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Village & its Chaupal in the Digitised Economy

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By Prof HC Purohit

In the era of technological revolution and scientific innovation, online shopping, net banking, payment apps – paytm, google-pay, e-wallet mediums are being used in business transactions and related activities. Recently, in the budget presented by the Finance Minister for the year 2022-23, tax provisions are being levied on digital assets; 1% tax on virtual digital assets, 30% tax on profits of digital currency, and if crypto is received in gifts, then the recipient will also have to pay tax on those earnings. Digital currency is called by different names like bitcoin, polkadot, ethereum, litecoin, etc., and every transaction is verified with a digital signature and recorded cryptographically. It is necessary to register for transactions of digital currencies, and these transactions will be done through the crypto exchange platform. Dozens of countries, including the developed countries of the world that have introduced digital currency, are making serious efforts and research in this direction for years. Pilot projects are also being run in this direction in some countries. The digital yuan currency is also in circulation in China under the name Renminbi since 2019. The biggest advantage of digital currency is that the governments get rid of the challenges and problems like printing, handling and distribution of notes. Under this process, even those people who do not have bank accounts can also join the banking system. The Government of India has made several provisions to promote and protect the interest of the people/parties involved in the transactions of digital currency in the budget 2022-23, but in India the major portion of the population resides in villages and rural areas, and their main occupation is agriculture and related activities. In the era of digital and technological advancement, it is necessary to look into the issues and problems of the rural poor residing in the hinterland, their ‘chaupal’ needs to shine and illuminate with contentment and happiness in their lives and families, and this requires formulation and implementation of village-centric policies focusing on the issues of the rural people. The initiatives such as PM Kisan Fasal Bima Yojana, Kisan Credit Card and Kisan Samman Yojana, etc., have been proved a big relief and very effective in bringing out the marginal farmers from the vicious debt cycle, but there are still a lot of things to be done in this direction to double the farmers’ income and improve the condition of the rural poor.

1- Tax provision on the transactions of digital currency in the budget 2022-23 is a step towards recognising this currency as well as encouraging digital business in the country. A digital university is to be set up where digital technology related skills and training will be offered to the students. This will help to enhance their competence and make them digital techno friendly. Furthermore, 75 digital banks will be established in 75 districts of the country under the campaign of Ázadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ 75 years of independence as a mark that the nation is entering the digital era.
2- With the aim of taking the country forward in the era of digital and technological development, the digital university will certainly facilitate research and study in the field of digital transactions, innovation and better use of technological tools. The skill development campaign will help in employment generation for the youth. This will help to increase employment and income as well as provide an opportunity to grow in global competition. Recently, thousands of youths have got employment opportunities in the field of crypto currency as block chain specialist, machine learning specialist, security engineer, Ripplex developer and front-and back-end developers, etc., and CoinDCX, has emerged India’s first crypto currency unicorn. These developments indicate growth prospects of digital economy in India.
3- Digital transactions will help to ensure financial discipline in the country in terms of benefit transfers relief and welfare schemes to the beneficiaries and this will help to create a sense of trust in the government system. The Covid-19 outbreak has made this mode of business transaction or communication a necessity in society. Today, almost all the schools, offices, and business houses are aware of the virtual/blended/hybrid mode at large scale and they prefer to adopt this communication method. Seamless flow of communication and information across all the sections of society is to be strengthened and expansion of digital services in remote villages is need of the hour.
4- India is a country of villages, a large population resides in the villages and their main occupation is focused around agriculture. There are people who are landless or have small/marginal holdings, agriculture is not a profitable option for them and they are forced to migrate to metros/industrial cities in search of employment. A large migration of human resources from village has posed challenges before the metros; on the one hand, migration starts exponential uncontrollable growth in urban and industrial areas, but on the other hand civic amenities like health, education, drinking water, sanitation and housing, etc., are not made available at this pace, which adversely affects the working capacity of the worker and also affects standard of living and health condition of the people at a large scale. On the other side, unavailability of labour force in the rural area leads to regional and economic disparity which disrupts the development of the village.
The provision of setting up a startup based on agricultural produce in the budget will definitely provide employment opportunities in rural areas and reduction in corporate tax of cooperatives will help in the expansion and development of cooperatives. This will help to encourage cooperatives in rural areas which will provide jobs to the rural youth. Capacity building programme initiative as mentioned in the budget will help the rural youth to enhance their skills. This will inspire them to establish their own enterprises.
6- The MNREGA budget for 100 days employment in rural areas is allocated on the basis of demand, the higher the demand, the higher budget will be allocated to that state in the same proportion. Due to the corona pandemic and subsequent lockdown, a large number of people lost their jobs and they were allotted MGNREGA job cards in large number across the country to provide them employment, which escalated the pre-allotted budget under this scheme to ensure employment to all those who lost their jobs.
7- To increase the budget of MNREGA, it is necessary to expand MNREGA work area and working days. For the last more than one and a half decades, the work area was not expanded, hence under this scheme, new work plans could not be included. It is necessary that the scope and coverage of MNREGA be increased to include agricultural related works, which will increase the interest of the coastal areas, mountainous areas and small/marginal farmers towards agriculture related works and this initiative can help make the agriculture sector a profit earner and beneficial to them. This will be helpful in preventing migration from rural areas in search of employment to a great extent, as well as the MNREGA scheme will be successful in fulfilling its objectives.
8- Youth from villages will not be forced to leave their homes in search of employment. They will continue to work in agriculture and agriculture-related sectors because, if agricultural work is linked to MNREGA scheme, they will get wages for working in their own fields. This initiative will reduce the farming cost and increase farmer’s interest in farming and, if a small/marginal farmer will work with full interest and dedication, it will definitely result in increase of agriculture produce. Increased productivity will enhance their income.

The next generation of small/marginal farmers will not be expected to disengage from farming. This will help to ensure the prosperity of the villages and control unwanted migration in search of jobs to the industrial cities so that regional and economic disparity can be minimised. Finally, villages with villagers and rural poor will grow and their chaupal will too be illuminated in this era of digitalisation.

(Dr HC Purohit is Professor & Head,
School of Management, Doon University.)