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Panellists share their perspectives and ideas on visualizing Rural India 2025 and how changes in larger glocal society, economy, technology are going to influence opportunities. The deliberations will spotlight pathways required to meet the aspirations of men and women who are entering the workforce, their changing profile, challenges and opportunities to lead a life of dignity and secure productive opportunities of life advancement.
The idea is to have Bharti, Sanjiv and Venkat share their perspectives and ideas on visualizing Rural India in 2025 and how changes in larger glocal society, economy, technology are going to influence opportunities in villages. The deliberations will also build on pathways required to meet the aspirations of rural communities and ensure that villages are a place of equal opportunity where its residents can lead a life of dignity.
Session draws insights from leading feminists, practitioners and thought leaders on improving women’s participation in social, economic and cultural spheres. The session will explore and suggest ways for public development programmes to have a more deliberate instrumental and normative focus on gender justice.
The session “Gender Equality and Justice | Our Future” explores from a societal and programme perspective solutions that enable women and girls, as well as men and boys, to realize their full potential. The position of the panel is going beyond fundamental human rights and places gender equality as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable society. Multiple evidence point to reversals of hard-achieved gains due to COVID-19 pandemic induced workspace changes, health and economic vulnerabilities particularly due to dis-proportionate informal women workforce and risks on security and social protection. It is now well evidenced that deprivation is multi-dimensional and strongly anchored in the agency of the person. Deliberations will explore pathways to integrate gender in development engagement pathways impacting women’s condition and position both within households and outside. Enhanced confidence, mobility, solidarity contribute to agency outcomes, these however, could easily be constrained by the institutional structures eg. women’s property ownership. A key exploration of interest is how we make our public programmes more gender intentional, give its universal reach there is potential of contributing to both instrumental and normative impact on how men and women view gender relations in different facets of society and what they can do individually and collectively to pivot rules of game to a more just and equitable way. The Session will be moderated by Ms.Madhu Krishna Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with leading feminists, practitioners and thought leaders.
The session seeks to gather insights from the experience of groundswell of women collectives in civil society and governmental efforts and what this central role of women collectives implies for a transformative agenda to advance social protection, women and economic empowerment in making of “New Rural”.
Women Collectives present an unprecedented opportunity to frontally address India’s rural poverty in its gendered manifestation and multi-dimensional nature specifically impacting Gender Equality and Economic Empowerment. Rural India has witnessed the decade of DAY-NRLM, with presence extending to 5054 blocks and 70 million poor women, today these collectives touch majority of poor on an engendered community platform, simultaneously dis-intermediating the demand-delivery disconnect which makes it uniquely placed to make significant difference to rural India, home to world’s largest number of multi-dimensional poor people with women and children bearing brunt of multiple deprivations. Poverty in India is now mostly a rural and regional phenomenon underscored with sharp social and occupational etchings. Success of women collective over the last decade has created new expectations for it to play pivotal role in addressing rural poverty and inter-generational mobility. Covid 19 and consequent poverty slide is disconcerting, however, it is expected the long run tailwinds impacting economic poverty will bounce back, these include participation of adolescent girls in secondary, higher secondary, and higher education; decline in fertility, universalization of women collectives : as women came together to form SHGs it created an identity outside of house and with support of NRLM/SRLM collectives or SHGs leveraged skills and diverse livelihood opportunities. Today, development intervention is anchored around these collectives addressing economic, social empowerment and bringing new solidarity, voice and influence. There is great opportunity to leverage collectives beyond they being SHG member to as citizens with access to entitlements, producers and consumers of good and services – as economic agents, contributing to improving decision making, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and reduce gender-based violence.
The conversation with experts, development practitioners and policy administrators is hosted by Anjani Singh. Panellists bring deep expertise, perspective from their leadership of large programmes and will together layout a transformative agenda of women collectives to advance social protection, economic empowerment in making of “New Rural”.
