Gandhi’s vision for the unique development of India can be lucidly encapsulated in the quote: “I would say that if the village perishes India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited. Industrialization on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing come in. Therefore we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.” -- - M. K. Gandhi

Can heritage conservation (in the broadest sense that includes crafts, folk art, tangible and intangible conservation) be the centre of reviving the lost vitality of the Indian village economy?

With India’s growing economy about 814 million people are expected to live in Indian cities by 2050. That would require a support of $ 1.2 trillion by 2030. Presently, India’s annual per capita spending on cities stands at $50, whereas China stands at $362 and the UK at $ 1,772.

To tackle these numbers the present government has launched several thematic urban development schemes to rapidly manage the growth with a focused balance with historic discourse. Smart Cities Mission; AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), and HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) are a few centrally mandated schemes which echo the government’s plan in pursuing equitable and sustainable development, however the government’s aid requires an aggressive collaboration with the private sector to fill the huge financial requirements for growth at this rate.

This article gleans the potential of focused heritage conservation in the village and reviving a unique tourism offering. This can be harnessed when culture in the village is lured out of the private homes into the public domain with an aim of supporting livelihood through tourism development around unique heritage offering.

It is a common global discourse more importantly in developing countries that the dismemberment of heritage sites leads to loss in integrity of the local populace. Dilapidation and structural deterioration of the fabric of the regions built environment can result in unused real-estate. This process often leads to replacement of original components with counterfeit and non- indigenous technologies and materials, which will eventually results in inappropriate reconstruction processes that homogenize their unique characteristics, thus disenfranchising the heritage from the traditions of community use. This results in migration for opportunities outside the village.

Thus heritage conservation and culture has becoming an urgent call to justify sustainable growth and deploy soft power through India’s own language that strengthens the rural economy and showcases its lost glory to colonialism.

The government favours rural development when offering tax exemptions under the new CSR guidelines if corporates divert CSR monies towards certain activities such as contribution to Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (Section 80G), scientific research (Sections 35(1)(ii), 35(1)(iia), 35(1)(iii), 35(2AA), rural development projects (Section 35AC), skill development projects (Section 35CCD), agricultural extension projects (Section 35CCC), etc aligned to Schedule VII already enjoy exemptions under different sections as indicated under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Presently the CSR landscape looks bleak. According to an analysis carried out by CSR consulting firm NextGen Pvt. Ltd of the top 91 NSE listed firms for FY15-16, funds routed to the cause of ‘heritage’ conservation or cultural promotion dropped by close to 40%. In the first year of CSR rules, heritage received Rs 67.87 crore. The CSR management platform Goodera has revealed from the reports of 92 companies that Rs 155.78 crore was spent on national heritage initiatives in 2017 as compared to Rs 46.51 crore in 2016. This fluctuating numbers indicate a non-structured approach in using CSR monies towards Heritage Conservation.

Heritage Conservation needs to contribute to the development of the country by harnessing the real potential of heritage management by generating jobs, skilling people towards preserving local continuities, conserving subaltern tradition and most importantly boosting tourism through regionalist entrepreneurialism.

This step will not only slow down urban migration but will make villages self sufficient and important centers of trade and tourism.

Going back to Gandhi’s Vision as recorded in a 1969 issue of Marg Publication “When our villages are fully developed, there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be Village Poets, Village Artists, Linguists and Research Workers.” -- M.K Gandhi.