Merijanmbhumi – Bridging rural-urban India

Merijanmbhumi means our native land and is a project to use internet, SMS and cell phone tech to bridge the growing social, cultural and economic gaps between India’s urban and rural worlds. It connects villagers with each other and their migrant members to lessen disparities, strengthen communities and accelerate meaningful development.

Renewing Neglected Communities, Economies and Cultures
Our urban/rural inequality gaps have never been wider and thanks to the corporate globalization of our media, education systems and economy they continue to grow.

Just when attentive citizens around the world are seeing that localization is the key to richer culture, better environmental health and more stable economies, our local communities find themselves marginalized in public policy and struggling to survive.

Merijanmbhumi is designed to fight that tide by reconnecting villagers with each other and their city-dwelling offspring to develop new social, cultural and economic relationships that benefit both sides.

Non-Resident Villagers as a Development Resource Pool
In recent years, many thousands of Indians have migrated abroad in search of new opportunities and they are collectively known as NRI or Non-Resident Indians. There are currently dozens of programs to keep these migrants informed about and involved with their motherland and this has greatly benefited both NRIs and India as a whole.

However there are also many millions of us who have moved to India’s cities for similar reasons and we could be called NRV or Non-Resident Villagers. Unfortunately there are no services to keep us close to the people or needs of our home communities and that is why this project was conceived.

After a two-year pilot project, our three Merijanmbhumi test sites now link a thousand rural households with urban migrant villagers who still care for their native communities and the friends and family they have left behind. As our Youtube gallery demonstrates, this network has already had important personal and social impacts, and as it spreads it can have profound economic and democratizing effects as well.

Economic Potential
Many local products such as unique crafts, ethnic arts, organic foodstuffs, and medicinal plants are languishing because they lack proper marketing and publicity. Merijanmbhumi websites can offer these products the necessary visibility to develop demand, increase tourist flow, and provide many new creative work opportunities.

In rural India, where most people subsist on less than a dollar a day, finding outside markets for their traditional products or arts would be an incredible godsend. Once fully developed the Merijanmbhumi network could offer a global/local fair trade platform to untold thousands for such commerce and change their lives dramatically.

Political Empowerment
The Merijanmbhumi model not only expands channels for trade, education and social intercourse, it can advance local transparency, accountability and democracy as well. For example, accounts for government programs and village projects can soon be publicly shared online to curb misuse and corruption. And our sites can also widely publicize the critical facts and data that Right to Information activists discover.
(Few realize that India’s most powerful anti-corruption tool, the 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act wasnot born in the cities, but in rural Rajasthan, where villagers demanded to know how and why allocated funds were vanishing before they reached the ground.)

Appropriate Tech Propagation & Development
Necessity being the mother of invention, the needs of the fertile countryside have spawned a great crop. GIAN and Honeybee Network have offered Merijanmbhumi their multilingual database of thousands of village-sourced devices, products and processes to help spread these inventive low-tech innovations throughout the villages and solicit new ideas.

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