Rural Livelihoods has emerged prime national goal along with health. Pandemic induced new drivers, shocks and emerging investment and enabling policy impacting rural economy makes the need for conversation critical and topical. One of the key challenges on livelihoods is related to access to predictable and affordable access to energy. Solving this challenge around energy is critical for creating local jobs and creating new opportunities around the farm/non-farm rural production system. Affordable energy access is key to address rural poverty, both for productive use in making farms remunerative, on farm side for irrigation, primary processing as also non-farm processing/secondary agriculture generating income and local, place-based employment. Session deliberations brings in intense experience, insights and vision on supporting livelihoods acceleration with assured sustainable energy. The discussion with lay a set of inter-related action aimed at sustained income increase from deployment of Sustainable Energy solutions situated within local habitat development and place-based employment opportunities.
Rural Livelihoods has emerged as the prime national goal along with health. Pandemic induced new drivers, shocks and emerging investment and enabling policy impacting rural economy makes the need for conversation critical and topical. One of the key challenges on livelihoods is related to access to predictable and affordable access to energy. Solving the challenge around energy is critical for creating local jobs and creating new opportunities around the farm/non-farm rural production system. Affordable energy access is key to accelerate rural livelihoods, both for productive use in making farms remunerative, eg. irrigation, primary processing as also non-farm processing generating income and local, place-based employment. Session brings in experiences, use-cases, insights and vision on supporting livelihoods acceleration with assured sustainable energy. The discussion will lay a set of inter-related action aimed at sustained income increase from deployment of Sustainable Energy solutions situated within local habitat development and place-based employment opportunities.
Profitability of marginal farmers is one of foremost challenges of our times, linked to the declining number of cultivators is the farm and migrant labour crisis. The opportunities with improved access to resources, start-up/enterprise ecosystem, farmer aggregation approaches like (FPOs, Agripreneurs), modern systems of carbon trade and incentives for reducing human planetary footprint. Most critically the skills and aspirations with changing farmer demography gives growth and resilience a new impetus and unlock the potential of Indian farmers to become food factories of their localities and world.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for a majority of India’s working population. Big risks related to water, climate change and critical imperatives of inclusion and the accelerating marginalisation of holdings are key challenges before us. This requires leveraging technology and innovation; forging new methods and working arrangements to augment the levers of factors of production with knowledge, markets access, enterprise as source of new value creation. Pandemic induced economic crisis has stimulated efforts to transform agriculture and food systems; policy reforms, new investments and focus on regeneratives and circular practices has creating enabling conditions to productively address the long run trend of declining number of farmers and poverty in the self-employed cultivating households.
The session will deliberate on leveraging increased access to resources, start-up/enterprise ecosystem, farmer aggregation approaches like (FPOs, Agripreneurs), skills and aspirations with changing farmer demography to give growth and resilience impetus and unlock the potential of Indian farm economy to be food factories to their local communities and to the world.
One of key transformative opportunity before us is to use data sciences to create value by improving programs and policies, driving economies, and empowering citizens. The just published World Development Report 2021 calls for a new social contract for data—one that enables the use and reuse of data to create economic and social value, promotes equitable opportunities to benefit from data, and fosters citizens’ trust. Deploying data for better governance, public service delivery and supporting public accountability is expected to intensify in coming years. Many initiatives have got fast-tracked during the pandemic – showing its power and also tensions. For long, one of the safest way for powerful to marginalise issues, voice was data invisibility; reflected in skewed contemporary discourse on rural issues marked by a lack of quality and sufficiency of data, research and analytics. The effect of this gap is often observed during engagements with opinion makers, policy formulators or even potential investors in the rural sector where high quality and reliable data and analytics. Apart from paucity of readily useable data, there is challenge in sourcing the right kind of data and its veracity. Today, academic and research institutions, governments, not-for-profits, funding agencies need reliable, objective data for measuring progress. Development sector including donors are struggling to discern the movements in the face of rapid rural-urban population migration and increasingly common aspirations.
This session brings experts to lay out an opportunity for leveraging the fast-improving analytical capacity to produce and effectively use core economic and social data to transform lives, shape better informed analysis, decisions and use the power of data to reduce inequities.
