Rural development: Changing paradigms and approaches
Since independence the agenda of rural development has been at the topmost priority of the government and its various agencies. The paradigms related to rural development have been adjusted according to the economic policies, contemporary challenges and the political ideologies.
After 1991, the country adhered to the agenda of liberalization, privatization and globalization. The country witnessed the roll back of the state and the void created by this roll back is envisioned to be filled by private players (market) and civil society. This roll back of the state and augmentation in the role of market and civil society has resulted in change in the paradigms and approaches in almost every sphere, including rural development. The other formidable challenges of the 21st century like climate change and ecological degradation have also influenced these paradigms and approaches.
The article underlines the changes that have taken place in the paradigms and approaches pertaining to rural development. This is done by a comparative analysis of the paradigms and approaches in pre and post reform era.
From 1947 to 1991
During this era although the strategies related to rural development witnessed the alteration as per the requirements and the political ideology. However commonality during this period was the fact that the onus of rural development was assumed to be the sole responsibility of the government and its various agencies. Thus any attempt by market or civil society in this direction was seen as an act of philanthropy.
1950’s and 60’s
Soon after independence the importance of rural development was realized. The community based approach was adopted and the Community Development Program (1952) and National Extension Scheme (1953) were launched in this context. These programs were inclusive and extensive in nature as the entire requirements at a Block level were taken into account. The Block Development Officers (B.D.Os) aided by the extension officers were given the responsibility to implement different developmental schemes at the ground level.
Community development program (CDP) and National extension scheme (NES) failed to create the desired impact. The bureaucratic approach failed to evoke local people’s participation and involvement, thus could not produce the desired impact.
In 1957, Balwant Rai Metha committee was appointed with the aim to examine the working of CDP and NES. The committee recommended decentralization and people’s participation in the rural development through elected representative. Pt Nehru, the then prime minister, took special interest and more than 2 lakh Panchayats were created. However this initiative received a setback after the death of Pt. Nehru in mid sixties. Moreover the faced acute food crisis during this period thus the focus shifted from decentralization and people’s participation to increase the food production. Thus the period observed ascendency in the centralizing tendencies.
Late 1960’s and early 70’s
It was realized that the programs and schemes related to the rural development benefitted most, the upper section and elites in society. The vulnerable and marginalized section of the society could not accrue the benefits of these schemes and remained in the yoke of the deprivation.
Therefore the “Target based approach” was adopted in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The schemes and programs which targeted weaker section and specific area were launched during this period. Thus following important programs were launched during this period:
Command Area Development Program
Desert Area Development Program
Draught Prone Area Development
Program Small Farmers Development Program
Marginal Farmer Development Program
These programs also failed to produce the desired impact. Duplication, overlapping, lack of proper coordination among different agencies, top down approach, red tapeism, bureaucratic apathy, lack of political will and paucity of pressure from the below were the major factors responsible for the failure.
Late 1970s and early 80’s
By late 1970’s it was realized that a holistic and multi-prong approach was required to address the agenda of rural development. The earlier approach of targeting different sectors was considered parochial and thus an integrated approach for rural development was adopted. In this context Integrated Rural Development Program (I.R.D.P) was launched in 1978. In order to ensure coordination between different agencies and avoid duplication, District Rural Development Agency (D.R.D.A) was set up to be headed by district officer.
However the issues like bureaucratic apathy, lack of political will and paucity of pressure from the below could not be eliminated which resulted in the inability of these programs to achieve the desired impact.
Developmental paradigms in post 1991 era
The 1991 reforms have created a paradigm shift in the approaches related to the development in general and rural development in particular. The following are the major features of the changed approach towards rural development.
From bureaucratic to network approach
Before the 1991 the government was considered to be the only actor responsible for the rural development. However with the roll back of the state; market and civil society are also considered as the prominent actor which should contribute to the rural development. Thus in the pre reform where only the government through its various agency and bureaucracy was considered capable and responsible for the rural development, in the post reform era the rural development has become the responsibilities of the multiple actors i.e. state, market and civil society. The state, market and civil society has different strengths, thus it is envisaged that they should adopt the role in the developmental process as per their strengths and complementing each other. Thus a synergy between the three actors is envisioned in order to accelerate the pace of rural development in the post reform era.
From centralization to decentralization and making democracy more engaging
The thrust in the post reform era is to move towards decentralization and making democracy more engaging by evoking people’s participation at all levels. The 73rd amendment of the constitution, which gives constitutional status to Panchayati Raj Institutions, could be seen in this context.
From bureaucratic approach to PPP and CPPP
To accelerate the pace of rural development and for equitable distribution of the benefits of the local resources in accountable and transparent manner, the thrust is on engaging communities also in the public private partnership projects. Thus Public Private Partnership (PPP) model should change to Community Public Private Partnership (CPPP) model. The recent incidents of Nandigram and Singrur have further accelerated the need to incorporate this approach in rural development.
From Outlays to Outcomes
In the post reform era the approach of rural development has shifted from “outlays to outcomes”. Outlays refers to the procedures, structures and functions required to achieve a desired goal, while Outcome refers to the final desired goals. For example if low literacy rate is a issue in a particular area then, creation of educational infrastructure is considered as Outlay while enhanced literacy rate of the area is the Outcome. Earlier the governmental agencies were made accountable for only the Outlays, but not the approach has shifted to make them accountable for Outcomes as well. The best example of this approach is recently designed National Rural Livelihood Mission. Thus not just the proper implementation of the various schemes and program but their desired impact on the society has gained prominence.
From hardware to hardware cum software approach
In the pre reform era the hardware approach was adopted for rural development. As per this approach the setting up of physical infrastructure and institutions like schools, hospitals etc were considered most important for the development. However in the post reform era it is realized that hardware approach of setting up physical infrastructure and institutions is necessary but not sufficient for the rural development. Thus the quality of goods and services delivered by these structures, their ease of access, human skills involving these institutions etc have now gained equal importance.
Therefore the shift is from hardware approach to hardware cum software approach which now focuses not merely on the physical existence of structures but also on their interaction with the society and delivery quality of goods and services by them.
From rural development to sustainable rural development
In the 21st century the climate change and ecological degradation has also influenced the paradigms of rural development. It is now realized that until and unless the rural development paradigm incorporates the dimension of environment protection it cannot continue to exist for longer duration. Thus keeping in mind the interests of the present generation as well that of the forthcoming generations the concept of sustainable rural development has gained wide acceptance.