that both these sectors should progress and flourish side by side and obstacles and impediments on their way are removed for the overall uplift of the rural economy. Non-agriculture sector is the victim of many problems and difficulties. Getting loans for boosting business activities from banks and loaning agencies for this sector is cumbersome, complicated and hardly possible. The rate of mark-up for such loans is very high. Besides, it is necessary that the man requesting for a loan should be owner of a property, building or land. People belonging to non-agriculture sector are usually landless and do not fulfill these specified requirements for obtaining loans. On their own, they are unable to start their business being resource-scarce. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that rules and regulations of banks, loaning agencies and micro-finance corporations are suitably amended and softened to enable these resource-less people to get benefit at suitably low mark-up.

In order to uplift the rural economy, the government must concentrate on improving the infra-structure of rural areas, where there are no roads or if they are there, they are broken and beyond repair. Villagers should have an easy access to markets in cities and town. They should invariably be provided schools for increasing literacy, hospitals and health centres for the upkeep of health of the overwhelming rural population and technical and vocational institutes for skill. development/H.R. development. Acquisition of technologies and skill development is the need of the hour without which economic development and rural development would remain an unrealized dream and far-fetched idea.