India, today has number of unemployed youth outweighing that of any other country. Employment opportunities for youth particularly women at the scale requires, change-makers to focus on tackling the larger underlying systems, policies, and incentives that allow chronic youth unemployment to persist. Youth being enthusiastic, vibrant, innovative and dynamic in nature – there is a big opportunity to rekindle spirits in creative ways and empowering youth to find world of opportunities. Sector leaders will discuss the pathways and new opportunities particularly the new policies in India, women collectives and global experiences that can work in India.
India is a young nation and is expected to remain younger in foreseeable future. Post pandemic India is witnessing volatile growth with some sectors with high younger demographic employability intensity like HORECA unable to revive, uneven growth and structural challenges to employment growth. We are going to see more dynamic reforms in the macroeconomic, fiscal, tax, and business environments which will open more opportunities as India continues to improve its quality of its labor force and effectively respond to its ‘youth dividend’ – the two-thirds of India’s 1.4 bn people aged under 35 who comprise the world’s largest youth population. GoI’s NYP-2014 and National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 is geared to reap demographic dividend, unfortunately 2% of the workforce is formally skilled, and the ILO estimates that more than 10.6% of young people remain unemployed. The youth labor participation rate is steadily falling with the sharpest decline among women and in rural areas, India, today has a number of unemployed youth outweighing that of any other country. The very large population of Opportunity Youth (we are calling the 15-29 age group Neither in Education Employment or Training NEET as OY), that’s 108 million youth in India roughly a third of the total youth population. One good segment of this is what we call FUEL (Frustrated Unemployed Educated Local Youth). OY in many ways with their unproductive engagement is fuelling discontent and is massive human capital going waste.
Clearly a new approach is needed. To create lasting employment opportunities for youth at the scale required, change-makers must focus on tackling the larger underlying systems, policies, and incentives that allow chronic youth unemployment to persist. Youth being enthusiastic, vibrant, innovative and dynamic in nature – there is opportunity to rekindle spirits in creative ways and empower youth to find a world of opportunities. Both in India and globally efforts like DAY-NRLM Programmes SVEP/NRETPDDUGKY, GenU, GOYN, YuWaah show a new energy in programmatic innovations, with a rapidly growing cohort of working-age youth we need to accelerate the innovation and up-scaling pathways.
Sector leaders will discuss the pathways and new opportunities with Alice Gugulev, Managing Director of Global Development Incubator. The session will bring her direct ground experience and draw insights with leading practitioners and thought leaders from global experiences as pathways and solutions that can work in India.
Pandemic has exposed long-standing gaps in public health, the chronic inequities of public health infrastructure and services in villages. The imperative now is go beyond the givens of public and private health systems and institute processes in partnership with local communities to solve issues and leverage the productively power of new technologies, resources and emerging public mandate and go beyond the ‘bounce-back’ to pre-Covid levels, and build better to achieve universal access to basic healthcare in a new design of public health system Leading practitioners engaged in instituting this transition and reflecting on public health system converse to examine pathways to establish capacities and systems that can be sustained through technology, digital support, infrastructure augmentation, leveraging the expanded community space as healthcare spaces outside of formal health infrastructure like hospitals.
Pandemic has exposed long-standing gaps in public health, the chronic inequities of public health infrastructure and services in villages. Much discussed and long pending efforts for addressing fragmented health governance system and augmentation of infrastructure particularly has been prioritised for COVID response. In this critical situation, based on recent experiences there is an opportunity to reimagine solutions, streamline long pending health governance issues. Present situation has spotlighted systemic deficiencies and gaps in basic and critical health infrastructure at different levels. Therefore, possibly an opportunity exists to institute systems and processes in partnering with local communities to solve issues and leverage the productively power of new technologies, resources and emerging public mandate and go beyond ‘bounce-back’ to pre-Covid levels, and build better to achieve universal access to basic healthcare in a new design of public health system brining 4Ps (Public-Private- People- Panchayats) together to ensure better and equitable health towards a more sustainable future.
