Vision of Empowered Village
Chandan Sukumar Sengupta
Aiming toward attainment of a well-developed society through development initiatives is a process oriented approach which require some sort of logistic supports and technological intervention. There exists three prominent spheres of variables interlinking each other for bringing coordinated efforts. Resource, technology and skills are such spheres having several linkages aiming at different levels of human activities perpetuating for exploration of all possible uses of Natural Resources for human welfare and community betterment. Best fitted spheres will ensure maximized degree of success.
Technology should address the need of people on the basis of the availability of resources and skilled persons should go on timely for accessing the technology. Some more factors may interact in making the effort a successful endeavor.[i] Proper and timely feedback on need based technology support is of such kind of external factor having adequate influence upon the economic process duly involved for enhancing productivity.
Knowledge and Information
It is information that is flooded ceaselessly through several electronic media without experiencing any sort of obstacles at both National and International boundaries. If we start searching any information about Integrated Pest Management, millions of pages will be populated from different sources remaining linked through the largest network of the world. It will provide several records having relevance at the place to which the document is referred to. It may become an exemplar material for some other fellow workers searching out similar remedial measures related to Pest Control. We may call it the need based accessible flow of information. The same will become a base for the formation of Knowledge at the point of access. Information being accessed for the formation of Knowledge base will guide the aspirants toward consideration of some needful action on ground.
It is true that all people at all places are not equally acquainted with the nature and extent of the flow of information through the globally networked electronic media. All people may not reach up to the needful accession point within stipulated time. In some cases such kind of pre matured access may lead toward some delayed access or diverged access toward some other issues. There requires a catalytic agent having some basic knowledge and affinity toward Information Technology and may work suitably for providing needful and timely information to the person aspiring for some implements. It will also become a centre of radial interaction providing feedback to all people remaining involved in the networked access.
The kind of catalytic agent meant for the regulation of the networked access will be any of the following types:
1. A Common Facility and Information Centre handled by full time Knowledge Workers.
2. A Networked Information and Documentation Centre having sufficient instrumentation for offering feedback to the Networked users, artisans, farmers, aspirants and people from all walks of life.
3. A Digitally enabled Library and Information centre capable enough for offering services through linking up to the networked portals of regional, national or global standards.
4. A Community Centre or Organisational initiative having adequate infrastructural set up of electronic instruments for providing timely information to people of the locality.
5. A Consortium of Content providers being formed on the basis of different Agro Ecological Zones may work in a war footing for enriching the Knowledge base of the preliminary setup of the Knowledge Centres remain active in that particular zone.[ii]
6. Development of Farmer Participatory Knowledge System will enrich the service side initiatives of the fellow worker at the local level. Keeping the information in a proper fashion and utilizing the same as per need will be the dynamic mechanism having enormous scope of success.[iii]
Community participation in the system is also a prime factor of the successful implantation strategy of the CFC or Knowledge Centre.[iv] Without internalizing the aspiration of people in the system the flow of information will be simply a localized one having feeble inflow for facilitation of the Knowledge formation.
Simply installing the Knowledge Centre, employing the Volunteer and providing the access will not solve the purpose of Knowledge Information interchange with the desired confluence. There exists some prominent obstacles of both physical as well as human nature. Access to the farthest corner of society is still an achievable target, rural out-pocket often remain isolated from the main township because of poor transport networks. Knowledge base of people and lack of the proper understanding of the working principles of a Knowledge Centre will put them off the track for ensuring the best utilization of the system. Even regulations of the local self-government often bring a halt because of some ideological differences often arise between workers, leaders and people. Sacrificing for the common good is the most difficult task to be accomplished through participatory mechanism of the programme implementation. While referring something in common for the welfare of a community some aspects like regular financial support, regular maintenance of the installed system and periodical exchange of ideas amongst regionally active Knowledge Centres become a challenging affair. Some basic cost of installation and instrumentation can be financed from some outer sources, but a regular inflow of fund for keeping the system active is yet to be devised at the level of Public Enterprises.
If anything prominent comes in the forefront, then also availability of the suitable volunteer having proper understanding of the local situation is becoming beyond the reach subject. Running the information and knowledge centre with the confined objectives of schematic directives will put it in the farthest corner of the community. People center approach which is suitable for a healthy communication system often remain the matter beyond the understanding of the implementing agencies.
Creating a Regulatory Environment
Addressing lack of adequate resources, proper knowledge and limited access to the global network will make the implementation effort a prolonged one. Each time planning for achieving the target by fixing the allocations will make the success off the doorstep. For ensuring a timely effect there requires sharpness in creating a regulatory environment by coining some postulates and sanctions for addressing the effort. Providing additional wireless channels, providing some freely accessible digital contents, offering relaxations in purchasing and installing digital equipment, incorporating the learning of Information Technology at school stage, making the computer education cheaper, putting emphasis on the local manufacturing of computer spare parts are some of the steps to be taken for creating the people friendly environment.
The field of Information Technology is changing with a faster pace. The same should be linked up in the process of delivering contents and mechanisms to the fellow learners. Digital age should be reflected in the Knowledge Centre in the form of the availability of different kinds of Package Course materials for fellow aspirants. Only Research Laboratories of Public Enterprises may not be able to move up to the desired target in the stipulated time frame. There requires the formation of regional specific group of implementing agencies having adequate potential and credentials of providing timely support to the fellow workers offering services in different rural out pockets.
