YFI: Dr. Hegde, what according to you, are the primary developmental challenges facing rural India?
Dr. Hegde: Rural India is faced with multiple developmental challenges. The critical ones include:
• Population: Increasing population, causing severe pressure on natural resources and the environment;
• Natural resources: Depleting natural resources, resulting in insecurity of food and employment, compelling over 35-40% of the rural population to live in poverty;
• Pollution: Pollution of the environment and climate change, causing shortage of clean drinking water and adverse impact on agricultural production;
• Employment: Lack of employment in non-farm sector, forcing the landless and small farmers to migrate to urban areas;
• Education: Poor access to education, resulting in low literacy and unemployment of the youth; Low literacy rate, particularly among women having adverse effect on their skills development, employment productivity, family welfare and education of their children;
• Health: Poor health status due to lack of clean drinking water, hygiene, sanitation and drainage facilities; inadequate health care facilities, leading to high child mortality and morbidity; loss of labour productivity, economic loss, indebtedness and poor quality of life;
• Infrastructure: Poor infrastructure for receiving timely information on development opportunities, market demand and prices for agricultural commodities, new technologies, forward and backward linkages, credit facilities and development policies of the government; and
• People’s organizations: Lack of people’s organisations for supporting various socio-economic development activities and governing themselves.