Reduce the trust deficit between the administration and the tribals in India’s “rurban” country: Former Minister for Rural Development

A Conversation With Jairam Ramesh


Jairam Ramesh became India’s new [now former] Minister for Rural Development in July [2011], after a tumultuous stint as the Minister of Environment and Forests. The rural development ministry’s massive $20 billion annual budget is the central government’s largest, after defense.

Minister Ramesh spoke to India Ink about his plans to counter the Naxalites, what Gandhi would have thought of the village today, and how he hopes to make the ministry work more efficiently. […]

Q. There is so much ground to cover in this new job. What’s the most important thing you want to get done in the next three years, or before you are moved somewhere else? […]

A. We plan to use rural development programs relating to roads, employment, housing, water supply and land to reduce the trust deficit between the administration and the tribals.

Q. What is the government of India’s thinking on the future of the village? As we’re seeing rapid urbanization why does so much money continue to be poured into the rural areas?

A. Broadly there have been two mindsets on village India. One is the Gandhian mindset which sees the village as an independent self-sufficient republic. The other one looks upon a village as an interdependent component, that recognizes that migration would take place.

The Gandhian view of villages was, I would say, as much a political perspective as it was economic. To say Gandhi would look at villages today the same way as he looked at villages 100 years ago is to do no justice to Gandhi, who had an extraordinarily flexible mind, a pragmatic mind.

We are spending so much on villages is because 70 percent of our population lives in rural areas. That is where agriculture is, where the base of India’s economic prosperity comes from.

We recognize that migration in inevitable. India is rapidly urbanizing. I feel that it is fast becoming neither rural or urban, but a “rurban” country.

Urbanization is not only inevitable but desirable. The cost of providing infrastructure in urban areas is lower, it means the weakening of caste barriers, greater social mobility, more opportunity for gender equality.

Yet rural India is very much a reality, a demographic reality. The rapid urbanization that we are talking about is confined to a few states. We are a rural economy which is urbanizing, we are not an urbanized economy with a rural hinterland.

And politically, of course, most of the electorate lives in rural areas. […]

You asked me about the big challenges – I should have said the first and most immediate challenge was to bring forward a new land acquisition law, to replace this 117-year-old-act, which balances out interests of land seekers with land owners and users. That bill is now in Parliament. […]

Source: A Conversation With Jairam Ramesh, New York Times, November 18, 2011
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“The British established mode of forest governance imposed restrictions on local forest-dwelling communities. In 1860, the Company withdrew all access rights for using the forests (food, fuel, medicine and selling forest products) since the forests and forest-dwelling communities provided refuge to the rebels during the Sepoy Mutiny.” – Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation >>

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“Tribal communities have proven that they are the best guardians of the forest and die-hard conservationists”: Illegal mining destroys the life and culture of the conservators of forests >>

“Even though they are responsible for protecting the largest part of the global forest heritage […] a third of indigenous and community lands in 64 countries are under threat due to the lack of land tenure rights.” – Pressenza Rio de Janerio in “Indigenous people are heading to CoP26: ‘There is no solution to the climate crisis, without us’” (Down To Earth, 1 November 2021) >>

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