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Mani Shankar Aiyar's Thai dream

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: June 25, 2005 22:22 IST
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Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas and Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar on Saturday announced a highly ambitious project called Rural Business Hubs, which will aim to eradicate rural poverty and create employment opportunity in rural India.

If it is implemented successfully, the project will have far reaching consequences, it is said.

Learning from China, Thailand and Japan's experience of commercialisation of the rural areas and its produces, India has developed the concept, which will eventually cover 2.5 lakh village panchayats, 6000 medium sized panchayats and 600 zilla parishads, Aiyar said, while talking to

"We will use the huge human resources available to us in the form of 3 million elected panchayat members, including one million women," he said.

Aiyar explained that China promoted industrialisation in rural areas as part of countrywide development. The RBH's aim is to use rural resources, involve community participation and create need in local areas for the business.

Aiyar said, "I am modifying the management concept of three Ps into Four Ps. Instead of Public Private Participation, my project envisages Public, Private and Panchayat Participation."

The RBH will employ two concepts.

Total Village Management, which will encourage a sense of full ownership among villagers and where self-reliance will be the key.

Institutions like the Confederation of Indian Industries and National Institute of Fashion Technology will help them in capacity building. 

The second concept is One Tambon One Product. (In Thailand, a Tambon is a sub-district, which encourages rural development)

OTOP project helps Thais in manufacturing a collection of products using local materials based on local culture, tradition and nature.

Accordingly, Indian government is now taking up the concept of OTOP in every district. Each district will be asked to decide on a product that will be taken up as a business proposition.

Fisheries, Agro produces, forestry and orchards will be given the priority, to be followed by handlooms and handicrafts and alternative fuels.

Aiyar said that as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wished, the rural business hubs, should be "local resource endowments, reflect the needs of the people and relative absorptive capacity."

In all, he identified 10 pilot projects across India, and added that in due time, the projects would be spread across India in greater numbers.

Aiyar said that a council on RBH would be constituted, which would be co-chaired by Sunil Kant Munjal, Immediate Past President, Industry, and himself.

"Other members of the council would include Dr Arjun Sengupta, representatives from NABARD and the Institute of Engineers and others."

He was addressing the industry representatives at an interactive meeting, organised by the CII, in Delhi on Saturday. Aiyar also disclosed that a working committee, which will work in tandem with the high powered council would also be set up, which would be co-chaired by Wajahat Habibullah, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, and S. Sen, Deputy Director General, CII.

Aiyar also announced that taskforces have been set up on textiles, agro-business, and bio-fuel, which would be the key towards empowering and uplifting the rural economy.

Aiyar added, " The project is not social service. It's business."

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