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Rural Development Program: An Introspect Towards Reform in 21st Century



"Just as the whole universe is contained in the self, so is India contained in the villages." --- Mahatama Gandhi.The Rural development generally refers to the process of improving the quality of life and economic welfare of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. There is an urgent need for a second green revolution since the first green revolution has run out of steam, and has been eaten up by population increases, and significantly enough has caused massive environmental side effects, including water and pollution. The second green revolution should in our view include: agriculture R&D, shift to central and eastern U.P./Orissa/Bihar, more efficient pricing and use of water, fertilizer, and electricity and up scaling rural agro industry, including supply chain management, etc. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is considered as a "Silver Bullet" for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment, by way of generating demand for productive labour force in villages. It provides an alternative source of livelihood which will have an impact on reducing migration, restricting child labor, alleviating poverty, and making villages self-sustaining through productive assets creation such as road construction, cleaning up of water tanks, soil and water conservation work, etc. for which it has been considered as the largest anti-poverty programme in India.In this paper, based on the secondary data, an attempt has been made to comprehensively understand the development effort to rebuild the rural life and livelihood on the basis of various secondary data. Furthermore, it focuses on various approaches for rural development including Gandhian approach.
Electronic copy available at:
Jasmine Bhuyan
Research scholar (UGC-NET (JRF))
Dept- Business administration
Berhampur University
“Just as the whole universe is contained in the self, so is India contained in the
villages.”-Mahatama Gandhi
The Rural development generally refers to the process of improving the quality of life
and economic welfare of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. .
There is an urgent need for a second green revolution since the first green revolution has run
out of steam, and has been eaten up by population increases, and significantly enough has
caused massive environmental side effects, including water and pollution. The second green
revolution should in our view include: agriculture R&D, shift to central and eastern
U.P./Orissa/Bihar, more efficient pricing and use of water, fertilizer, and electricity and up
scaling rural agro industry, including supply chain management, etc.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is
considered as a “Silver Bullet” for eradicating rural poverty and unemployment, by way of
generating demand for productive labour force in villages. It provides an alternative source of
livelihood which will have an impact on reducing migration, restricting child labor,
alleviating poverty, and making villages self-sustaining through productive assets creation
such as road construction, cleaning up of water tanks, soil and water conservation work, etc.
For which it has been considered as the largest anti-poverty programme in India.
In this paper, based on the secondary data, an attempt has been made to
comprehensively understand the development effort to rebuild the rural life and livelihood on
the basis of various secondary data. Furthermore, it focuses on various approaches for rural
development including Gandhian approach.
Keywords: Rural development; Employment Guarantee Act; self-sustaining; Gandhian
Electronic copy available at:
Rural development is essentially a part of the process of structural transformation
characterized by diversification of the economy away from agriculture. This process is
facilitated by rapid agricultural growth, at least initially, but leads ultimately to significant
decline in the share of agriculture to total employment and output and in the proportion of the
rural population to total population [Johnston (1970)]. Rural development, as such, is not an
end in itself but a means to an end and can provide the basis for a sustained and equitable
economic growth of all sectors of the economy.
Rural - Is an area, where the people are engaged in primary industry in the sense that
they produce things directly for the first time in cooperation with nature as stated by
Srivastava (1961). Rural areas are sparsely settled places away from the influence of large
cities and towns. Such areas are distinct from more intensively settled urban and suburban
areas, and also from unsettled lands such as outback or wilderness. People live in village, on
farms and in other isolated houses. Rural areas can have an agricultural character, though
many rural areas are characterized by an economy based on logging, mining, oil and gas
exploration, or tourism. Lifestyles in rural areas are different than those in urban areas,
mainly because limited services are available. Governmental services like law enforcement,
schools, fire departments, and libraries may be distant, limited in scope, or unavailable.
Utilities like water, sewer, street lighting, and garbage collection may not be present. Public
transport is sometimes absent or very limited; people use their own vehicles, walk or ride an
animal. A society or community can be classified as rural based on the criteria of lower
population density, less social differentiation, less social and spatial mobility, slow rate of
social change, etc. Agriculture would be the major occupation of rural area
Development: It refers to growth, evolution, stage of inducement or progress. This
progress or growth is gradual and had sequential phases. Always there is increasing
differentiation. It also refers to the overall movement towards greater efficiency and complex
Rural Development (RD) is a process, which aims at improving the well being and
self realization of people living outside the urbanized areas through collective process.
