To knit our country together, it is of paramount importance to bridge the rural urban divide.
The great Rishis of this land dreamt of a one-world family, ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’; a dream that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has set out to realise. But in a country as diverse as India, with diverse concerns and objectives, this task needs a robust methodology and thus was born the Project Bharat. It is that ambitious thread that ties this unique diversity of India together. It works on the framework of creating five pratinidhi for every village to look into its myriad development needs. This concept originates from the practice of panch-parmeshwarchaupal that has roots in our tradition.
If you see, most of the secessionist movements like Naxalism happened because of the rural-urban divide. And this is not just a geographical divide but a cleft of the heart. This division coupled with the hope of better income has also birthed the phenomenon of mass scale migration of village folks to the city. I see young people moving to metro cities from far corners of the country. They work in unhealthy conditions for a paltry sum, yet they are unwilling to stay back home as a farmer. The gravity of the situation hit me when I found myself in a village where not a single boy was available to shoulder a deceased man to his funeral pyre! To knit our country together, it is of paramount importance to bridge the rural urban divide. Being a spiritual organisation, our responsibility of bridging the distance between hearts increases. And there cannot be a more effective medium for this, than Project Bharat. It is a cross-functional movement across The Art of Living which includes all the verticals and in the long term will uplift rural India.
In the villages too, several menaces have cropped up in people’s lives. The sense of belongingness, the essence of aatmiyata,is dwindling in the face of rapid commercialisation. Places like Haryana and Punjab are grappling with drug and substance abuse. Moreover, laziness too has made its way into the village youth’s lifestyle. He will browse the internet on his smartphone till late at night, but will not get up early to work hard in the farm. It is unfortunate that even though an agrarian society, today in most cases the farmer has to buy vegetables to eat. If the enemies of the country wish to destroy it, they will target the most vulnerable of its population, i.e., the rural youth. Therefore, it becomes an additional responsibility for us to protect our villages and rural population.
Over my years working in rural India, I have also observed cynicism making home in a rural folks’ mind, owing to his experience of being exploited. He fears being exploited by yet another city dweller. Therefore, in Project Bharat we assure them at the very onset that what we have brought to them is a pan India pursuit for the development of rural India. We keep the nation in front in this project.
Moreover, we also need to address the alarming climatic decline with urgency. Places in north of India are among the ones with most speedy decline in water table across the globe. What was 30-40 feet some years ago, has now receded to 400 feet. But people, caught up in everyday chores are oblivious of the most pressing needs of a worrisome future. And the most unfortunate development of them all is our farmers committing suicide in such huge numbers. They have lost the self-confidence to sustain through tough times. Such things had not happened even in the face of foreign invasions by tyrannical forces! There is a need to hand hold our farmers and offer them spiritual solace and also empower them with spiritual wisdom so that they can redeem their self- confidence. Land holdings too have gone down. Here skilling can be of help. For rural people who do not own sufficient land to make a living, we can skill and connect them to micro entrepreneurship through Sri Sri Tattva and the various projects offered by Sri Sri Rural Development Program like Recognition of Prior Learning.
Thus, Project Bharat is posed to be that one umbrella under which rural India will find genuine solutions and a path to development. This is the most ambitious project ever undertaken by The Art of Living, backed by the smart technology of today like the ‘VyaktiVikasPratinidhi’ mobile application that allows for real time documentation from the very heart of India. The time is ripe to scale up and scale deep.