Commonwealth Youth Expert Group Meeting on Climate Change

An important number of young people from various Commonwealth nations face climate change impacts in their daily life. Several cases illustrate these impacts, and recently the Pacific island of Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Pan. From the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, small islands are exposed to heavy storms, stronger and more destructive than ever before due to o climate change, such as Cyclone Pan which caused damage on other islands, like Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, before it essentially flattened Port vila in Vanuatu. With the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place at the end of this year in Paris, France, world leaders with support from civil society are being given an opportunity, one more time, to work together towards a safer climate.

In this context, I had an opportunity to participate at the Commonwealth Youth Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on Climate Change organised by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN) , with support from the Youth Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Youth Council. The meeting was convened in London, UK, from 9-11 June, 2015 in the lead up to COP 21. The meeting brought together a group of 20 key young experts and practitioners on climate change from more than 13 Commonwealth Nations to discuss, formulate and agree on behalf of their peers a set of strong recommendations for a post-2015 global climate change agreement; while also identifying avenues for these recommendations to be taken forward and included in the pledges of Commonwealth member states in the lead up to COP 21. It is interesting to see that this meeting coincides with the Commonwealth 2015 theme – A Young Commonwealth.

Cheering Young Experts from more than 13 Commonwealth Nations

Cheering Young Experts joined by senior experts at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, London

Before the actual discussions kicked off, we had a fantastic opportunity to participate at the Launch of the Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit (ISU)’s Photography competition themed ‘Out of the Blue‘ held on 8th June 2015 at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) that took place on the occasion of the World Oceans Day 2015. The competition was initiated in partnership with National Geographic, WWF and others, and focuses on realizing the potential of our oceans and coasts. The competition runs from 8th June until 6th September and is open to all Commonwealth citizens. Photographs must be taken in a Commonwealth country and the winning entries will be exhibited at CHOGM in Malta in November. So everyone out there interested in our Oceans and coasts, go grab your opportunity now.

In a video message played to participants at the meeting, entitled ‘World Oceans Day – Realising the Potential of our Oceans and Coasts’, the Prince encouraged Commonwealth citizens “to explore their relationship with the marine environment through photography and submit images that remind people of the beauty of the oceans and seas, as well as our dependency as human beings on them.” The Prince also said that “Good pictures can tell stories in ways that words sometimes cannot and it is my sincere hope that by inviting people to submit their finest photographs, depicting not only the astonishing beauty of the ocean, but also the nature of our relationship with it, that we might deepen efforts to ensure a more secure and sustainable future than might otherwise be the case.”

The meeting saw interesting talks from various internationally eminent speakers in the Ocean research, including Tony Juniper, Special Adviser, Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, John Tanzer, Director, Global Marine Programme, WWF International, and Ben Milligan, Senior Research Associate, University College London (UCL). A very interesting panel discussion on the meeting theme also took place with participation of the following panelists from internationally renowned organisations-

  • Malini Mehra, Chief Executive, Global Legislators Organisation (moderator)
  • Angus Friday, Ambassador to the United States of America, Government of Grenada
  • Rupert Howes, Chief Executive Officer, Marine Stewardship Council
  • Greg Lowe, Executive Director, Capital Science & Policy Practice, Willis Group
  • Essam Yassin Mohammed, Senior Researcher, IIED
  • Robin Warner, Professor, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security
Young experts at the RGS

A young expert from Cameroon at the RGS

RGS

Young experts at the RGS reception, RGS, London

The EGM took place between 9 and 11 June, 2015. The stage for the discussions set off with the rationale of the EGM on climate change and understanding the value of young people’s expertise in climate change. Both these sessions witnessed the introduction of the meetings participants, and discussions on their work in the field of climate change with emphasis on their areas of expertise, key achievements made, some challenges they face and how these individual realities are connected together despite they come from different backgrounds, regions or countries. A personal experience mapping exercise was carried out to share learning and good practices, and determine which strategies, actions, and commitments the participants are involved in to ensure strong recognition of young people expertise and work in climate change. Following this for the next 2 and half days, several discursive sessions took place under different dominant themes.

