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It is time to make smart villages, instead of smart cities: Gadkari

NEW DELHI: Union minister Nitin Gadkari said there is a need to focus on rural, agricultural and backward areas, support small businesses and create employment opportunities against the backdrop of an exodus of migrant workers from cities. “I urge the industry to take initiative on socially, economically and educationally backward people… It is important to give jobs and train people industries such as agro processing, food processing, agro MSMEs, handloom," the road transport and highways and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) minister said at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) meeting on Tuesday. “Most of the urban areas such as Mumbai, Bengaluru are saturated. It’s time to make smart villages, instead of smart cities," Gadkari said, adding that adequate job opportunities will increase the purchasing power of people in the rural and backward areas. “Then the issue of migrant labour will not arise," he said,The minister added that the view that industry is 100% dependent on migrant workers is incorrect. Migrant workers constitute between 10% and 20% of the industrial workforce and not all of them moved back during the lockdown, he said, adding that some firms are offering them food and shelter so that they don’t feel the need to leave for their homes. He said migration back to the cities has begun with workers wanting to get back to work. Gadkari said it is important to turn the crisis into opportunity and look at ways to boost exports and evaluate where imports can be reduced. In an interview with Mint on Monday, he had said that the COVID-19 impact is long-term, and for quick revival of the MSME sector, the need of the hour is a special focus on boosting exports.