Author: V.k. Dadhich
Recently, the Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi had a talk with former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam over phone. They talked of the future that lay ahead and the means to achieve the goals. That’s when Kalam reiterated his ideas of National Smart Waterways Grid and PURA implementations.
Let us discuss the idea of National Smart Waterways Grid (NSWG) first. Proposed by Kalam long back (and in 2013 in Karnataka), and reiterated in the International Conference organized by Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry; it is mooted to be a right solution for India and would also help the sluggish India economy.
Inspired from the waterways, inter-linking of rivers and river systems being used in U.S.A., and Canada; NSWG is modeled to become a national reservoir which would have the capacity to utilize >900 BCM of floodwater which drains to sea every year.
The grid can be designed to store surplus water and provide the same during drought. This way the state is ensuring 24x7x365 supply of water, and the state can also harness hydel power out of it. NSWG is currently only an idea, and yet to implemented on a pilot basis in India.
PURA: Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) is a rural development model brought up by Kalam and discussed in his book “Target 3 billion”. PURA professes installation of urban facilities in rural areas which would ensure that rural opportunities are created outside cities. This model can quite easily solve the problems of incessant migration from rural to urban areas and can minimize the negative effects of growth poles. It has been designed to avoid the pit-falls of urban conglomerates (by spreading amenities and employment opportunities in a cluster of villages) and industrial towns (by providing amenities and ensuring employment oppurtunities are available and shared between all the villages in and around the cluster). The Indian government has been running pilot PURA programmes since 2004 (in states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, etc.)
The central govt has renewed focus on PURA by re-launching it as a central scheme for the remaining period of the 11th 5 year plan, and has sought assistance from Asian Development Bank and public-private partnerships.
The mission of PURA is ‘holistic and accelerated development of compact areas around a potential growth centre in a gram panchayat (or a group of gram panchayats) through public-private partnership framework for providing livelihood opportunities and urban amenities to improve the quality of life in rural areas’.
The original PURA was labeled a failure by Jairam Ramesh in 2012 based on the findings of the National Institute of Rural Development. Allegedly, the scheme was open-ended without specific guidelines and had no in-built business plan. Besides, it was largely infrastructure-centric without factoring lead economic activities and the site selection was not based on growth potential. The re-structured PURA model focused on site selection, convergence of central and state schemes, agreement between gram panchayat and private sector and in included tools to ensure accountability.
Some innovative Solutions of PURA:
- In a cluster of villages, a ring road can be built with frequent fast bus services. This way, all the markets are integrated on the loop to become a virtual city and it empowers the villages to support social, economic, and knowledge services
- Water harvesting and re-cycling can be practiced, which provides rich manure for farming and also provides water during drought times
Let’s hope the novel ideas are scrutinized thoroughly for their efficacy, and are implemented at the earliest. Given the current monsoon dependency of India’s agricultural system and poor connectivity between villages, these schemes can be synced with central schemes like MnRega and SJGRY to make things for the better.