DAY 1 Theme:  ‘Climate Change threat on Commonwealth Nations: The need for Collective Action.’ 

1. Eco-citizenship: An added value to achieving public information, awareness raising and education in climate change

Speaker – Dr Tony Juniper, Senior Adviser, Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit (ISU)

Facilitator – Mr Kabir Arora, Board member, Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN)

2. Strengthening cooperation in addressing climate change across the Commonwealth Regions with a focus on effective citizens’ participation

Speaker – Prof Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Advisor, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5C), Belize

Facilitator- Dr Komali Yenneti, Postdoctoral fellow, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGLAS), China

3. Addressing disaster risk reduction and management through a Youth lens

Speaker – Mr. Robert Lyle, Commonwealth Disaster Management Agency

Facilitator- Ms. Ayesha Constable, Researcher and Climate Advocate, University of West Indies

DAY 2 Theme : Looking at the Human, Social, and Economic Impacts of Climate Change

1. Climate change and human health : Linkages and interaction

Speaker – Dr Jo Anne Nurse, Head, Health and Education Unit, Commonwealth Secretariat

Facilitator- Mr Evans Tembo, Chief Technical Officer, Zambia Youth Environment Network & Lecturer, WASH and Climate Change

2. Tackling gender issues in a changing climate with young people’s voice

Speaker – Ms Kemi Ogunsanya, Interim Head, Gender section, Commonwealth Secretariat

Facilitator- Ms Yvette Ampaire, Advocacy coordinator, Women in Climate Change and Development, Uganda

3. Climate Change : An opportunity for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship

Speaker – Ms Melody Hossaini, Founder & Director, InspirEngage International

Facilitator- Mr Blondel Silenou Demanou, CEO, Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environment (JVE), Cameroon

4. Engaging the voices of the marginalised stakeholders in the climate response

Speaker -Ms Kelly McKenzie, Director of communications, Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC)

Facilitator- Mr Godfrey Scott, President, Caribbean Youth Environment Network, Guyana

DAY 3 Theme : Climate Finance, Small States Resilience and Ocean Governance

1. Climate finance: current trends and impacts on the young generations

Speaker – Mr Harsen Nyambe, Climate Finance Advisor, Economic Policy Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

Facilitator- Ms Rianna Gonzales, Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean region, Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN)

2. Resilience of Small States: How to improve the response to the Climate threat

Speaker – Dr Denny Lewis Bynow, Economic Adviser, Small States, Economic Policy Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

Facilitator- Ms Karuna Rana, Executive Director, SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH)

3. Enhancing the ‘Blue Economy’ and Sustainable Ocean Governance across the Commonwealth

Speaker – Dr Iris Monnereau, Researcher, Centre for Sustainable Management and Environmental Studies, University of West Indies

Facilitator-Mr Kelvin Anthony, Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Region, Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN)

The purpose of each of the above discursive sessions with participation of senior experts was to generate a dialogue between senior and young experts that will generate specific ideas and suggestions which was eventually be used to design the recommendations for a post-2015 global climate change agreement (at the COP 21) through a youth lens, the main outcome of the EGM. At the end of each day, a long working session took place. These working sessions enabled the participants to analyse all the information, suggestions, and ideas received from the interactive discussions with senior experts in order to brainstorm on the key learning that will be useful later to develop the main outcomes of the meeting. The working session on the last day additionally provided time to discuss strategies to disseminate the meeting recommendations, and get them embraced by the COP 21 process, building on suggestions made by each speaker during their interventions throughout the meeting.

At the end of the 3-day meeting, we came up with several draft recommendations, call for actions, supported with facts and young experts own stories. There were discussions on how participants’ networks and organisations could better engage with and support the CYCN in an effective and long-term way. It is hoped that within the next couple of months, we shall come up with an outcome document that presents the voices of the young people in the Commonwealth to the leaders of the COP 21 to be held this year in Paris, France.