Knowledge base is not a concrete mile stone devoid of any scope of alteration or innovation. There may exist some enriched rural knowledge having enough potential of addressing some of the individual or community problems. Use of herbal products for preventing spread up of disease is one such widely unexplored area of our villages. The scope of accommodating such knowledge base in the networked knowledge confluence will offer innovation and prompt access to the technology involved in the traditional practices. It will be a beautiful system through which traditional knowledge can be preserved, modified contextually, experimented locally and implemented timely with adequate understanding. The CFC or Knowledge Centre must not claim the only available modern sophisticated efforts for addressing any locally vulnerable group. Exploration of any remedial measures or needful solutions to any problem will be worked out through exchanging views on the basis of Participatory Strategic Knowledge Transformation (PSKT).
Superimposition of the burden of information form the top with an idea of enriching the Virtual Directory employed locally for addressing local issues will be a utopia. Information transmission should be supplemented with periodical feedback. The same should be processed at the level of the area specific content providers. We may use the term Knowledge Volunteers for such group of dedicated people having eagerness to join hands for the process of Knowledge Transformation.
Putting People First[v]
If a system meant primarily for people, then it should address all sorts of activities people come across and address correlated issues on the basis of the need felt at the local specific areas. It this regard, the implements, mechanism of work and Knowledge Banking may not be similar for all the areas possessing diversities of different degree and magnitude. It should even address issues related to basic services such as health, sanitation and hygiene. Dr. J. C. Kumarappa visualized the scope of village development through the Knowlwdge revolution guided by People Centered Aspirations. Dr. Kumarappa also pointed out toward possibilities of the abolition of class and caste differences the were prevailing that time in the period of British rule as well as during neo independent era. The main focus was to make the system sustained one keeping a pace of development alive. For accomplishing the same objectives the system of rural practices should be self-regulatory to a considerable extent.
It is probable that business houses, public enterprises, local community and knowledge volunteers join hands for ensuring the higher level of success through adopting and implementing a swift process of information transfer and knowledge confluence. The centre of Knowledge Transformation may be linked up with some locally active public places, community markets, rural clinics, offices, schools or even with local Railway Stations. It can receive support by part from locality as well as from public enterprises. Some of the locally generated jobs can be assigned to the Knowledge Centre for keeping it in an advanced pace. Some brilliant ideas and implements like household survey, Tele Medicine, Rural Radio etc can be linked up with the Common Access Point of the Single Window System of the Knowledge Centre. Operational strategy of the VKC, in this regard, is becoming more prioritized point than the installation and continuation of the centre.
 “Today, the villages are dung heaps. Tomorrow they will be little tiny gardens of Eden where dwell highly intelligent folk whom no one can deceive or exploit...The villagers should develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them should command a ready market outside. When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers. In short, there will be nothing in life worth having which will not be had in the villages.” Dr. J. C. Kumarappa
[Refer: Krishna Chaitanya: A Profile of Indian Culture. New Delhi: Indian Book Company, 1975, pp. 159-60.]
 “The contrast between the palaces of New Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor, labouring class cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor will enjoy the same power as the richest in the land. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good.”.. Dr. J. C. Kumarappa.
[Refer: S.K. George and K. Ramachandran (eds.): The Economics of Peace: the Cause and the Man. New Delhi: Peace Publishers, 1992. (Festschrift on his sixtieth birthday in 1952), p. 299.]
[i] NABARD has been operating a programme in Himachal Pradesh with support from the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). This programme of Technology Development at Rural Level has helped to promote both e-governance and e-commerce. There is a similar initiative in Uttaranchal with the help of IIT, Roorkee. Scope for using RIDF in other States should be explored.
[ii] The usefulness of a computer-aided knowledge centre in villages will be directly proportional to the social, ecological and economic significance of the static and dynamic information being provided. Hence, a consortium of content providers will have to be developed for each agro-ecological zone.
[iii] E-governance is invariably a passive system of information empowerment. There is need for promoting participatory methodologies of content creation and knowledge management. The approach to rural women and men should be one of partnership and not patronage. In the field of agriculture, a Farmer Participatory Knowledge System (FPKS) could replace the existing beneficiary and patronage approach to knowledge dissemination. The information should be demand driven and should be relevant in terms of time and space.
[iv] The Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) is a place to render distant services from a single window point to rural masses especially in remote areas of the country through modern Information and Communication Technology. The knowledge centre will be connected to central studio using technology. The purpose of setting up of a VKC is to bring access to a range of services, content and information to people living in remote areas which do not provide such access otherwise.
The VKC programme is meant for reaching the benefits of the Information Technology directly to the communities at the grass root level for promoting single window delivery of need-based services relating to the life cycle needs of rural population, viz.nutritional information including primary processing of fruits and vegetables, rural sanitation, preventive and curative aspects of health and hygiene, skill development and linkage with market requirements and demands, capacity building among the village based organizations and people or any issue that the rural population would desire.
[v] Once Dr. J. C. Kumarappa introduced Mahatma to fellow visitors as his teacher. There was a picture of ordinary villagers mounted on the wall and it was visible just above Mahatma at the Sabarmati Ashram. Kumarappa pointed out toward that photo and introduced the fellow villagers as his Master’s Master. It symboloses the highest pursuit of the Gandhian Economist with which his approach was advancing.