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Taking rural produce to hypermarkets is the key

December 28, 2006 20:20 IST

When Basu Deb Acharia tells us about lac in Purulia or potteries, bell metal and bronze work in Bankura, when Revati Raman Singh talks about the fisheries programme in Andhra Pradesh, when Rajagopal tells us about Jatropha, when Suresh Prabhu draws attention to how panchayats can be made the economical entities for electricity distribution, then my mind goes to the prime minister who, talking about the rural business hubs said, and I quote him" "It is not till the output of village enterprises goes beyond the village haat and reaches out to the hypermarket that we will see real signs of our prosperity." That is what the objective of the RBH Scheme is.

We have so far prepared, with the help of states, 846 blocks in India and the product or the skill which we wish to leverage in these blocks. We have already entered into 55 memoranda of understanding between business houses and panchayati raj institutions. There is a vast potential.

We have a Rural Business Hub National Council which is co-chaired by Sunil Munjal of the Confederation of Indian Industry and myself with Jairam Ramesh among us as vice-chairmen.

We have also got eight RBH councils in states. But I have to emphasise that I am very disappointed with the results we have obtained from the business community. They have not been as forthcoming as I would have hoped that they would be.

Therefore, I again quote the prime minister: "I urge the National Rural Business Hubs Council to mobilise our business community to make their contribution to bridging the widening rural-urban divide and ensuring inclusiveness of our growth processes."

Revati Raman Singh drew attention to the Bangladesh example of self-help groups. I would urge him to go beyond Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, they undertook the revolution of bringing in micro-finance that enables the sustenance of livelihood. We in India are moving from micro-finance to micro-enterprise, which enables us to go beyond mere livelihood support to having a more comfortable economic life. But if we are to move from micro-enterprises to genuine rural prosperity, we will have to use the rural business hub route for going from the village haat to the hypermarket.

Please, let us not be scared of multinational corporations. Provided the production remains decentralised, the marketing and other forward linkages as well as subsequent backward linkages on the supply of raw materials can be looked after better by larger business houses, whether they are Indian or whether they are multinational.

Reply of Minister of Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar in the Lok Sabha on the discussion on the report on the state of panchayats on December 14, 2006
BS Reporter in New Delhi
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