Fragmentation or Pluralism?

Logo_DIEFragmentation or Pluralism?

The organisation of development cooperation revisited

 

International development cooperation is characterised by a diversification of goals, approaches and a proliferation of actor constellations. While these fundamental changes of the development cooperation landscape have been reflected in the aid- and development – effectiveness processes, the international development community – and especially aid-receiving countries – continues to struggle with their implications.

Critics have long argued that this proliferation of actors and approaches has led to a fragmented development cooperation landscape in many aid-dependent countries. This carries important unintended consequences in terms of higher transaction costs for those on both sides of relations; conflicting concepts and policies; efficiency losses; and neglected sectors and countries. Proponents point towards the potential of a diverse development landscape for mutual learning, innovation and competitive selection among the different providers for development assistance. Fragmentation also frequently goes hand in hand with donors’ needs for individual visibility coupled with an endeavour to retain full control over the aid-allocation process, which further perpetuates fragmentation. Managing such opportunities and risks is the challenge on the ground.

pluralismThese issues were addressed at the latest conference held at German Development Institute (DIE) from 10 – 11 October 2013, where I am currently working as a visiting researcher. The purpose of the conference was to explore framgmentation and pluralism of development cooperation, both at the theoretical and practical levels. In fact, bringing together a diverse group of presenters and participants from the academic and policy communities from both developing and developed countries; the conference  explored the issues of fragmentation and pluralism from a variety of perspectives, focusing in particular on concepts; measurements; the political economy of development coooperation causing the emergence and persistence of fragmentation; actors; modalities and instruments; and practical experiences in the attempt to overcome framgmentation and/or to manage diversity. The themes of the panels were :

1. Fragmentation or pluralism? concepts, definitions and measurement

2. Multi-bilateranl financing

3. Bilateral experiences

4. New aid choices

5. Multilateral experiences

6. Fragmentation in the enviornmental sector

7. Fragmentation in conflict/post-conflict situations

8. Tackling fragmentation through managed diversity.

At the end of each panel there was extensive panel discussions on the issues discussed in that specific session. It brought dynamic perspective on the theme. For more information of the conference refer to http://www.die-gdi.de/CMS-Homepage/openwebcms3.nsf/%28ynDK_contentByKey%29/MPHG-95DAM5?Open

Getting Research into Public Policy

Last year in August 2012, there was a very interesting article in nature titled ‘Science funding; Duel to death’ which highlighted the scientists cry over government’s spending cuts on research. The governments response to the hue and cry of researchers was that the challenge lies in the wake of financial crisis and largely in the questions about applicability of research to real-world economic growth. In the same article in an extended argument, postdoctoral mathematician Will Merry at the University of Cambridge, UK said that ‘It’s very hard to justify the economic importance of work that might not become applicable to real-world problems for decades’. In a similar vein, a well-known welfare scholar Messer-Davdidow (2002) vehemently argued that social science researchers often deluge under foggy jargons of post-structuralism, post-colonialism, secularism, post-modernism etc, complexify theories and debate problems that had been constituted by our own disciplines. our research studies ‘use highly politicised rhetorics and espouse social-change objectives that has little impact and relevance on real-world politics other than igniting backlashes’.  While these flurry of arguments come from the western world, from the other side of this world, similar contestations reverberate. Jean Dreze, a researcher who had been working in India for more than 20 yrs, who closely collaborated with Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen on researching famines and hunger indicated that  the local village folk with little formal education had better understand and embrace real-world problems. He, on the other side, had not always been equipped with understanding of those practical issues that emerge in the real-world. These discussions had more than grounded the central argument. The increasing recognition of applicability of research to real-world, the need for moving out of theories and to move into praxis. To speak the theoretical language of people and communities beyond academy. This importance has had also been recognised by the research councils (ESRC, EPSRC etc) in the UK. Creating impact is an important aspect in all academic research funding applications, considerations of research funding is based on impact to real-world. For ex, ESRC clearly earmarks this by celebrating winners of those who created impacts in 201. http://www.esrc.ac.uk/research/index.aspx and more…….the list is endless….

