Contribution of Solar Sector in reducing rural-urban migration
A very pivotal role in mitigating the influx of rural population in the cities is played by the Indian solar sector
India has always been one of the notable agrarian countries in the world, with 66.46 per cent of its massive population residing in the villages, where agriculture is the main occupation. However, since the agricultural sector is highly dependent on seasons, the livelihood made through this industry is often unreliable. With rising inflation and unstable family income, many individuals from rural communities move to urban areas to find better job opportunities. Thus, due to difficulties in sustaining a consistent livelihood, the rural to urban migration rate is increasing phenomenally. As per the 2001 census, 52 million rural people migrated to the cities, to look for better employment opportunities, and standard of living.
Sunil Rathi, Director, Waaree Energies says, "According to the recent 2011 census, this statistic has seen a 51 per cent jump over the next decade, with 78 million migrations. This kind of mass migration occurs as a result of a dearth in employment opportunities, in rural regions. Thus, it has become increasingly important for industries across the economy, to set up plants and operations in rural areas, to provide employment opportunities."
A very pivotal role in mitigating the influx of rural population in the cities is played by the Indian solar sector. The past 5 years have been witness to India's strong motivation towards the adoption of renewable energy, to meet the growing power needs of the country, as well as widening rural electrification efforts. While wind and hydro energy have also played significant roles in this situation, solar energy has emerged as the most feasible and popular source of energy. With the 175 GW capacity goal set by the Government in 2022, the sector has showcased phenomenal growth, which has eventually led to significant employment generation.
"Solar players are today, ramping up their efforts to establish new projects across the country, which has resulted in a stark increase in blue-collared and white-collared employment. With land availability in urban areas being low, such large-scale projects are usually developed in rural areas. Industry experts have predicted that approximately 300,000 new jobs have to be created in the renewable industry, to meet the targets. Thus, rural employment is expected to witness a sharp rise, owing to the growing solar industry," says Rathi.
Currently, the industry has witnessed a 76 per cent increase in job-searches, which clearly depicts the industry's popularity as an employer. Apart from these projects, almost 45,000 jobs are expected to be created, because of the renewed focus on the domestic solar module manufacturing segment. The jobs created by the solar sector are generally of the unskilled and semiskilled variety, especially in rural projects. Grid-based projects are generally located outside urban areas, where job opportunities are currently few. Therefore, such projects have negated the need for people in these areas to migrate to other cities for employment opportunities.
Notable Government programmes also provide training that can help workers to not only upgrade their skillsets in terms of the solar sector but also other skills necessary in the job market today. Thus, the presence of the sector in rural areas is not only increasing employment opportunities but also improving the standard of living of the people in the region.
Recently, a 20 MW solar power plant in Rajasthan created up to 180 full-time local jobs, for the rural population in the area. Out of this, 117 jobs were of the unskilled nature, and therefore, easily accessible. With the growth of such ambitious projects, employment in such areas is bound to increase significantly.
Rathi says, "The rural-urban migration is usually undertaken for two main reasons – a better standard of living, and better employment opportunities. The growth in the solar industry expedited by the Government’s support, and industry-specific training programmes, is facilitating employment in the sector, leading to an increase in rural employment opportunities, and a subsequent reduction in the influx of the population to cities. Yet, there are certain measures that need to be taken, in the way forward, to further increase this potential for job creation."
The current training programmes that exist, are designed to cater to the population, that has a 10 + 2 education. The percentage of such people is much lower than the ones that are currently unemployed. Therefore, better training programmes for unqualified people are a necessity. Along with this, government training programmes need to align themselves with potential employees, to ensure that they are at par with their requirements, and provide employers with a medium to higher quality labour. If such measures are taken, the industry will not only create employment for a segment that really needs it but also aid significantly in making India solar-reliant.
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