National Rurban Mission (NRM)

On 22 February 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Rurban Mission (NRM) from Kurubhat in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh. The mission, also dubbed as “Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission” (SPMRM) aims to spur social, economic and infrastructure development in rural areas by developing a cluster of 300 Smart Villages over the next 3 years across the country in the first phase. More clusters will be identified depending upon the progress of the scheme. This mission was announced in the Union Budget 2014-15. NRuM is to be implemented by Ministry of Rural Development.

Objectives and vision

The objectives of this mission are to:

  • Stimulate local economic development, improve basic services and create well planned Rurban clusters.
  • Enable cluster based development with a “rural soul and urban amenities” along with focus on equity and inclusiveness.

Rationale and Envisaged Outcomes

As per 2011 Census data, India’s rural population is 833 million, which is almost 68% of the total population. Various data show that there are inequalities in basic amenities between rural and urban India. For example, while 93% of urban households have electricity, the number stands only at 55% for rural households. Similarly, the percentage of households which has access to piped water connections is 71% in urban areas and 35% in rural areas. The recently launched mission is a pilot project to bring parity in the amenities provided in rural and urban areas.

Further, many villages in India are part of clusters of settlements and not stand-alone settlements. The relative proximity to each other portrays economic drivers and potential for growth and has locational and competitive advantages. Hence, if there is a proper policy directive for the development of these clusters, it can change the fate of rural areas in India. This Rurban mission has been launched as per this rationale. The major outcomes envisaged are as follows:

  • Bridge the rural urban divide- economic, technological and those related to facilities and services.
  • Spreading development in the region.
  • Attracting investment in the rural areas.
  • Stimulating local economic development with emphasis on reduction of poverty and unemployment in rural areas.

Rurban Cluster

A Rurban cluster comprises of geographically contiguous villages with a population of around 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of around 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas. As far as possible, the clusters of village will be in a single block/tehsil for administrative convenience. The mission outlines 14 desirable components linked to developing skills and local entrepreneurship, economic activities and providing necessary infrastructural facilities.

Selection of the Clusters

The clusters which have latent potential for growth in rural areas are selected from all States and UTs. Under NRuM, the clusters are classified in to two groups viz. Tribal and Non-Tribal. The selection process varies for each of these two categories which are summarized below.

Non-Tribal clusters

The Ministry of Rural development prepares a list of leading sub districts based on the following parameters:

  • Decadal Growth in Rural Population,
  • Decadal Growth in Non-Farm work participation,
  • Presence of Economic Clusters,
  • Presence of places of Tourism and Religious significance and
  • Proximity to Transport Corridors.

The state governments could select the clusters from the list of leading sub districts prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development based on the following parameters:

  • Decadal growth in rural population,
  • Rise in land values,
  • Decadal growth in non-farm work force participation,
  • Percentage enrollment of girls in secondary schools,
  • Percentage households with bank accounts under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
  • Performance in Swacch Bharat Mission (Grameen) and
  • Good governance initiatives by gram panchayats.

Further, it is provided that the States may include any other relevant parameter if necessary. But a total weightage of 80% has to be given for the first 4 parameters above while the states have flexibility to choose the last three parameters subject to a total of 20%. While selecting clusters, the States have to identify a large village/gram panchayat like block headquarter villages, census towns etc., which are growth centres with availability of resources and has the ability to lead the economic transformation of the region.

The Ministry of Rural development prepares a list of leading sub districts falling within the top 100 tribal districts of the country based on the population of Scheduled Tribes. The parameters for selection are as follows:

  • Decadal growth in tribal population,
  • Current tribal literacy rate,
  • Decadal growth in non-farm work force participation,
  • Decadal growth in rural population, and
  • Presence of economic clusters.

The state governments could select the clusters from the list of leading sub districts to each state prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development based on the following parameters:

  • Decadal growth in tribal population,
  • Growth in tribal literacy rates, and
  • Decadal growth in non-farm work force participation.

Further, it is provided that the States may include any other relevant parameter if necessary. But a total weightage for the above three parameters should not be below 80%.

14 Components of Rurban Mission

The 14 components which are envisaged as desirable in each cluster under this mission are as follows:

  1. Skill development training linked to economic activities
  2. Agro Processing, Agri-Services, Storage and Warehousing.
  3. Fully equipped mobile health unit.
  4. Upgrading school /higher education facilities.
  5. Sanitation
  6. Provision of piped water supply.
  7. Solid and liquid waste management.
  8. Village streets and drains.
  9. Street lights
  10. Inter-village road connectivity.
  11. Public transport.
  12. LPG gas connections
  13. Digital Literacy.
  14. Citizen Service Centres- for electronic delivery of citizen centric services/e-gram connectivity.

Also, while developing the clusters special emphasis should be given to the components pertaining to agriculture and allied activities.

Budget & Funding

It is estimated that total mission budget will be around Rs. 5142 crore for the period 2015-16 to 2019-20.

Under this mission, the State governments need to identify existing State government schemes, centrally sponsored schemes, central sector schemes which are relevant to the development of the cluster and integrate their implementation in a time bound manner. The central government will provide the Critical Gap Funding (CGF) to the clusters to supplement the shortfall in the availability of funds. The critical gap funding is capped at 30% of the capital cost or Rs. 30 crores whichever is lesser. The expenditure incurred from operation and maintenance of the project will be recovered by levying user charges and the shortfall has to be supported by the state government budgets.

Comment

The scheme will help address the problem of overcrowding of cities due to migration of people from rural areas to urban areas in search of better quality of life. With the development of villages, some people residing in the cities may also return back to their villages. It will help in achieving twin objectives of strengthening the rural areas and de-burdening the urban areas thereby leading to a balanced regional development and growth of the country.

The clusters will also have citizen service centres which will pave way for electronic delivery of citizen centric services and the 14 components to be implemented in each cluster will emancipate the rural areas and trigger the overall development in the region. Also, the mission has an innovation budget to facilitate research, development and capacity building.

However, critics say the mission is old promise and as a concept it has been there for 70 years. Such efforts have been taken earlier also but the implementation, monitoring and funding is a constraint in such projects. They cite the example of Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), which was launched by the previous UPA government. So there is a need to take proactive steps towards project development, capacity building and other institutional arrangements with adequate budgetary provisions.

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