So why does am I blabbering all this while about this and what applicability does this I have in my life. yes, the point is considering that I am a researcher, this becomes critically emergent issue to be considered. In a pathway of emerging as a researcher with creating impact, I recently participated in GRiPPSS (Getting Research into Public Policy Summer School) organised by University of Birmingham from 1-3rd July 2013. While the summer school brought extensive discussions from researchers who impact in the real world, it also organised a fantastic competition for the participants. The task was that each group (with some participants) was given a topic. At the end of the summer school all the groups have to make a short presentation with 5 slides convincing their research outcomes impact on the real-world to a jury team. While there were 6 groups, our team emerged as a winner – and yes, this is a re-attestation that I do consider these issues. Our topic was wind energy in the UK, considering that the topic is dear to my heart and research, naturally our emerged as the winner. Above and over on this, the important thing was to highlight the kind of presentations and the speakers.

An introduction to impact and how public policy is made Dr Fiona Nunan, International Development Department (IDD), University of Birmingham
How government makes policy, and the challenges for researchers Professor Stephen Gorad, University of Durham
How is public policy  made in the UK Dr Adrian Campbell, IDD
Using research to influence public policy Dr Chris Allen, Institute of Applied social studies
Bridging the gap: facilitating the link between research, policy and practice Dr David Hutchison, University of Portsmouth, Environment and Health Science Coordinator, NERC
Strategies for influencing policy Dr Fiona Nunan
What is stakeholder analysys and how do you use the tool? Dr Adrian Campbell
Implications for the design of research Dr Fiona Nunan
Using research: a local government perspective Steven Rose, Head of strategic research, Birmingham City Council

Looking at the presentations, it could be acceded that there were wide variety of presentations with speakers from interesting and important institutes and organisation. of all these, special presentation which touched me was Dr Chris Allen. Chris had been working on the issues of Muslim identities and ‘Islamophobia’ in the UK. considering the hotness of the topic, he became a well-noted researcher and speaker in the UK. Looking his website you could get a clear picture of how his research had been creating impact for the real-world and of course, for himself. http://www.chris-allen.co.uk/

U21 ‘Energy’ Graduate conference at UCD, Dublin

Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference on Energy: Systems, Policy and Solutions

19-22nd June 2013

UCD Logo U21 Logo

 

 

 

Once again I participated at an international conference on ‘Energy’. This time I was nominated by the University of Birmingham to participate at the Universitas 21 annual graduate conference on energy: systems, policy and solutions hosted by UCD Dublin, Ireland.

The conference on the topics of systems, policy and solutions was held from 19-22 June, 2013 at UCD student centre. The event provided an entire new range of perspectives systems, policy and solutions for energy. The conference consisted of a session on oral presentations featuring 30 papers, a poster session with more than 15 papers and 3 invited high-profile key note speakers from Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ireland, Prof R. Stuart Haszeldine, OBE, FRSE, School of Geosciences, The University of Edinburgh; Mr Senan McGrath, Chief Technology Officer ESB Cars and Professor Peter Lund Professor of Applied Physics, Aalto University, Finland . More than 50 participants from across the world from over 15 countries, and based in U21 universities gave presentations. I was also a part of the team to invite the Minister of Trade.

Meeting with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ireland

Meeting with the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ireland

It also organised field visits to 1. Huntstown Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power plant, North Dublin and 2. EirGrid, the National Control Centre and SEMO (Single Electricity Market Operator) Ballsbridge, Dublin. Apart from these academic related stuff, the conference held 2 Interactive Case Study Careers Workshops on 1) Taking your research out of the lab and into the world, An Introduction to the Lean Business Model Canvas facilitated by John Geoghegan, NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) and 2) Case study on Low Energy Sustainability facilitated by Paul Dunne, Director, MEP & Sustainability, ARUP. For complete programme and presentations titles refer UCD graduate studies conference programme. 