According to Agarwal (1989), rural development is a strategy designed to improve the
economic and social life of rural poor.
Rural development is a dynamic process, which is mainly concerned with the rural areas.
These include agricultural growth, putting up of economic and social infrastructure, fair
wages as also housing and house sites for the landless, village planning, public health,
education and functional literacy, communication etc. Rural development is a national
necessity and has considerable importance in India because of the following reasons.
1. About three-fourth of India's population live in rural areas, thus rural development is
needed to develop nation as whole.
2. Nearly half of the country's national income is derived from agriculture, which is major
occupation of rural India.
3. Around seventy per cent of Indian population gets employment through agriculture.
4. Bulks of raw materials for industries come from agriculture and rural sector.
5. Increase in industrial population can be justified only in rural populations motivation and
increasing the purchasing power to buy industrial goods.
6. Growing disparity between the urban elite and the rural poor can lead to political
The main objective of the rural development program is to raise the economic and
social level of the rural people. The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) spearheads the
country‟s efforts to reduce poverty in the rural areas. Until recently, its work was divided
among three departments: (i) Department of Rural Development (ii) Department of Land
Resources (iii) Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation. In July 2011
1. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS):
This aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing
hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult
members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. (Budgetary allocation in 2012-13: INR
33,000 billion)
2. National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM): The basic objective of the National
Rural Livelihood Mission is to create efficient and effective institutional platforms of the
rural poor that enable them to increase their household incomes through sustainable
livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services. It plans to cover 70
million households living below the poverty line (BPL) in rural India. (Budgetary
allocation in 2012-13: INR 3,563 billion)
3. Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP): The main objectives of the
IWDP are to restore ecological balance in a watershed by harnessing, conserving and
developing degraded natural resources such as soil, water and vegetative cover, and
thereby, help provide sustainable livelihoods to the local people. (Budgetary allocation in
2012-13: INR 2,744 billion)
4. Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY): This scheme provides financial grants to rural BPL
families and the next of-kin of defence personnel killed in action for construction of
houses and up gradation of existing unserviceable kutcha houses. (Budgetary allocation in
2012-13: INR 9,966 billion)
5. National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP): The goal of this scheme is to
provide adequate safe water for domestic uses on a sustainable basis. (Budgetary
allocation in 2012-13: INR 10,500 billion)
6. Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA): The Total Sanitation Campaign, now renamed as the
Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, assists Gram Panchayats to achieve comprehensive sanitation
coverage. (Budgetary allocation in 2012-13: INR 3,500 billion)
In the post-Independence period, the Government wanted to uplift the socio-
economic condition (SEC) of their people who mainly depended upon forest products and
daily labour. Another important component of the governmental perspective was to settle the
rural population as agriculture population. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act, 2005, guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to any rural
household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work. The Act has come
into force with effect from February, 2006 in 200 districts initially and later on, it was
extended to all the rural districts of India from the financial year 2008-09. It has the potential
to increase the purchasing power of the rural poor, reduce distress migration and to create
useful assets in rural India. Also, it can foster social and gender equality as 23 per cent
workers under the scheme are Scheduled Castes, 17 per cent Scheduled Tribes and 50 per
cent women. In 201011, 41 million households were employed on NREGA worksites.
