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 There are more than 600,000 villages in India and around 700 million people live in villages. Many villages are relatively deprived in terms of basic amenities and services, especially those related to education, health, sanitation and empowerment. There is a need to improve the quality of life in villages to achieve overall national development.

Indian Space Programme started in early 60’s has become largely self-reliant with capability to design and build satellites for providing space services and to launch those using indigenously designed and developed launch vehicles. Over the years, India has achieved a notable progress in the design, development and operation of space systems, as well as, using them for vital services like telecommunications, television & radio broadcasting, meteorology, disaster warning as well as natural resources mapping, monitoring and management.

Department of Space/ISRO has evolved many useful applications emanating from the Space Technology. While Indian National Satellite (INSAT) system continues to provide regular services in the areas of telecommunications, business communication, broadcasting and meteorological services, several initiatives have been taken to expand the application of INSAT to new areas like Telemedicine. ISRO has also been a champion in demonstrating the use of space technology for societal good and has piloted several socially relevant space application projects like the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), the Training and Development Communication Channel (TDCC) and the Jhabua Development Communications Project (JDCP).

With seven satellites, Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS)-1C, IRS-1D, IRS-P3, IRS-P4, Resourcesat, Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) and CARTOSAT-I, in operation, India has the largest constellation of remote sensing satellites today providing data in a variety of spatial resolutions and spectral bands. The data is used for various applications in the fields of agriculture, forestry, ground and surface water, drought assessment and monitoring, flood mapping, land use and coastal studies etc. Space technology, as the powerful enabler, provides alternate route for holistic and rapid rural development. India has been among the world leaders, in the areas of developing end-to-end capability for both remote sensing and communication satellites. The space-based remote sensing will get further fillip with the launch of CARTOSAT-2 and Radar Satellite - RISAT.

ISRO has been interacting for the last three decades with the Planning Commission, Departments of Central Government and State Governments, District Authorities, academia, industries, NGOs and others to effectively utilize the space applications for national development.

As mentioned above, space technologies - satellite based communication and remote sensing has demonstrated their capabilities to provide services related to health care, education, weather, land and water resources, agriculture etc. To provide these space-based services to the rural areas, Department of Space has initiated a programme to set up Village Resource Centres (VRCs) in partnership with concerned state, central agencies and NGOs.

Space based services, emanating from Satellite Communication (SatCom) and Remote Sensing satellites hold considerable value to transform village society. Remote Sensing enables community centric spatial information up to cadastral level in terms of geo-referenced land record, natural resources, suitable sites for potable/drinking water as well as recharge, incidence of wastelands for reclamation through rural employment creation, watershed attributes, environment, infrastructure related information, alternate cropping pattern, water harvesting etc. Synthesizing spatial information with other collateral and weather information, Remote Sensing also facilitates locale specific community advisory services. Disaster management support, community based vulnerability and risk related information, early warning and extreme weather information dissemination mechanisms provide reliable disaster management support at the village level. In order to disseminate the services emanating from the space systems as well as other Information Technology (IT) tools, to the rural communities, a partnership between ISRO and Development Alternatives was formed

The Development Alternatives (DA) Group comprises Development Alternatives and its associate organizations in India: Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), TARAhaat Information and Marketing Services Ltd., TARA Nirman Kendra and Decentralized Energy Systems India Ltd. The DA Group, a pioneer sustainable development enterprise was established in 1983 as a not for profit research, development and action organization. With two decades of experience and over 400 professionals, the DA Group has had a profound impact on the creation of sustainable livelihoods, specifically in the innovation and application of appropriate technologies and their distribution through micro enterprises in rural India. It is recognized by the Ministry of Science and Technology as a scientific research institution.

Over the years, the DA Group has built up several initiatives and networks at the field level in different parts of the country. The partnerships established with over 500 NGOs and rural entrepreneurs across Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Maharashtra will be of particular interest to the VRC Programme.

TARAhaat was established as a social enterprise dedicated to bridging the digital divide between rural communities and the mainstream economy. It provides village communities particularly the youth, access to information and livelihood opportunities comparable to those available in urban India. A broad portfolio of services is offered through TARAkendras – the community knowledge cum business centre. Initial focus has been on vocational training, community development, information and e-governance through a host of programmes customized for local communities (e.g. TARAchetna, TARAMeljol). The next generation of services focuses on the promotion of micro and small enterprises through a unique Enterprise Development Programme.

The entire network is underpinned by a sustainable business model. Customers pay a fair price while multiple revenue streams ensure financial viability of each TARAkendra. The unique franchising model ensures that the bulk of the profits reside with the local franchisee, accelerating growth of the centre. A robust training and support structure ensures the operational success of franchisees. At the same time, the social enterprise model ensures a balance between revenue and delivery of social services.
   
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