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Marshalling Rural Development through Change Management

Author: Dr. Sonal Mobar Roy, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Rural Development and PR, Hyderabad, India.

Change management is not a mere concept but a dynamic force steering rural development in India towards a more sustainable and prosperous future. This article delves into the pivotal role of change management in the context of rural development in India, exploring diverse sectors and substantiating narratives with robust data derived from government initiatives. India’s rural landscape, rich in culture and tradition, is simultaneously plagued by multifaceted challenges. Poverty, lack of infrastructure, limited access to education, healthcare, and the vulnerability of an agrarian economy underscore the need for a comprehensive approach. Change management, in this context, is not just about introducing innovations but about instilling a structured approach to transition communities from their current state to a more resilient and prosperous future. There are adaptive changes that are small, iterative and gradual and transformational changes that are on a larger scale. Any intervention that is introduced is to be checked for preventing any knee-jerk situation and chaos that is caused as an aftermath. Handholding and capacity-building and anticipating hurdles that may hinder progress, in advance is suggested.

Government initiatives play a pivotal role in driving change in rural areas. Here, I take up a few schemes/programs and discuss how they have led to laying the roadmap of rural development. Agriculture, being the backbone of rural India, demands innovative and sustainable practices. Government programs like the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) have significantly impacted water use efficiency with the tagline ‘More crop per drop’; the efforts are made to increase irrigated areas, indicating a positive shift towards sustainable farming. Precision agriculture, organic farming, and water conservation techniques, when embraced through effective change management, not only increase productivity but also fortify rural communities against the uncertainties of climate change. For the financial year 2022-23, an outlay of Rs. 4043.38 crore has been allocated for the scheme.

Change management is not solely about external interventions; it is about empowering communities to chart their own path of development. The National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) has been a catalyst for change by fostering entrepreneurship in rural areas. Approximately 10,00,52,244 households have been mobilised into Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and the numbers are growing day by day, substantiating the notion that community-driven initiatives lead to economic growth and self-reliance. Access to basic infrastructure is a cornerstone of rural development. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has been instrumental in improving rural connectivity. Data indicates that over 97% of eligible habitations are now connected by all-weather roads, reducing isolation and facilitating economic activities and access to better livelihoods. The scheme has been allocated Rs. 19,000 crore in 2023-24.

Image: SHGs as agents of change

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), designed to provide employment opportunities, has not only increased rural wage employment but has also contributed to asset creation. As of 2023-24, there are 14.33 crore active workers, 250.21 crore person days have been generated, approximately 5.56 crore households have benefitted from the scheme and about 7.96 crore assets have been created till date. Such policies serve as a social safety net, ensuring economic stability for rural households and the marginalised people. Recent data on Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY)  indicates that over 90% of the targeted beneficiaries have received assistance under PMAY, reflecting positive strides in rural housing and overall living conditions.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Rural communities, often rooted in tradition, may resist change. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) provides invaluable data, helping policymakers understand the socio-economic dynamics of each region. This data-driven approach enables change management strategies to be tailored to the unique challenges and resistance faced in specific areas, fostering a more nuanced and effective implementation. Change management is an iterative process requiring continuous evaluation. The journey towards rural development in India necessitates an unwavering commitment to change management, substantiated by robust data from various government programs and schemes. Change management, with its data-driven approach, not only addresses existing challenges but also paves the way for sustainable and inclusive growth in rural India. As we navigate the evolving landscape of rural development, the amalgamation of change management and data-driven insights becomes paramount. It is not merely about implementing new technologies; it is a holistic approach that addresses the social, economic, and cultural dimensions, ensuring that rural development in India is not only transformative but also enduring. The integration of data into the fabric of change management is essential for refining strategies, overcoming challenges, and ushering in a new era of prosperity for every corner of rural India.

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