The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched a flagship programme with an intention to help and enrich rural India. The Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) was initially conceptualised by a group of faculty member of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. The concept was further cultivated through wide consultation with the representatives of a number of technical institutions, Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) coordinators, voluntary organisations and government agencies, actively involved in rural development work, during a National workshop held at IIT Delhi in September, 2014.
The UBA stems from Gandhi’s ideals of rural development. In his work ‘Hind Swaraj’, Gandhi pointed out how the western developmental paradigm, based on centralised technologies and urbanisation, had given rise to problems like increasing inequity and climate change. He was of the opinion that to mitigate these problems, it was necessary to promote development of rural areas to make them ‘self-sufficient village republics’, based on local resources and using decentralised, eco-friendly technologies and ensure holistic development of villages.
Presently, 70% of the Indian population lives in rural areas and is engaged in agrarian economy and allied sectors, employing 51% of the total work-force but accounting for only 17% of the country’s GDP. There are huge developmental disconnects between the rural and urban sectors such as inequity in health, education, incomes and basic amenities as well as employment opportunities - all that cause great discontent and large-scale migration to urban areas. The UBA, keeping sustainable development as its dictum, is oriented in this direction. It is inspired by the vision of ‘transformational change in rural development processes’ by leveraging knowledge institutions to help build the architecture of an ‘inclusive’ India.
Unnat Bharat Mission 2.0 is an upgradation of the initial plan which now selects the participating institutions based on certain criteria. The institutions are now to be selected in a ‘challenge mode’ and the scheme has been extended to 750 reputed institutions, both private and public, in the country. The main objectives of UBA is to engage the faculty and students of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in identifying development issues in rural areas and finding sustainable solutions for the same. They must alsoidentify and select existing innovative technologies, enable customisation of these technologies, and devise implementation methods for solutions, as required by the people. The goal of the mission is to re-emphasise the need for field work, stake-holder interactions and design for societal objectives as the basis of higher education. It also hopes to foster a new dialogue within the larger community on science, society and the environment and to develop a sense of dignity and collective destiny.
The progress so far is that under the scheme, 13,072 villages have been adopted by 2,474 institutes and the technological interventions under the UBA have covered different subjects broadly categorised in the area of sustainable agriculture, water resource management, artisans, industries and livelihood, basic amenities (infrastructure & services) and rural energy system. This has considerably transformed the living conditions in villages and has been beneficial for rural India.