Specifically my presentation was on 2nd day of the conference on ‘Energy:policy’ theme

Student Oral Presentations

Time

University

Name

Title

11:30

University of Edinburgh Mr Peter Alexander Modelling the perennial energy crop market: the role of spatial diffusion

11:40

LundUniversity Mr Jingjing Zhang Comparative analysis of energy efficient technology innovation in buildings: the case of passive houses in Germany, Sweden and China

11.50

University of Queensland Mr Kazi Nazmul Challenges and potential of integrating large scale remote renewable generators to the Australian electricity grid

12.00

University of New South Wales Ms Johanna Cludius Distributional aspects of renewable energy support policies in Germany and Australia

12.10

University of Birmingham Mr Komalirani Yenneti The tainted desert? Procedural justice issues in the implementation of solar energy in India

I think all these activities along with providing an opportunity to meet students from different countries working in similar areas of work also helped me in building my own research networks.  Apart from presenting at the conference, the U21 ‘energy’ conference provided me a platform for acquiring new knowledge interacting with students and experts of my field of research. This interaction will also enhance my work, by increasing my understanding of international trends and patterns in energy architectures, and equip me to formulate best practices in the world into my own research.

One of the core conference theme on ‘energy policy’ which brought a wide range on presentations ranging from energy efficiency innovation to low carbon development policy design and implementation through creating effective policy architectures and energy governance was particularly very relevant to my current research area. Apart from this session the other two sessions on systems and solutions and key note presentations were also helpful for transfer back of new knowledge and perspectives on energy to my own learning.

The conference also brought practical and international experience through peer-learning in the fields of energy architectures and finally brought a valuable input for my research. It also helped me to gain knowledge and provide with the experience for real strategic policy research and operational activities in my doctoral research area.

On a lighter note,  we also had been to Jonny’s Fox, oldest and most famous pub in Ireland – I think that was an amazing experience for me.

Dinner at Jonny's Fox

Dinner at Jonny’s Fox

 

 

UKERC symposium on ‘Energy Vulnerability’

Early career symposium and research colloquium on Energy Vulnerability Conditions and Pathways: Towards a research and policy agenda, 

Manchester 21st-23rd May 2013

Recently I was a part of the steering committee of a 3-day early career symposium and research conference on ‘Energy Vulnerability Conditions and Pathways: Towards a research and policy agenda’.

The early career research symposium on the topics of spatial and temporal dynamics of energy vulnerability was held from 21-22 May, 2013 at MERCi, Manchester. The event was a joint initiative of the Energy Geographies Working Group of the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers, and the International Energy Vulnerability Network and was supported by the Meeting Place of the UK Energy Research Centre.

The event provided an entire new range of perspectives on the emergent framework of ‘energy vulnerability’, which refers to the propensity of a household, community or state to experience inadequate energy services. We discussed the underlying dynamics, constitutive processes and wider socio-economic implications of this condition.

The conference consisted of an early career research symposium featuring 20 selected papers after an open call, and a colloquium with 12 invited high-profile speakers. More than 60 participants from across the world, and based in academia, government, and the third sector, attended and gave presentations.  Both events brought together various academic researchers, policy representatives, and the third sector to discuss on the ‘pathways to vulnerability’ through which individuals, communities, places and states are affected by the relationships between energy affordability, housing stock issues, and household practices and needs.

The symposium had 20 papers presented from both UK and international based PhD students and post-doctoral fellows drawing on the themes 1. Interpreting fuel poverty via a vulnerability/resilience lens (how does this challenge conventional approaches?); 2. Social justice and energy vulnerability (fuel poverty in terms of recognition, procedure and distribution); 3. Energy vulnerability and decarbonisation (what is the relationship between policy measures promoting the low-carbon economy, and rates of fuel poverty?); and 4. Fuel poverty and local, area-based interventions (do they provide a viable way forward?)

