Empowering the rural poor of the world
Reviewed by D S Cheema

Target 3 Billion, PURA, Innovative Solutions towards Sustainable Development
By Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Srijan Pal Singh. Penguin Books. Pages 298. Rs 299

Target 3 Billion, PURA, Innovative Solutions towards Sustainable DevelopmentAmartya Sen notes that the connotation of universal language that claims to embrace all, especially the marginalised and the poor of the world, can be traced 200 years back when in 1790s two writers Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Paine wrote, "It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world." It appears that more than 3 billion rural poor who deserve justice and not charity to live better lives, exist in a world remote from the daily experience of the middle class and rich. In such a scenario, the scientists of the world must ask themselves what connection their learning has with the challenges that threaten such a large section of the world community, the rural poor.

This book by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, fondly referred to as the ‘People's President’ during his Rashtrapati days from 2002-2007 as India’s 11th President and Srijan Pal Singh, is part of mission of the two visionaries to eradicate poverty from the villages all over the world, where approximately 3 billion people live. While Dr Kalam is India’s one of the most distinguished scientists, Srijanpal Singh studied at IIM Ahmedabad and has participated in many international initiatives to study and evolve sustainable development systems. He is currently working with Dr Kalam to promote Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA). Bharat Ratna (1997) Kalam is a visionary who has been in the forefront of many revolutionary movements in the interest of mankind. . Since analysis is the forte of scientists, they are generally criticised for using more of their left brain, the logical half, as compared to the right related with human emotions. However, Kalam is one scientist, who is able to connect with the ground level problems of the unfortunate millions across the globe (according to an estimate 70 per centof the world's poor live in the villages), empathise with them and provide innovative solutions to help the ignorant and poor living a life of deprivation in villages. The book is a record of innovative ideas for rural development supported by first-hand experience of the authors. The theme is that sustainable and inclusive development of the poor of the villages is possible not through subsidies but through entrepreneurship with community participation. Efficacy of traditional unique methods, customised to local conditions in each region cannot be overemphasised

The authors draw the attention of the reader towards "The Other Half of Mankind", the three billion rural poor; in the very first chapter. Wellbeing of this very large section of the poor of the world, approximately 40 per cent, depends to a large extent on providing them with the basic amenities like food, health- care, education, in fact, everything that can help them lead a decent life. The book provides many interesting and intelligent solutions. The authors feel that the solutions demand ‘bridging the gap between yesterday's methods and the problems of the future'’

With 750 million people living in villages, India has the largest rural population in the world. . Rightly, a lot of stress has been laid on the relevance of PURA to agriculture as it is the largest employer of human resources in India as well as the other parts of the world. Agriculture has become highly technical in nature, technology plays major role in preparation of the soil, selection of the seeds, water management etc. The contribution of scientists, who gave India its first Green Revolution (1960-70) and established it as a landmark in the agriculture development in India, is an outstanding example of what scientists can achieve. The authors suggest the second Green Revolution (2010-2020) in India for five-acre farms rather than 500 acres, with characteristics of higher production due to better inputs, better access and storage, better returns and sustainability. An excellent effort in this direction is, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) located in the Walt Disney Water Resort in Florida, USA, where experiments are being carried out in agriculture technology in 2.5 million square feet of greenhouse. It includes a public exhibition on agriculture technology and global ecology called "Living with the Land".

The authors have paid special attention to the challenges of eco-friendly sustainable development where they discuss the fundamental compatibility of environment and development. Example of 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya who gave the Green Belt Movement in 20 countries resulting in plantation of 40 million trees shows what a single person with passion is capable of achieving. Another classic example is that of a former member of Planning Commission, Government of India, who has turned eco-preuner with a biofuel-mission. PURA, the authors stress, must become an enterprise model which can lead to empowerment. A practical PURA enterprise network model has been provided for this purpose. PURA is also the most difficult to achieve due to the fact that aggregation of people exhibits complex behaviour that cannot be predicted by studying the behaviour of the individuals who make the group as sociology is not just psychology applied to groups. The book provides details of how to make community participation work. In the last chapter, the authors dwell upon the global challenges and their dynamics in the end notes for each chapter provide wealth of information related with the subject of the chapter; which can act as research materia for sustainable development. A must-read for all those who want to make the world a better place to live.