Developing villages with infrastructure and social facilities equivalent to urban that would reduce migration to cities - that is the aim of the government's "Rurban" project, the blueprint of which was cleared by the cabinet on Wednesday.
The idea, a brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, involves picking clusters - each comprising a few villages in a region with a combined population of 25,000 to 60,000 - for development. Sources said 12 basic areas will be targeted - including water supply, healthcare, skill development and sewerage.
In Phase I of the project, the government has identified 300 such clusters.
The government's action stems from its three-day feedback session with its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, earlier this month.
It had been suggested that the government urgently initiate measures to bridge the urban rural divide and counter the perception that most of its schemes had ignord it.
Rurban, which draws heavily from the experience of a similar project in Gujarat, had figured in the manifesto of the BJP released before last year's elections.
"If there is now a Smart City mission for hundreds of Indian cities, Rurban mission is the government's promise to create smart villages," Ravishankar Prasad, Minister of Telecommunication, told the media after the Cabinet meet.
Rurban builds on Pura (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), yet another scheme created by the UPA government. But Rural Development Minister Chowdhary Birendra Singh pointed out that the UPA government's scheme didn't work well.
"It was launched in 13 regions. And it had no government participation. Now the government has decided to launch it on a larger scale and playing a lead role through the Rs 5,000 crore cleared today," he said.