MGNREGS is the largest rural development programme in the country in terms of its reach
and budget. A vast majority of MGNREGS works are „green‟ in nature given their focus on
the regeneration and conservation of natural resources and ecosystems and their main
emphasis being on land (farmlands, forests, pastures and waste lands) and water resources. In
fact, since the initiation of MGNREGS more than 50 percent projects are related to water
through implementation of water conservation works, flood control, irrigation, drought
proofing, renovation of traditional water bodies and micro-irrigation.38 Their main
developmental consequences are higher crop productivities and production.39 Drought
proofing activities, floods management works and vegetation belts planted in the coastal
areas also reduce the potential damage due to extreme weather events. There is ample
evidence that even basic MGNREGS works have led to the regeneration of degraded soil,
land (farms, forests and pastures) and water resources and the conservation of the assets
created.40 Their green outcomes include reducing soil erosion, improving soil fertility,
increasing biodiversity, augmentation of surface and ground water resources for irrigation
and household use and increasing carbon sequestration. A number of such outcomes have
been highlighted in many states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan,
Kerala and Maharashtra
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MG-NREGA) has been in
news mainly due to corruption or inefficiency. The country has spent close to Rs 40,000 crore
this fiscal but a large number of urban middle class people and opinion leaders don‟t know
what to make of it. Cynicism apart, the rights-based scheme has proved to be a game-changer
in rural India despite mixed success.
The scheme has been relatively more successful at places where peoples‟ movements or civil
society organizations are strong, or at places where the district administration is sympathetic
and efficient. At many places, the rural poor have been demanding inflation linked wages.
They cite the example of the industry and government sectors where salaries go up with the
price index. In Rajasthan thousands of men and women have taken to the street to press for
demands like wage revision, separate work measurement for every individual and quick
payment of wages. They are also demanding strict action against the corrupt officials and
The cost of any new work has been borne by farmers as the wage payments under the
NREGA are delayed; the farmers have to pay labourers who do jobs under them. Moreover,
they have to bribe the sarpanch, to get the job allotted to them. The cycle of corruption,
involving the sarpanch, the panchayat secretary and the block CEO and the sub- engineer is
quite vicious. The situation of poor‟s in our country today, is one of zero- credibility and
shame for us. If the condition will remain so then we will become rich in some spheres but
deep we‟ll remain poor.
In the beginning, India‟s approach to the development agenda in general and that rural
development in particular was ‟top-down‟ in nature. This implied, all developmental
decisions were taken/ monitored/ implemented centrally. The main thrust for development
was laid on agriculture, industry, communication, education, health and allied sectors. In
short, India‟s approach to rural development, initially, was one of centralization. Eventually,
India‟s strategy to development underwent a historic shift in the 1990s, that is, from the
policy of „centralization‟ to one of „decentralization‟. These anomalies are symptomatic of
the fact that even the policy of decentralization, that is, that of the „bottom-up‟ approach
which has been India‟s current approach to rural development in 21stcentury is not free from
its own share of inadequacies. This calls for a review and re-examination of India‟s approach
to rural development in present times. To discuss various strategies of development, various
approaches have been evolved. Among them Gandhian approach to development is important
According to Gandhi, the main purpose of rural development should be self-sufficiency. For
this he has emphasized the development of Swadeshi Mentality among the villagers. Gandhi
is of the opinion that in the evolution of human being cooperated and mutual aid plays a vital
role. Thus he has motivated to work among small rural group, for in such group there is no
dearth of cooperation. Gandhi has said on Gram Swaraj, “Swaraj of my dream is poor man‟s
swaraj. 6. With a view to establishing such an ideal society, Gandhi has put emphasis on the
method of Sarvodaya. For the all-round development of the present society, internal
metamorphosis of human nature is very urgent. For this end, no earthly institutions can play
any pivotal role. In that case internal change of human being can play the vital role. Which
the state can do is to give only its sanction. Gandhi has said that the method of rural
development can be properly followed through the Panchayat. Thus Gandhi has enlisted
some other functions excluding the conventional functions, say, legislative, judiciary and
executive functions for the Panchayats. These functions can be described in the following
Every worker of the Panchayat will wear Khadi. They would abhor castism in their
social life and regard would be paid to all religious.
Every member of the Panchayat would know every inhabitant of his locality
Every Panchayat would make arrangement of training for the villagers and maintain
register of the name of the trained persons.
iv)Every worker should enlist his daily programme.
Every Panchayat should make arrangement so that every village would be self-
sufficient through agricultural means.
Panchayat will give training on sanitation and hygiene and try to eradicate various
Panchayat will make arrangement of education for villagers. Basic elements of the
education should be coined from daily life.
Panchayat should enlist the name of the villagers in the voters‟ list.
Panchayat would arrange training for its own staff.