The Day 1 of the symposium had four sessions titled 1. Planning and policy options; 2. Perspectives at a householder level; 3. Assessing area-based solutions and; 4. Pathways to decarbonisation. The first half of the Day 2 had two sessions. The Session 1 on Distilling Insights and Questions for the Colloquium was an intensive world cafe session based on the reflections and key questions from Day 1 sessions. This was followed by session 1 on research careers across sectors where there was an intensive discussion on career opportunities for early researchers outside academics. This session had representatives from Department of Environment & Climate Change (DECC) and Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to bring their experiences and discuss opportunities in civil service and third sector. Both these sessions held in the morning were followed by research colloquium on mid-day Day 2 and Day 3.

The event was accompanied by a press release, a dedicated twitter feed and several blog posts; the entire proceedings were recorded and will be released as video podcasts by the UK Energy Research Centre (in addition to a detailed report) on a dedicated UKERC page.

The PI of the conference Prof. Stefan Bouzarovski, Professor at University of Manchester had written extensively of the event on his blog page. Read Stefan’s summary of the symposium and colloquium on the urban-energy blog

Solar cities makes energy shining India?

Energy is one of the most important inputs for economic growth and human development. Urbanization and economic development are leading to a rapid rise in energy demand in urban areas. With appreciation in income levels, people have started depending more on electrical run appliances for their domestic needs. Growth in industrial and commercial sectors also has an ever increasing demand for power supply. Urban areas are heavily dependent on fossil fuels for powering homes, infrastructure, transport systems, industry and commerce. Although India has huge proven coal reserve, the calorific value and increasing ash content in Indian coal is a major concern. Also with the proven statistic the oil and natural gas resource in India will last hardly for 18 and 26 years respectively. It has lead to imports of petroleum and gas increase substantially, involving large energy import bill.

Several Indian cities are experiencing 15% growth in the peak electricity demand. The local governments and the electricity utilities are finding it difficult to cope with this rapid rise in demand and as a result most of the cities are facing severe electricity shortages. Long hours of power cuts results in disruption of activities and severely affect the economic development of the city.

Solar Energy Development in Gujarat, India (copyright of image: Author)

With increased dependency on fossil fuels, urban areas have emerged as one of the biggest sources of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, with buildings alone contributing to around 40% of the total GHG emissions. CO2 emissions are creating serious global warming issues. SOx, NOx and SPM are contributing to local environmental impacts and becoming a challenge for human well being. Other impacts include waste disposal problems, land degradation and the depletion of natural resources.

In this context there is a need to develop a framework that will encourage and assist cities in assessing their present energy consumption status, setting clear targets for and preparing action plans for generating energy through renewable energy sources and in conserving energy utilized in conducting urban services. As in lines with this statement, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had recently initiated ‘Solar Cities’ programme to make 60 cities as ‘renewable energy cities’ or ‘solar cities’ (for more information refer http://mnre.gov.in/schemes/decentralized-systems/solar-cities/). A solar city is a city which aims a minimum 10% reduction in projected demand of conventional energy at the end of five years, through a combination of enhancing supply from renewable energy sources in the city and energy efficiency  measures. The basic aim is to motivate the local Governments for adopting renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.  In a Solar City all types of renewable energy based projects like solar, wind, biomass, small hydro, waste to energy etc. may be installed along with possible energy efficiency measures depending on the need and resource availability in the city. The term ‘‘Solar cities’’ defined by several initiatives such as International Solar Cities Initiatives and European solar cities initiatives also includes introduction of green house gas emissions reduction over long term time frame. The MNRE programme aims to promote  solar water heating systems in homes, hotels, hostels, hospitals and industry; deploying solar photo voltaic (SPV) systems in urban areas for demonstration and awareness creation; establishing ‘Akshya Urja Shops’; designing solar buildings and promoting urban and industrial biomass to energy projects would be streamlined under the programme. MNRE has approved 31 of these cities had advised urban local bodies to prepare a road map for implementation and appoint consultants to prepare master plan. ICLEI South-Asia has been appointed as a main consultant for preparation of master by many cities and it has already submitted five. While everything is well and good and the master plans looks voguish, the main question is realisation and implementation of the plans.  If not how can the plans be realised or does those plans lives forever in those colourful maps as the urban  planners of India as ever makes? Many questions orbit my mind, why do I  need to take all these. I already have so many, I do want to live a peaceful life.

sources : times of india , MNRE , ICLEI

Inclusive growth – An answer to Challenges of Rural Transformation?

