Accelerating the Pace of Rural Development : Some Critical Aspects for Success

By Dr Amrit Patel The Government has been, since country’s independence, formulating policy, programs, projects and schemes and investing significant financial resources through every Five Year Plan to accelerate the rural development. All these programs and schemes being implemented by the concerned Ministries and departments of the Union and State Governments in the area of education, health, drinking water, sanitation, transport and communication and supporting infrastructure, among others, have shown varying degree of response and performance at the grassroots level, and of course, much less than expected in respect of measurable indicators of human development index. In the context of India being emerging as a strong economy and committed to bring about a rapid and sustainable economic growth through various reforms, the rural development programs must sharply focus on people’s participation and rural organizations as the key attributes for their success accompanied by equally important aspects, inter alia,concept of integrated development, planning process, Growth Center Approach, management inputs, communication system and supporting Management Information System to improve the effectiveness of programs and achieve the desired objectives of the program. This article briefly highlights these aspects.

Rural Development India 2014

rural india Concept The policy and programs of rural development aim at alleviating rural poverty, generating employment and removing hunger and malnourishment accompanied by the enrichment of the quality of human life as reflected by significantly improved human development index. The problem of rural development, however, is not merely one of development of rural areas but of the development of rural communities to dispel ignorance and poverty and assist the process of creating a self-reliant and self-sustaining, healthy modern little communities. Rural development can no longer be now identified with mere increase in country’s GDP or even per capita national income. The increased income is expected to be so distributed as to result in significant diminution of inequalities of income and wealth and reflect better human development index. Every rural family should have its reasonable share in the generation of the GDP and increasing per capita income. Integrated Development The objective of the national policy should be to reconstruct and develop the rural economy in such a way that income flowing from the ownership of productive assets, skills and labor would be distributed more equitably. It, therefore, focuses the need for building viable rural communities of functional rural clusters with improved dwellings, dependable and convenient energy supplies, adequate transport and communication facilities that link it to the larger world, suitable health and educational facilities, access to credit and markets, culturally invigorated and no longer compartmentalized by barriers of castes and feudal distinctions based on land ownership and occupation.In this process, the concept of integrated development of rural areas acquires significance and added importance. Integrated development means that the planning of diverse aspects of development cannot be attempted in isolation through a project or even a program approach but it is integrated to take account of their mutual interaction and their linkages, with a view to achieving the total development of human being and the geographical area, thereby bridging the rural-urban gap. While endeavoring for the integrated rural development, it is necessary to understand the specific characteristics of rural society which give rise to the problems of rural development as distinguished from other kinds of development. These characteristics mostly relate to the predominance of [i] land in production with uneven distribution of land and other relevant assets [ii] agriculture and allied activities [iii] self-employment and family labor among the land-owning working force [iv]underemployment and casual employment among the working force who hire out their labor for wages [v] rural income on seasonal factors with consequent uncertainty and wider fluctuations in income and [vi] factors influencing low level of developmentin rural areas as compared to urban areas which include demand for local non-agricultural goods and services; capital per capita excluding land; employment of science and technology; energy and machinery; human resources development in terms of literacy, education, health and technical as well as managerial skills; development and welfare services; communication and information; absence of people’s organizations to redress grievances, monitor implementation of development programs and functioning as pressure groups; lack of adequate power to take decisions on the part of local officials and greater distance from decision-making authorities. Integrated Rural Development [IRD]envisages the optimum utilization of the natural, physical and human resources of a given rural area for the enrichment of the quality of life of its population. Optimum utilization takes into account not only production of goods and services without environmental degradation but also their distribution and employmentenabling the rural poor to cross the poverty line. The projects formulated for the purpose should be such as can maximize their mutual additive impact on each other and result in a higher than the total sum of its components. The IRD is influenced bythe impact of the development exerted by factors outside its area and population. Rural development cannot be considered in isolation or in terms of village self-sufficiency. Rural economic activity has to be considered in the context of a market economy and the initial inadequacy in the needed supply of capital and skills in the rural areas. IRD has, therefore, to take into account the links of the rural area concerned with its market relations, the two-way mobility of capital, labor and skills with these areas, and the relevance of the national and State policies on economic growth and social justice in rural areas. Planning Process Planning exercise for IRD should consider provision of the basic institutional conditions necessary for maximization of rural productive resources, securing/mobilizing mass participation and ensuring equitable distribution. It isessential that basic pre-conditions for IRD should be a radical change in land distribution, supply of other productive income-generating assets and inputs needed for production along with appropriate machinery for their equitable distribution and setting up people’s communities with the specific purpose of ensuring access to and utilization of developmental facilities by the rural people. The