Bhubaneswar: In the last two decades, the social and economic environment has evolved immensely, giving rise to an enhanced understanding of rurality. Keeping cognizance of the same, Xavier School of Rural Management (XSRM), whose MBA in Rural Management is one of the highest ranked courses in the domain, concluded successfully its first International Conference on Rural Management (ICRM), at the Xavier University, Bhubaneswar campus yesterday.
The conference stood on the shoulders of the ambitious seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), charted by the United Nations, in an effort to consciously aspire to achieve 169 targets by 2030 in the fields of poverty, inequality, food security, clean energy, peace and justice; to protect our planet.
The first ICRM was designed to explore how the field of Rural Management, and its thematic areas, intersect with, and underpin the efforts towards sustainable developments. As organizational landscape for rural developments transforms, established ways are increasingly giving way to innovative and emergent strategies and practices. To systematically and critically consider these evolutions, the conference presented an avenue to luminaries to present their papers and cases on innovative initiatives and practices in all functional areas and sectors of rural development management.
The conference was inaugurated by an insightful address by the chief guest, Amarjeet Sinha (IAS; Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India). “Poverty challenge is multi-dimensional. We lose sight of our objective when we focus only on our specialized sector”, were his wise words. He was joined in this august gathering by Saurabh Garg (IAS; Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment, Government of Odisha). Garg further emphasized on the challenges faced within the spectrum. “There is a high degree of variability in rural sector; coping against which is a major challenge for rural managers”. He substantiated this by highlighting the four major roadblocks in the rural sector, viz “insufficient penetration of formal financial system”, “need for high capital investment in agriculture and allied sectors”, “need for more focus on supply aspect of farmer produce”, and “more penetration of technology for development and business purpose”.
Father Dr. Paul Fernandes, SJ (Vice Chancellor, XUB), Father E.A. Augustine, SJ (Registrar, XUB), Professor Kajri Misra (Dean, XSRM, XUB), Professor T. Kumar (Coordinator, ICRM), and Professor Kushankur Dey (co-Coordinator, ICRM) also graced the podium for the inauguration.
The conference was attended by eminent industry stalwarts and respected government office-holders, who led various panel discussions, which also saw papers being presented on diverse topics.
On Day 1, the first panel discussed on “Rural Management Education and Professions”, chaired by Durgaprasad Duvvuri (OD&C, Chairman, GREX Governing Council). The panel consisted of luminaries like Sanjay Panigrahi (President – Rurban & Special Projects, Pidilite Industries), Sankar Dutta (Development Consultant), Ajit Choudhuri (GM – Community Services, Tata Sustainability Group), Professor Debiprasad Mishra (IRMA & Gram Vikas), Professor Kajri Misra (Dean, XSRM, XUB), and G. Murlidhar (Mentor, Akshara for Development).
The panel discussion was followed by the presentation of papers on veritable topics anchored on “Social & Economic Perspectives in Development”, “Capabilities and HR for Development”, “Development Policy and Strategy”, “Rural Marketing & Market Development” (where the theme was illustrated by Professor Sridhar Guda of IIMK on “Psychic distance in ‘Intra’national Marketing”), and “Agribusiness Management”. These technical sessions were chaired by illustrious professors of Xavier School of Rural Management.
The Second Day of the conference started with a special address on “Veritable Rural Transformation” by Tripathy (IFS; Commissioner, Rural Development, Government of Jharkhand), followed by a memorable address by Jugal Kishore Mohapatra (IAS; former Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development) on “HR support to the Panchayats for effective programme delivery”.
Day 2 also saw the presentation of papers on “Organizational Forms for Development”, “Rural and Development Finance” (where the theme was illustrated by Mr. Ramana, erstwhile CEO, Basix), “Livelihoods Promotion for Development”, and “ICT and e-Governance for Development” (theme presented by K C Mishra, eKutir).
The pioneering International Conference on Rural Management brought down its grand curtains by a Valedictory Session, wherein the report of the conference was given by Professor T. Kumar. Father E.A. Augustine, SJ (Registrar, XUB) gave the valedictory address, and distributed the honorary certificates to the distinguished participants of the conference. Professor Kushankur Dey brought the event to a close; of a conference which was built on the ethos of the revitalization of the valuable field of Rural Management, which needs to demonstrate a concerted effort towards consolidation and institutionalization, particularly as the task of rural development which it needs to address remains vital, and needs to be expanded to include additional issues such as environment and climate change.