THE CONFERENCE organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) on rural business hubs (RBH) on Thursday outlined the roadmap for rural development with focus on small and marginal farmers.
RBH is an initiative of Panchayati Raj ministry and CII to establish direct linkages between rural economy and industry. Though, one of the key features of RBH is to provide a mechanism for industry to procure agri-produce directly from farmers, it has been conceptualised as a model for overall development of the rural sector.
Importantly, the concept also covers a broad spectrum of activities, including handicraft and handloom products, poultry farming, aquaculture produce, food processing, medicinal plants, bio-fuels, bio-mass based plants, jatropha cultivation etc. Agriculture Minister Ashok Bajpai set the ball rolling by urging officials of the State Government to consider innovative ways of making the RBH concept successful.
“Can’t we think of something like opening a top class restaurants in rural areas which sell traditional and popular food items from rural areas like Chokha Baati? Again, in Mainpuri, Farrukhabad and Etawah regions there is good potato crop. But, still potato farmers are unable to benefit simply because of the lack of agri-processing units. If Russia could develop vodka from potato, why can’t we?” the minister asked.
He suggested that when the concept becomes a reality, farmers could be inspired to take to innovative farming methods and going ahead with farming of mushrooms, broccoli and baby corn whose demand is high in urban areas.
“I would suggest that RBH concept starts from rural areas which are close to urban centers as a test case and then touches the rural interior,” he added.
Amit Goel, advisor, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI explained the six steps involved in the formulation of RBH, which he said is essentially a Public Private Panchayat Partnership (PPPP). He said RBH councils have already been formed in 10 states including UP. Goel said that 52 CII member companies across country have shown interest in setting up RBHs and 55 MoU have also been signed for the same. Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC), Anis Ansari said that RBH concept was now a workable concept and main idea behind RBH was to increase business activity in the rural area and provide employment to the rural poor.
Ansari hoped that with the passage of time RBH would help identify the training needs of the rural artisans and help in upgrading their skills. Managing director, Abdullah Fresh Foods, MN Lari showed how there was scope of establishing RBHs in various verticals of Indian industry and how they could benefit through it.
Principal secretary, Panchayati Raj, AK Joshi said that around 820 development blocks (Vikas Khand) have been set up in UP to provide linkages to various sectors. Asma Hussain, from AIFT gave a detailed presentation of the internationally accepted eco-friendly norms and how RBH could help bridge the gap between demand and supply. General manager NABARD, TN Jha, Associate, Rabo Bank Abhinesh Goel, executive director, Titagarh Biotech Limited, S Gangopadhyaya, branch manager, ITC Agri Business Division, Milan Anandan also made their presentations on the RBH model.