The impact of COVID-19 has forced the daily wagers and low-wage gig workers of India from urban slums to return to their villages. It has composed an unusual U-turn in migration trends. We could expect migrants to gradually return to the cities due to the high gap between the wages of rural and urban regions. There are also minimal opportunities in rural India.
However, these migrations can be limited if officials create better income-generating opportunities in India’s rural places. It can be achieved via avenues; increase in revenues from small scale agriculture and employment opportunities in the rural areas.
Grow Rural Employment to Meet Rising Urban Demand
There is a huge demand for diverse foods in the urban places of India. Smallholders can tap this opportunity to fuel the growth and employment of the rural areas. A small farmer also has enormous growth potential if he produces diverse crops than primary staples. Moreover, bringing high-quality harvest processing and other operations to add additional value nearer to the food production centers could enhance employment opportunities.
The government can also adapt to several measures to connect small farms with the urban food value chain. The FPO promotion would scale-up and reduce the transaction costs for small farms to access the markets. Furthermore, investments in rural market infrastructure, storage facilities, transport systems, power, and communication infrastructure would attract urban food value chains to establish long-term links with small farm communities.
e-Market and ICT could further enhance the participation of farmers in the high-value market. The educated youth of rural areas could manage smart technologies and practices. These startups could also strengthen the e-commerce and delivery linkages in the rural parts of India.
The stimulus packages offered in the Atma Nirbhar Bharat (1) and other infrastructure development programs could absorb a good part of migrants in rural areas. There is also a need for social safety net programs that focuses on the vulnerable sections of rural communities. The One Nation, One Ration Card, can be useful to enhance the food security of migrants.
The agriculture sector has also given its potential to revive the COVID-19 hit economy. The development of rural places can be a savior to take care of the most vulnerable.