Post 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, community’s contribution to health systems has been recognized as central for primary health care. Unfortunately, less attention has been given to this dimension even in communities who have traditionally reflected mobilisation of collective resources in more mundane affairs like paddy planting, house repair and such like; National Health Mission and later placement of ASHA/Mitani/Saiyya and such community-based resource acknowledged, however, the dominant focus remained on technical, economic and management drivers in public health systems. The limitations of the health services both public and private (more important now given curative care has become very costly and the larger policy framework places this with private sector notwithstanding Ayushman Bharat and such initiatives), the inequality of access for vulnerable people, remote/hard-to-reach or resource-poor regions requires a new way of organising “supply of care” working within the “givens” of public and private health system and explore how community’s resource in the form of collectives and institutions of local governance, their leadership and industriousness to make healthcare access better.
The conversation with leading practitioners engaged in instituting transition of covid response to improved public health system, will explore pathways to establish capacities and systems that the surge capacities visible in covid response can be sustained through technology, digital support, infrastructure augmentation, leveraging the expanded community space as healthcare spaces outside of formal health infrastructure like hospitals, augment the governance architecture and tapping the possibilities available with additional resources under 15th Finance Commission and deployment of technology to solve for infrastructure and human resource gaps.
In recent years including during pandemic shifts around a locality-based approach, which converges the community-local government compact has emerged to address health, social and economic vulnerabilities. There is an opportunity to drive regenerative resilient transformative change across different socio-economic dimensions, governance issues, addressing climate induced stress. Session draws insights from leading practitioners and thought leaders on what the emergence of “fertile grounds” in the form of community-based organisations and Panchayats mean for the emerging rural and peri-rural as the habitat of better, productive, healthy life of belonging and meaning.
Development practitioners have been engaged and struggled constructively to design community development programmes that are about communities’ priorities, aspirations, fears, dreams. Two broad trends define this struggle (i) the top-down supply-side has progressively moved over the decades moved from consultation, participation, ownership, co-creation (ii) search of silver bullet/arrowed approach which brings intensity of expertise and linkages to now acceptance of a more integrated atleast in thinking in part advanced by global MDGs and SDGs conversation and also increasing evidence of intersectionality of quality life drivers and results from integrates/trans-disciplinary approaches.
This session moderated by Prof. Michael Walton contextualises the various development-evolution threads within the massive shift that has happened in rural society – its more aspirational, more connected, more aware and younger and is experiencing rapid change in basic amenities of roads, communication, sanitation, shelter; together the ubiquitous women collectives and Panchayats have emerged as pivot of “community-led development”. Some of these shifts have become visible and accelerated with pandemic – a locality-based approach – convergent community-local government compact emerged to address health, social and economic vulnerabilities. The convergent community-local government compact is fundamental driver to regenerative resilient transformative change across different socio-economic dimensions, governance issues, addressing climate induced stress such like; powering this approach the central piece is strong vibrant community collectives for example Self Help Groups (SHGs) or micro mutual-help solidarity groups of women; constitutionally mandated local self-governance bodies (Panchayats), traditional communitarian systems like caste/jati panchayat, other relevant collectives like Forest Protection Committee (FPC), Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs).
Prof. Walton will draw insights with leading practitioners and thought leaders on what emergence of “fertile grounds” in the form of CBOs and Panchayats mean for rural India. The panellists have a fund of deep experience, body of work and commitment to transform the emerging rural and peri-rural as habitat of better, productive, healthy life of belonging and meaning.
Communication or Conversations plays a critical role in our understanding, shaping of public opinion and galvanizing societal action, this is more pertinent in the case of issues that matter to marginalized, dispossessed and subaltern voices, aspirations and dreams. The role public opinion plays in functional democracies in shaping of public policy and action or making demands on the better endowed like private sector is critical. Session goes beyond binaries to discuss how communications can be society’s instrument of forging common grounds and connecting with uncommon realities, informing “insights for action” from the lived reality of the marginalized.