The village is the basic unit of the Gandhian ideal social order. Gandhi succinctly pointed
out, “If the village perishes India will perish too…. Some of the principles of Gandhian
Gandhi firmly believes that village republics can be built only through decentralisation of
social and political power. In such a system decision-making power will be vested in the
Village Panchayat rather than in the State and the national capital. The representatives would
be elected by all adults for a fixed period of five years. The elected representatives would
constitute a council, called the Panchayat.
Such a decentralised polity implies a decentralised economy. It can be attained only through
self-sufficiency at the village level. The village should be self-sufficient as far as its basic
needs food, clothing, and other necessities are concerned. The village has to import
certain things which it cannot produce in the village. “We shall have to produce more of what
we can, in order thereby to obtain in exchange, what we are unable to produce”.
Physical labor occupies a central place in the Gandhian concept of the self-sufficient village.
In this respect he was highly influenced by Rus-kin and Tolstoy. According to Gandhi, each
man must do physical labor to earn his bread. Physical labor is necessary for moral discipline
and for the sound development of the mind. Intellectual labor is only for one‟s own
satisfaction and one should not demand payment for it.
Gandhiji maintained that industrialization would help only a few and will lead to
concentration of economic power. Industrialization leads to passive or active exploitation of
the villages. It encourages competition. Large scale production requires marketing.Marketing
means profit-seeking through an exploitative mechanism.Moreover, industrialization replaces
manpower and hence it adds to unemployment. In a country like India, where millions of
laborers in the villages do not get work for even six months in a year, industrialization will
not only increase unemployment but force laborers to migrate to urban areas. This will ruin
villages.According to Gandhi, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern
machines and tools that they could make and could afford to use. Only they should not be
used as a means of exploitation of others.
Gandhiji was not against the institution of private property. But he wanted to restrict the right
of private property to what was necessary to yield an honorable livelihood. For the excess he
prescribed the principle of trusteeship.Gandhiji emphasized the principle of trusteeship in
social and economic affairs. He firmly believed that all social property should be held in
trust. The capitalists would take care not only of themselves but also of others. Some of their
surplus wealth would be used for the rest of the society.
1. The financial, manpower and managerial resources devoted to the implementation of rural
development programs are utterly inadequate.
2. Better implementation of rural development programs can be ensured only if those
responsible for actual implementation are paid reasonably well, appropriately trained, and
sufficiently motivated. But this has not been done as yet.
3. It is being increasingly observed that the objectives of one programme conflict with those
of others, and there is no institutional mechanism for reconciling them. Consequently, many
programs utterly fail in fulfilling their objectives. In addition, they also affect other programs.
4. In many cases, instruments of rural development are not properly selected, and their levels
are not consistent with the objectives they seek to achieve. That is results in the wastage of
valuable public resources, and unnecessary delays in achieving the objectives.
5. Honesty, hard work, helping others, thrift and such other virtues indirectly help in
economic development. In the Indian context, not much attention has been paid to this aspect
of development.
6. Observance of rituals, lack of rational decisions in economic matters, spending huge
amounts of money on marriage, birth or death ceremonies, prevalence of the caste system and
the joint family system in the rural areas and illiteracy are some of the factors which arrest
the rural development in India.
7. The political parties have a vital role to play in rural development. But unfortunately this
role has not been effectively realized by any democratic political party so far. The political
parties, today, are guided more by party interests rather than by national interests.
Gandhi advocated decisions by consensus as the main thrust of democratic functioning. At
one time the idea was considered ridiculous, but it is gradually gaining acceptance in
situations while the alternative to consensus is grave and serious. Even the United Nations at
its Security Council has to decide everything by consensus since a single veto can undo a
decision. At the national level, the trend in all the countries is to strike a political consensus
amongst all the parties whenever grave national issues are involved. Gandhi wanted this
system to enter into our culture as a decision-making process in every public affair so that the
minutest may not feel ignored or tyrannized. The Gandhian concept of consensus does not
mean that there should not be any two opinions on an issue or people must have identical
thinking about everything. It only means a process for resolution of all differences, a process
which will substitute the worn-out kernel of democracy with a fresh one with a view to richer
fruition. He advocated a direct democracy or a participatory democracy rather than a
representative one, which has become ingrained in our present system. As power has
concentrated more and more on centralized government, the tooth of the representative
government has sharpened all the more. The government by representation has, however, a
sad commentary everywhere. The representatives after elections hardly represent the people
but only themselves. It is common knowledge how the representatives of the people have
emerged as a class by themselves each having ambition of his own, each motivated by the
power to distribute favors, each lobbying for his own selfish end; and collectively, as a class,
the representatives trying to entrench themselves with more privileges, authority and power.
