President A P J Abdul Kalam on Wednesday called upon India Inc to come together and create a separate rural development fund for bridging the urban and rural divide.
"The companies in India have been growing at a growth rate of 20-25 per cent per year and reporting substantial profits leading to an overall growth of GDP at about 8 per cent but the impact of this growth has not reached the rural population with the desired speed," Kalam said.
He said companies and organisations should create a separate fund to make high bandwidth and last mile access and facilities available to rural areas.
The companies can contribute part of their profit to this fund based on their quarterly performance, he said adding, the fund could be operated by a separate board of management, independent of the contributors.
The president, while speaking at a Microsoft event 'Bridging the two Indias' in New Delhi, said the aim of this board would be to ensure a particular rate of growth of ICT facilities for the defined locations or areas.
He said, "About 7,000 units, providing urban amenities in rural areas are required for the whole country, which envisages integrated connectivity to bring prosperity to rural India."
Each PURA cluster will connect about 20 villages depending upon the region and population and will cost initially about Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion), he said.
It would include physical connectivity of the village clusters through quality roads and transport and electronic connectivity through telecommunication with high bandwidth fibre optic cables reaching the rural areas from urban cities, he said.
Kalam said knowledge connectivity should also be given through education, vocational training for farmers, artisans and craftsmen and entrepreneurship programmes.
"Connectivity will lead to economic prosperity in the rural areas through starting of enterprises with the help of banks, micro-credits and marketing of the products," he said.
He said through this mission, bankers can promote entrepreneurship in the rural areas, which would lead to the removal of the urban-rural divide and it could become a model for other countries to follow besides acting as a business for the ICT sector.