Communication plays a critical role in our understanding, shaping of public opinion and galvanizing societal action, this is more pertinent in the case of issues that matter to marginalized, dispossessed and subaltern voices, aspirations and dreams. Much less appreciated is the role public opinion plays in functional democracies with shaping of public policy and action or making demands on the better endowed like private sector. The role of communication in creating public opinion that goes beyond binaries, “otherization” increasingly familiar in our societies as we become better connected and flattening access to data, opinion, news, views and influencers become double-edged. Critical to building a “healthy, empathetic and compassionate society” is for citizens, particularly who have disproportionate influence in shaping and controlling narratives like mainstream media, influencers of today and tomorrow – millennials or GenZ to understand and make voices count. In context of India the Urban Middle Class and Young have increasingly become disconnected from rural, marginalized – the dystopian disconnect has acquired kafkaesque dimensions as Indian society struggles and wobbles with the fastest growing dollar billionaires simultaneously living alongside 80 % Indians needing subsidized foodgrains.
Societal engagement that bring our shared humanity, shared dreams, shared voices are required to develop deeper more nuanced understanding of the people and issues of rural India among a wider audience, including policymakers, development professionals, students, media, and the general public.
Technological solutions are increasingly playing a role in helping solve some of the world’s greatest development and humanitarian challenges. Exciting new world of ICT, big data, machine learning powered by prodigious young talent are the driving force of technology for good, harnessing their skills major advancement have been made on some of the toughest issues outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Unlike the earlier technology revolutions the choices and incentives on innovation, growth, and inequality reduction will critically determine how technology becomes one of opportunity for larger societal good. Session discusses solutions that can transform lives, livelihoods and rural societies and what underlying systems of incentives and support can make this possible.
Technology for Development has been an abiding theme for few decades, more so with society entering third and fourth industrial revolution. Technological solutions are increasingly playing a role in helping solve some of the world’s greatest development and humanitarian challenges. Exciting new world of ICT, big data, machine learning powered by prodigious young talent are the driving force of technology for good, harnessing their skills major advancement have been made on some of the toughest issues outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Unlike the earlier technology revolutions the choices and incentives on innovation, growth, and inequality reduction will critically determine the divide becomes one of opportunity for larger societal good.
Session attempts to bring together insider-voices from the world of technology to explore pathways for New Rural, beyond impact on labour markets particularly the gig economy the effort will be to explore new productive, value creation opportunities and delivering quality of life services to advance human dignity, better life as in being and functioning of healthy, better nourished, better educated, productive jobs. This requires and holistic approach and understanding of the rural social-natural ecology, pivot drivers to the systems we are solving, dreams and aspirations of the changing profile, opportunities and challenges of men and women who are entering the work force now in the poorest states. This requires cooperation across public system and private sector, start-ups to create the best technology and decision support tools involving all stakeholders delivering new high-tech services, pathway for ICT in rural, contributing to provide digital solutions for the citizens and young. Pandemic has accelerated coordinated efforts and solution discovery, as these reach tipping point the change will become irreversible, requiring us to be intentional from the beginning with social-technical design that puts people at the centre in a way no one is left behind.
Conversation focuses on how New Ruralscape can become a catalyst for securing growth and equity in India, particularly for the marginalised and vulnerable. The deliberations are contextualised in the backdrop of emerging opportunities, crisis, impact of technology, capital and new insights emerging from pandemic response. Session seeks to reflect and drive a shift in the intent, role and responses from society, state and market and their interplay; forging a new higher equilibrium of state-society-market relationships guided by the vision of a “New Rural” which is prosperous, socially cohesive, resilient with economic and social advancement opportunities. Intent is to locate catalysts in Ruralscape eg. Rurban Economic Clusters, Improved Habitat with basic services and infrastructure for human development; making for productive transition of rural society and economy. The multidimensional impact of the pandemic has brought into focus the need for better understanding of the future Rural and role of the state, society and market in creating opportunities and mitigating vulnerabilities both in short and long-term.