plan of IRD must seek a maximum share of self-help and self-reliance on the part of rural population. The concept of the welfare which governs the national policy of most of the developing countries is built on grants and subsidies. This concept fails to stimulate self-reliance and leads to habit of dependence. This, in turn, results in a larger role of the Government officials, power politics and failure to develop local participation. While rural development cannot do without an inflow of resources from outside the area, there is no reason why it should not be accompanied from the outside with a built-in policy of contributions in kind, if not in cash, from the local beneficiaries and subsequent mobilization at source of at least a part of the gains from the development. The failure to adopt such a policy has resulted in Community Development Program leading to a revolution in rising expectations that seek fulfillment from outside instead of on self-help and reverting to stagnation when the initial help given from outside stops. Thus, the psychology of self-sustaining and self-accelerating development fails to take roots when rural development is based on populist slogans of State grants and subsidies that are not accompanied by local contribution or mobilization of local resources. The IRD plans for providing infrastructure in the specified area in respect of education, health, water supply, sanitation, drainage, transport and communication; energy and fuel; market places, storage facilities, soil and water conservation, afforestation and minor irrigation; community buildings, and training facilities to impart technical and managerial skills to attract rural youths to farm and non-farm sector. Alleviating Poverty The Herculean task of alleviating rural poverty cannot be accomplished through piecemeal effort and in isolation of total development of rural areas/rural economy. The entire planning exercise is, therefore, required to be geared up in favor of [i] optimum utilization of the growth potential of the villages to increase income, employment, and production [ii] ensuring a proportionate gain of development to the weaker sections of the society [iii] fulfilling the minimum needs of the people [iv] augmenting the duration and productivity of employment in their existing occupations,inter alia,through upgradation of technology, imparting required skills and setting up of non-exploitative institutions for credit, marketing and services [v] alleviating chronic unemployment through employment on public works [vi] building up of social and economic infrastructure [vii] reorienting existing institutions and organizations in order to protect the interest of the poor [viii] building up of appropriate organizations of the rural poor especially to protect them from the exploitation, [ix] promotion of a progressively more egalitarian structure of ownership of assets. Growth Center Experiences of various rural development programs introduced in the earlier Five Year Plans have shown that a mere project approach or a sectoral approach is not adequate to lead to an overall development of the rural area and distribution of benefits to local population, particularly the weaker sections of the society. The magnitude of unemployment and poverty and the potential for development of farm and non-farm sector varies widely among regions and, also, within regions. Different areas in the country are at different levels of development and have varying degrees of development potential depending on resources and endowments. The efforts have to be made to make the programs area specific and utilize the local endowments for growth, social justice and full employment. Besides, effort has to be made to plan for integration of various programs and establish appropriate linkages for optimal utilization of local endowments consistent with the Plan objectives, local needs/aspirations and environmental balance. The Growth Center exercise, in this endeavor, can be an effective instrument in improving the well-being of the rural population. The Growth Center project can provide blueprints indicating the possible locations for education, health and such other facilities. Based on the principle of “equal accessibility”, the Growth Center approach can bring several community facilities like health, education, transport and communication, local administration etc. within easy reach of all the population. These Growth Centers should be equipped with all the required facilities, which may help the rural population to get their work done in the area itself rather than visiting cities/towns, viz. [i] a permanent training center to impart practical and vocational training in the field of agriculture, rural/cottage industries, agro-based industries and business and service sectors, [ii] a mobile training-cum-demonstration unit to provide on-the-spot training, repair services and maintenance facilities for agricultural and industrial machineries [iii] a marketing-cum-warehousing facilities that can provide safe storage and efficient marketing of farm produce and products of cottage industries [iv] forest and grass nursery to raise forests, fruits, fuel and fodder [v] a developmental school based on the “ earning while learning” principle and to develop a cadre of self-employed and dedicated workers to take care of human, animal, plant, soil health and climate change [vi] a residential component to provide basic housing facilities for workers in the project area. This would need Intensive research and investigation to [i] identify the existing areas which could be developed as Growth Centers together with their associate areas in terms of an economic base and a range of population [ii] determine the suitability of population range [say 10,000 to 25,000] in a cluster of 15 to 20 villages for the purpose of making the Growth Center viable [iii] understand inhibiting social factors and anomalies [iv] determine norms of viable village communities in terms of economic investments and social amenities and effectiveness of community institutions like the panchayats, cooperatives [v] suggest eventually, as may be necessary, lines of possible change in the structure and base unit of planning and administration. Management Input It is the implementation of IRD program that is posing most formidable managerial challenges even when financial and material inputs are not serious constraints. While the KVIC, Handlooms, Handicrafts, Coir, Sericulture, DRDAs, DICs and public sector banks have been for many years to play their role, none of them and all taken together have demonstrated the level of management and managerial expertise necessary to manage programs of the magnitude and diversity that the IRD envisages. The Management Institutes including IIM, IRMA, NIBM, NIRD, among