Millennium Post

From rural dystopia to model village

Amidst surprise, Modi’s thrust on One Model Village development programme in his first fiery Independence Day speech from the rampart of Red Fort triggered debates all around the country. While the leftists said it to be an election speech, Congress taunted it a pipedream and the intellectuals were bewildered, saying it all-rhetoric-no-reform. Mr Modi announced the launching of Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, under which every Member of Parliament would be asked to develop one model village in his constituency by 2016.

His aim was that besides development at the bottom level, this would help in establishing a close connect between government and the people, which generally faded after a Member is elected. He firmly believed that this would have ripples on the neighbouring villages and a people movement would be generated to develop their own villages in the longer period. However, Model l Village development programme unveiled the fact that the Panchayat system was a de-facto development agency. It has become merely a political outfit in the country. 

Mr. Modi is not the first leader in the world to ascribe the village a development plank for a strong economy and call for the people’s movement to make the model village a success. Japan was the first nation to pitch the village level growth for a strong platform for its export-based economy in late seventies, despite being one of the top three economies in the world. Japan adopted One- Village- One - Product (OVOP) programme in 1979. The aim was to give separate identity to every village with reference to its speciality in production, human resource development and flourish the village for good living. It asserted that community based support would be the backbone for the success of model village rather than relying on government policies, subsidies and institutional support.  Close on the heels, Thailand, under the former Prime Minister Thaksin, adopted OVOP programme in 2001, with a different name as One-Tamdon-One-Product’ or OTOP.

In seventies, when Japan was surging to the peak of economic development in the world, Japanese government was bogged down with a concern that the country was plunging into an enlarging gulf between prosperous towns and villages. Many Japanese villages were reeling under poverty and were facing exodus of youth from the villages. Japanese government struggled to lift the living standards of rural towns and villages by doling out subsidies and various promotion policies for the prosperity of the villages. But, they failed. Many villagers were reluctant to accept them. This was because the government policies and subsidies were not framed in respect of special characteristics of villages. They were uniform for all villages. Given the disproportionate combinations between forest, mountain and plain area, Japanese villages are beset by multiple geographical and physical characteristics. For example, the farmers in Oyama village were less takers of subsidy given for rice production since the village had low potential to increase rice production due to its hilly topography. As a result, many villages suffered a big lag from the prosperous cities in Japan.

There were three factors which catalysed the OVOP movement in Japan. They were product development, personality development and the village to live in paradise. OVOP movement started with Oyama village in Oita Prefecture. The movement was pioneered by the former governor Morihiko Hiramatsu.

The three factors bolstering OVOP movement were transmitted into three phase programmes by Oyama Agriculture Cooperative. The phases were commonly known as NPC, but with different abbreviations representing the nature of the programme. The first phase of NPC was ‘New Plum and Chessnut’. After studying various alternatives to rice, as the village was not preferable for rice production because of its hilly topography, the members of the Agriculture Cooperative was persuaded to produce plum and chesnut, which could fetch them higher income than producing rice.

The second phase of NPC programme was ‘New Personality Combination’. The focus was to foster personality development through community learning in the village. The village established a learning centre, financed study tours and exchanged activities in and outside of Japan.  With income generated from product development in the first phase of NPC and personality development in the second phase of NPC, the third phase of NPC programme abbreviated ‘New Paradise Community’ was launched. The focus was to improve the quality of life in the village and abstain the youth from leaving the village.

The OVOP proved a bottom-up approach to upgrade the community in Oyama village both by quantitative and qualitative development. The per capita in Oita Prefecture leapfrogged double between 1980 to 2003. Total sales of the Prefecture triplicated from US $ 330 million in 1980 to US $ 1,300 million in 2001.

The difference between OVOP movement and other development works was that OVOP movement was community-led approach and involvement of institutional mechanism was little. There was a coordination organisation of the community members who performed the key role for the success of OVOP. The Prefecture government provided only supplementary support in the form of extensive services, learning activities and product promotion information. Thus, the success of OVOP did not depend much on institutional support. The success was driven by the community leadership and the commitment of the community members and their cooperation.
If Japan can be successful in inspiring the community movement to uplift the village health without having much support by government institutions, Mr. Modi’s dream for Model Village programme by the Members of Parliament in their respective constituencies by rebooting the community movement should not be a far cry. Similar to Japan, the Model Village programme can be launched with the product development in the first phase, representing the special characteristics of the village.

With the success of first phase, which means better flow of income in the village, the second and third phases of personality development and development of better living village respectively can be launched. An independent coordination committee can be set up, including  community members of the model village. MP’s can play a leading role in selecting the village, setting up Coordination Committee and liaise between Coordination Committee, government and various institutions, supporting the model village programme.IPA

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