Conversation focuses on how New Ruralscape can become a catalyst for securing growth and equity in India, particularly for the marginalised and vulnerable. The deliberations are contextualised in the backdrop of the emerging opportunities, crisis, impact and new insights emerging from pandemic response. Session seeks to reflect and drive a shift in the intent, role and responses from society, government and market; and guidance on forging a new higher equilibrium of state-society-market relationships guided by the vision of a “New Rural” which is prosperous, socially cohesive, resilient with economic and social advancement opportunities.
India is projected to remain predominantly rural by 2050 and more, today the rural economy constitutes 46 % of national income, with two-thirds of the population including India’s young and 70% workforce. The pandemic has brought to fore fissures, particularly in rural and rural-urban transition zones. These come on the back of profound changes experienced by India’s rural economy in last two decades which have not been fully factored in about two-third of rural income is now generated in non-agricultural activities, more than half of the value added in the manufacturing sector is contributed by rural areas without any significant employment gains. Rural and migrants are both source of strength and attention; as overall economy slumped during the Covid pandemic, agriculture showed remarkable resilience and growth; our cities and factories can’t run without migrant workforce; the return of migrants to cities within a short time and much lesser migration in second wave showed limits of rural and transition habitats to provide productive engagement and also to cope with health crisis. The cleavages visible with informal and fragile jobs, poverty slide reported in research by APU and Pew asks of the New Rural to become a productive habitat of human development, social and economic mobility. Rural, peri-rural, circular migrants are younger than ever; dominated by young, it is agile, aspirational, with higher school years, with mobile and digital access and a highly diversified household economy which includes agriculture and allied sector, trading and heavily connected with urban/migration economy. Government’s effort in the last decade has transformed Ruralscape with better road connectivity, housing, sanitation, basic services like Ujjwala, social protection directly reaching eligible and most importantly with better digital connect, mobility, transport and other basic infrastructure, making for a surge of new opportunities and growth. The increased vulnerabilities with higher indebtedness, fragile informal occupations and weak resilience is another side of the opportunity divide. Emerging Ruralscape is characterised with younger demography connected to technology influenced shift in locus of initiative to local, higher integration with gig economy and job-tech platforms, linkages to industrial agriculture, new service economy and new job roles in rurban economic economic continuum. The vulnerabilities with water shortages both for life and livelihoods, climate risks, and the volatility of ecological footprint on rural livelihoods is real and needs urgent redressal.
The session will deliberate on a new approach and locate catalysts in Ruralscape eg. Rurban Economic Clusters, Improved Habitat with basic services and infrastructure for human development; making for productive transition of rural society and economy. The multidimensional impact of the pandemic has brought into focus the need for better understanding of the future Rural and role of the government, society and market in creating opportunities and mitigating vulnerabilities both in short and long-term. While the government plays a critical role through welfare measures, investments, policy cues on strengthening rural infrastructure and economic restoration, there has been agile and last mile response from panchayats and community action like women collectives. Civil society, including philanthropies, numerous NGOs, Women Collectives have provided humanitarian relief and now more systematic support on healthcare, economic restoration amplifying financial resources with commitment, using new technology. Financial resources and support from corporates and small businesses while themselves hit with job losses, and decline in growth, wherever possible have come forth to support. Session will explore new engagement lines for participation of the better endowed in various facets of Ruralscape like habitat development, supply-chain integration, outsourcing of work to where labour is – franchisee/decentralised manufacturing and such like can be productively created for robust recovery and reduced inequalities.
Over the last 75 years, there has been a significant impact driven by civil society organizations, the government, and the rural community themselves in addressing deprivations in rural India through poverty alleviation programmes. However, there are wide disparities across the nation due to diversity that exists within various geographies, cultural and social contexts. In rural India, particularly in the villages of Central and East India, these challenges are further exacerbated by abject poverty and intersectionality of hierarchies especially in tribal, Dalit and other historically marginalised communities. A girl child born in rural India is two generations behind her sister in urban India and this gap continues in her lifetime. Illuminaries in the sector reflect on the opportunities that exist and the pathways needed to break the vicious poverty cycle.
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