The ministry of rural development has come out with a report titled Greening Rural Development in India in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme. It signals a paradigm shift in India’s development strategy to amend the flawed plan strategies of the past. The majority of Indians will continue to live in villages, with over half the work force depending on agriculture. Hence, Indian planners have realized the need to develop natural resources as a means to enhance livelihoods, reduce poverty and provide food security.
The UNDP report contains recommendations and case studies to help the ministry achieve its objectives. The moot question is how to balance the competing demands among economical, environmental and socio-political dimensions of the development agenda. As per the report, the ministry is required to systematize the implementation of the six flagship schemes by specifying how to enlist greening principles, goals, actions, processes, expected outputs and outcomes. Effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms must be put in place. A network of support organizations should be formed by designating select civil society organizations and technical and academic institutions.
An innovative portal is to be created with essential data for effective planning, implementation and monitoring for different, but overlapping, development programmes. A green innovation fund may be created to promote green technologies and social processes. A dedicated cell at the ministry should be created to facilitate implementation, help prepare the Annual Green Report and establish a suitable Green Awards Scheme.
Greening actions for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme require taking measures to raise soil fertility, provide sustainable domestic water supply through rain water harvesting and recharging groundwater aquifers, implement afforestation projects, regenerate community resources and enhance the durability of the assets created.
Every gram panchayat must prepare its Perspective Plan with an assessment of natural resources, climate vulnerability and strategies to strengthen climate resilience. Developing a MGNREGS green index and incentivizing greening initiatives for development of land and forests are important. Private investment should be attracted in such green businesses as generation of renewable energy, organic input chains, green technology and advisory services, green product supply chains and the production of green construction materials.
There should be a convergence of policy making, programming, budgeting, implementation and monitoring. Maintenance and certification of accounts and timely audits should be insisted upon to ensure accountability. For accounting and tracking of fund flow and utilization, coordination among auditors and certifying the accounts of the implementing agencies and a social audit and the CAG’s audit are indispensable.
To achieve the expected green outputs and outcomes, a national-level data centre and a network-based research support system linking NGOs, research institutions, management and engineering institutes are required. An authentic database in a separate portal, information and communication technology and e-governance solutions should be made available to stakeholders.
Unfortunately, IIMs, IITs, NITs and other such institutions are not keen on finding solutions for specific issues pertaining to development programmes. These institutions should pay back their debt to the community. What we need are ethical ‘green managers’ who are not only interested in lucrative jobs but also in nation building.