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Govt to form panel to push rural tech

Livemint:  August, 2014

New Delhi: Taking forward the idea of swadeshi, or self-reliance, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-led government has decided to promote innovation and technology developed in rural and tribal areas of the country.

The government is likely to announce the formation of a committee headed by former Council of Scientific and Industrial Research chief R.A. Mashelkar on Thursday that will study these innovations and submit a report to the department or ministry concerned in six months.

The programme will be called Nav Kalpana Kosh and priority areas identified by the ministry of rural development (MoRD) include improving governance at gram panchayat, or village council, level, affordable housing for rural poor, non-farm livelihoods for a way out of poverty, open defecation-free villages, use of technologies for better planning and monitoring of programmes, solid and liquid waste management in villages and cost-effective, labour-intensive construction technologies for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

The committee will study these innovations and suggest to the government and department concerned if it can be applied all over the country.

“This is the first time such a study is being conducted in a structured manner. The committee will give its report in six months and if an innovation is accepted or rejected, the committee will have to give reasons in either case,” said Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, adviser to the ministry of rural development, who had originally mooted the idea.

The innovations will be “evaluated for their replicability and scalability. The special cell would help all the selected innovations till they are promoted to the commercial production stage,” a concept note from the ministry of rural development said. The government is also planning to launch a website which can be used by the innovators to submit their innovative ideas, he said. Every six months, the government will organize a felicitation function to honour and recognize those whose ideas and innovations have been found to be useful, he added.

According to a concept note, the ministry “will conduct a half-yearly sweep—titled Innovation Quest (IQ)—on 1st August–26th January; and 26th January–15th August) across the country in select themes where innovations are proactively solicited and identified, evaluated and the best innovations are awarded. The Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences will be the partner agency in conducting IQ. “Innovation is the driver of growth and is a key source of competitive advantage, a multiplier of economic activity, employment and development. The importance of innovation cannot be over-emphasized in the context of the development challenge faced in the rural areas, where widespread poverty, infrastructural limitations and complex socio-cultural issues pose formidable challenges,” the concept note said.

“The ministry will partner with such institutions such that the institutions have more capacity and inclination to come up with solutions to the more pressing problems of rural India,” it added.