Integrated Rural Development: Guidelines from Sri Sathya Sai - Part 2

Sri Sathya Sai serving the rural underprivileged

If Indian culture in its proper form were to exist anywhere, it could possibly be found only in the rural areas of India. While doing one’s job, one should think about how one can contribute to rural development. All Management students must study a course on Integrated Rural Development Management (IRDM) [i]. For IRDM, the management of water, health care, plantation, sanitary systems, and wind energy are very essential. 

1. An educated person can do great service by residing in a village. He triumphs over the hearts of the simple villagers by talking to them with love and genuine concern. One can even win over the nation by sweet talk. You cannot always oblige, but you can speak always in an obliging manner. A farmer would feel very pleased if an educated person visits his fields and discusses farming practices with him. You can advise him about the superiority of organic manure over chemical fertilizers, as chemical fertilizers deplete the minerals from the soil. Cow dung is good natural manure. 

2. Diseases are rampant in villages due to poor sanitation and hygiene. One can arrange for the digging of a septic tank. No expenses would be involved as most of the able bodied people from the village would come forward with crowbars and contribute their labour with love, without having to incur any financial expenditure.

3. In villages, talking is ‘heartful’ [ii], whereas in towns it is ‘artificial.’ If one wants to perform the marriage of any close relation in a city, one has to get milk from the dairy paying INR 1,000 or INR 2,000. Whereas in villages, those who have cows take the initiative to say of their own volition, “We heard that there is a marriage in your house. Please take this milk.” The women in the village come forward and share the household work amongst them. In cities, they charge INR 5 for a laddu (traditional Indian round-shaped sweet made of chana flour and sugar), while in villages, people themselves make them as a group.

4. As regards pandals, people pay thousands of rupees in cities whereas in villages, those who are familiar with such work volunteer to erect the pandals. It is done perfectly. Green leaves (buntings) would be tied all over. In those days, houses were small and when a large number of people collected, it would become quite suffocating. The green leaves take in carbon dioxide and give back fresh oxygen. This is the significance of Torana (buntings). In cities, they put plastic leaves, which only serve the purpose of ornamental decoration without any natural utility value.

5. There exists a great sense of security in villages. While in cities, if thieves rob the neighbours’ belongings and take it away in a truck, nobody even bothers, whereas if a stranger just enters a village, people immediately inquire and ascertain details about his/her antecedents. Such concern, self-imposed responsibility and security prevail in villages. In case of a quarrel between a husband and wife in villages, the village elders would call both the husband and wife and reconcile their differences in a harmonious manner. Such sort of informal judicial system existed in the villages in India in the past to resolve the conflicts and also maintain law and order.

6. An individual can lead a simple, yet a happy life in a village. He can go into the open countryside and breathe the fresh air. He can lead a comfortable and a happy life even with a monthly income of INR 2,000, whereas in any metropolitan city in India even with a huge monthly income such comfortable life is not possible owing to heavy expenditure pertaining to house rent, transportation, taxes and other miscellaneous expenses. In cities, if one wants to lead a sanctimonious life, the society will not let one to do so. The nature of the leaf is to remain still, but when the wind blows, it flutters. So also a person’s mind wavers due to the various distractions in the city, the most important being the company he keeps. An individual ought to keep away from bad company. “Tyaja Durjana Samsargam, Bhaja Sadhu Samaagamam, Kuru Punyam Ahoratram, Smara Nitya Anityatam”, meaning shun bad company, seek the company of pious people, engage oneself in pious activities day and night, discriminate between the permanent and ephemeral.

Continued in Part 3...


i] Baba was actually suggesting this to the group of Management students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, to develop sensitivity about the problems of people living in rural areas. This, however, may be equally applicable in a general manner to all those pursuing Management programmes in other universities in India and elsewhere. 

ii] In villages in India and other neighbouring countries in the sub-continent, the rural folk are informal in their interactions and dealings with one another. They address each other as if they all belong to the same family or kin and they maintain warm and personal relations among themselves, which Baba terms as ‘heartful’ which implies conversing whole-heartedly. 

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