In the post-independence period a systematic understanding of the rural society, its structure, functions and changes have not only become necessary but also urgent as three-fourth of the population lives in rural areas.  The rural society is predominantly based on agriculture, which is sharply distinguished from urban industry by the fact it is based on direct extraction from nature by man.  This basic difference played a significant role in shaping the social institutions, human behaviour and orientation of the rural population.  As it forms the major sector of the Indian society, a specific programme for change and development is expected to play a decisive role in any scheme of transformation of rural society on a higher economic and cultural basis.

 Around 72% of Indian population, i.e. 741.66 Million people live in rural areas, yet, it contributes only 24% of the GDP. Agriculture is the main employment generator in rural India. Infact agriculture provides 55% employment which is reducing at a very slow rate. The increase in agricultural production has been brought about by bringing additional area under cultivation, extension of irrigation facilities,  use of improved high-yielding variety of seeds, better techniques evolved through agricultural research, water management, and plant protection through judicious use of fertilizers, pesticides and cropping practices. India currently invests only about 0.5 percent of its agricultural GDP in agricultural research, compared with 2–3 percent in the developed countries.The International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) research shows that investments in R&D in the sector have the highest impact on agricultural growth per million rupees invested.

It has definitely been a long journey from where we were when we got Independence. From a Nehruvian model that sought to create an integrated economic identity for the country, mixing both socialist and capitalist ideas, to one that was market-oriented and again to one that lays its bets on inclusive growth. While the Nehruvian model led to a situation where the State had unprecedented controls and there existed a ‘Licence Raj’ regime, especially when it came to economic matters, it also sought to promote the goals of social justice.

The revival of Panchayati Raj, the changing facets of co-operatives and recent developments in liberalized economy have further enhanced the vital importance of rural development. The spread of rural industries and village based co-operatives, formation of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in rural and semi-urban areas are some of the recent developments in the field of rural development. More importantly, as many critics say, the reforms initiated in 1992 appeared to be targeted towards the urban region of the country. They did little to target the essential social sector problems in areas of health, education and employment that continue to dog the nation. Policy-makers, however, point to several country-wide social sector schemes being run by the government that are changing the face of the rural countryside.

The question that arises here is that is the government going to continue to aim at faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth through the existing plethora of social sectors schemes like the UID-Aadhaar to tackle distribution woes, the National Skill Development Fund (NSDF) to tackle industry’s problems in finding trained manpower or the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to provide self-employment opportunities or the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to meet the health needs of the rural populace. Some of these schemes have been around, albeit under different names, even before the current Prime Minister initiated the new economic initiative in 1992 in his avatar as Finance Minister.

Infrastructure has been identified as the biggest roadblock and it affects everything in the chain. Access to education, lack of infrastructure, lack of teachers, and quality of education has resulted in children working in farms or taking care of siblings, paving the way for  high school dropout rate. Water requirements for agriculture are increasing and the similar trend is seen for rural drinking water requirement. Now both the quantity and quality of water is posing greatest challenge for the planners and policy makers at the national as well as regional and local levels. Most of the diseases in Rural India are water borne.

 The push factors like lack of income/inconsistent income are some of the major reasons for migration of labour force from rural areas to urban areas.  More than resources it is the lack of leadership, application of technology and desire for excellence that has still kept rural society in an under developed state. Perhaps, a more important way of looking at the government’s steps to promote inclusive growth would be to examine the way it has allocated budgets to the social sector—social services and rural development—over the years and the results that such allocations have achieved.