In the face of power struggle, the people are relegated to a dumping lot, gradually losing the
efficacy of the right to vote a right, no longer a right to make a choice on one's own, but
content with the limited choice as left under the political systems. The result is a negation of
democracy at the grass-root level, which is conceived in his philosophy of Gram Swaraj. The
next question is what should be the quality of "Village Republic' where a participatory
democracy of all people of envisioned. Here lies the crux of Gandhism. Where all systems,
capitalistic, socialistic or communistic, have inevitably resulted in centralization of power
and authority at the apex, the Gandhian concept of Gram Swaraj unleashed a compulsive
force in the opposite direction. He believed in Panchayati Raj, which is certainly not the
concept as enshrined in our constitution, however proudly it may bear the nomenclature of a
Panchayati Raj. The Gandhian concept of Panchayati Raj is not a concept of decentralization
but a pattern of "building from below". The Panchayati system projected in our constitution
with the latest amendments is at best to be termed as a system to Panchayat administration of
centralized governmental power
In fine, the removal of these problems will accelerate the process of rural development in
India. The role of governmental and non-governmental organizations in this regard is, indeed,
commendable. But much remains to be done. If we all work together with undivided attention
in this direction we can surely achieve success. The India of Gandhiji‟s dream would be a
reality. We are living with that hope.
1. Young India, 8-12-1921, p. 406
2. Harijan, 19-2-1938, p. 11
3. Bebbington, A. 1999. Capitals and capabilities: A framework for analyzing peasant
viability, rural livelihoods and poverty. World Development27, 2021-2044.
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5. Shah, S.M., Rural Development, Planning and Reforms, New Delhi, Abhinav Publication,
1977, Pp.40-45.
7. Dr. Schumaker, E.H., „Small is beautiful‟ (1973), quoted by Roy, Ranen in Gandhi‟s
trusteeship Doctrine, published in the Statesman on the 10thOctober, 1998
8. Rudolph and Rudolph, Post-modern Gandhi and other essay, Oxford University Press,
New Delhi 1, 2006, Pp. 29-30.
9. .ibid. P.31. Ambasta, P, P S Vijay Shankar and M Shah (2008): „Two Years of
NREGA:The Road Ahead,Economic and Political Weekly‟, 43(8): 41-50.
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13. EPW Editorial (2008): „Wake-up Call on Rural Employment Guarantee‟,Economic and
Political Weekly, 43(4): 5-6.
14. Jha R, R Gaiha and S. Shankar (2008): „Reviewing the National RuralEmployment
Guarantee Programme‟,Economic and PoliticalWeekly, 43(11): 44-48.
15. Khera, R (2008): „Employment Guarantee Act‟,Economic and PoliticalWeekly, 43(35):
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and Political Weekly, 43(9): 10-13.
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and Political Weekly , 42(45-46): 43-51.
Endogenous Development9
To emphasize comprehensive local development for human rights advocacy,
human development and qualitative progress of living standards based on
environmental conservation and sustainable social development.
To adopt a development approach that promotes inter-industrial relationships
through the comprehensive utilization of local resources, techniques,
industries, human resources, cultures, and networks placing value on mixed
economic working situations. Also, to implement necessary regulations and
instruction to promote cooperation between cities and local economy.
To facilitate community participation in policy-making. To establish local
autonomy through community participation, decentralization and resident
self-governance. At the same time, to develop project implementation
bodies based on regional realities
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Rebuilding Our Villages, Ahmadabad, Navajivan
  • M K Gandhi
Gandhi, M.K., Rebuilding Our Villages, Ahmadabad, Navajivan, 1952, Pp31-32