others, can endeavor to understand and overcome the managerial deficiencies existing in the above referred develop-oriented agencies already involved in planning and implementing their mandated programs having organic link with the IRD. Given the right attitudes and motivations, many of the scientific disciplines can be applied to resolve problems of rural development. There are institutions, such as Anand Milk Union Limited and BharatiyaAgro Industries Foundation which have recruited professional managers and applied the scientific principles of management development with successin the field of rural development. The Management institutions can devote some more attention to the economic, social and technical problems of rural development. Personnel coming out of these institutes should get involved in understanding the problems of rural areas and bridging the growing rural-urban gap, if a major confrontation on one day is to be avoided. Time is ripe to search practicable ways and meansso that the talents of the personnel coming out from these institutions can be profitably used in rural areas. These personnel can be provided a short-term orientation training on specific subjects viz. block and district level planning, managing agriculture and village industries, helping to man the district industries centers, and contributing to the efficient management of minimum needs in areas of health, education, housing, water supply etc. In case of minimum needs, it is necessary to provide an organic link with programs of all other Government departments and ministries [State and Central] through effective coordination and ensure that the organizational, procedural, and system problems are tackled in a methodical way and the concerned authorities are encouraged to see that the benefits reach the intended target groups. Communication System Development is above all a human process and not just a mechanical or technological change. Development does not mean the construction of physical structures, installation of machines or adoption of latest technology. In the ultimate analysis, it is the development of the people which requires creating in them the awareness of their surroundings, understanding of their problems, identification by them the opportunities available for a better life, a capacity to work out what needs to be done and formulating programs to resolve problems and fulfilling their needs, goals and aspirations. Thus, for the development of the people, what is required is education of all the rural households that can inspire them for a better living. This is the reason why in program of the Community Development in 1953, high priority was accorded to social education amongst men, women and youths and to extension media as a basis of community action in the field of agriculture and other aspects of rural life. However, in recent years in the field of rural development more emphasis has been placed on the hardware of the physical programs and financial expenditure as compared with social education. A more comprehensive program of rural communication is required to deal with rural programs covering all sectors of the rural economy and all sections of the rural society. The content, means, methods and techniques of such rural communication programs need to be carefully designed and institutions established. For reaching these programs to the remote corners of the country, a number of techniques could be successfully employed, such as [i] visits to villages, arranging meetings and seminars, organization of demonstrations on farms [ii] distribution of publicity materials like posters and leaflets [iii] use of mass media communication like films, radio and television, especially the community radio, rural forum and instructional television experiments [iv] training programs for farmers, artisans and rural leaders including village women and youths [v] exhibitions in the villages, at rural training institutes and agricultural universities [vi] mobilization of rural institutions like Mahilamandals, Yuvakmandals, cooperative institutions and PRIs. For communication to be effective, the communication system must work hand-in-hand with the development workers. The development worker knows what needs to be communicated but perhaps not how to communicate. The technology and programs to be communicated form a part of what is called the stock in trade of the development works. Development is a micro-process where as mass media of communication involves certain amount of centralization. What is, therefore, required is decentralization and localization of the media of mass communication. Communication policy must be viewed as an integral part of the development policy. For every development program there should be a communication component. Appropriate communication system may have to be put in place to address local problems of rural development as identified by the people and implementing the suggestions arrived by the consensus of the people at local level to yield better results. Effective MIS The Management Information System [MIS] in case of IRD is to be made most effective as the MIS is a process through which the monitoring authority of the IRD has to get proper feedback from grassroots at reasonable time lags that can facilitate him to take immediate corrective steps to plug the loopholes and minimize the leakages from the scheme. Besides, it provides him with the information regarding the impact of the scheme in respect of important variables which could be analyzed on time and placed before the policy makers for introducing necessary changes, if any, in the policy and implementation of the IRD keeping the overall national objective in view. Experience suggests that the performance formats developed by the district level authorities for calling the periodic information concentrate more on physical and financial progress of the IRD. While not much information is provided which would help the monitoring authorities to understand the real factors leading to lower or exceptionally higher achievements in relation to targets, the formats do not provide data and information on important variables and measurable indicators like output, employment, income, quality of life etc. These do not provide adequate feedback to the central monitoring authority for initiating corrective measures. The MIS for IRD calls for strengthening and capacity building of the existing organizational set-up, and redesigning the monitoring system. An effective MIS for IRD requires collection, compilation and analysis of the data and information by qualified and trained personnel at each decision-making level. Adequate investment in putting in place appropriate computerized MIS and trained staff is the need of the hour.

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