In India, since the Independence, there has been a concerted effort to reconstruct the rural India and the rural sector of the economy. Prior to this Tagore and Gandhi suggested the development of the villages in their natural surroundings where nature could best attract to the people with its beauty.
Gandhiji wanted total transformation of villages by developing them from within into viable units. Pt. Nehru tried to give practical shape to these ideas through urbanization, industrialization and modern technical knowledge without breaking up the old foundation of the country. As a result, several pilot projects were initiated all over the country which were concerned with the problems of housing, transport, communication, marketing and other infrastructural facilities like irrigation, school and health, etc.
A review of rural development programmes and their strategies in India reveals that its concept has substantially changed with the passage of time. For long rural development meant “expansion, development and modernisation of agriculture” and it was deemed to be synonymous for agricultural development.
Perhaps this idea was based on the assumption that agriculture is the prerequisite of rural way of life. However, this concept changed with the Community Development Programme launched in 1952, which aimed at transforming the traditional way of life for rural communities and assisting people to improve their way of life to meet the constitutional commitment of equity and justice.
In real sense planned effort to rural development was initiated with the launching of Community Development Programme in the early fifties although programme was not very successful but it had promoted the growth of a network of basic extension and development services at the grass root level in village, thereby creating awareness in the rural communities of the potential and means of development which made quicker adoption of major technological advances later in the mid 60’s in agriculture possible.
The benefits that accrued from these programmes were felt more by the better placed farmers and better endowed regions. This increased the regional disparities and the gap between the rich and the poor. Hence, the need was felt acutely to direct the development programmes towards the backward regions and towards the weaker section of the society. The Fourth and Fifth Plans initiated a number of programmes with a view to achieve economic equity and social justice.
The Five Year Plans also included following features aimed at rural development. These are:
(a) Clear cut agricultural development strate
(b) Animal husbandry, dairy and fishery development,
(c) Forestry including development of social forestry,
(d) Agricultural research and education,
(e) Co-operation and credit,
(f) Rural development and poverty alleviate
(g) Irrigation, Commend area development flood control,
(h) Village and small industries, and
(i) Employment, man power planning and boor policy.
On April 1, 1978 Integrated Rural Development Programme was introduced not only to in grate all ongoing programmes pertaining to areas but to launch a rigorous drive for eradicate rural poverty and providing economic benefits landless labourers, marginal farmers and villa artisans.
The major thrust of the Fifth Five Year PI’ (1980-85) was on strengthening the socio-concur infrastructure of development in the rural are alleviating rural poverty and reducing regional parities.
The Ninth Five Year Plan has focused four important dimensions of State Policy-quality of life, generation of productive employment, re gional balances and self-reliance. With the multi- pronged approach adopted by the Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment through a wide range of programmes it is hoped that adequate productive employment will be generated to eradicate rural poverty which would lead to significantly better living conditions, Rural development, thus, implies both the economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation.
Increased participation of people in the rural development process, decentralization and greater access, better enforcement of land reforms and greater access to credit and inputs go a long way in providing the rural people with better prospects for economic development. Improvement in welfare measures like education and health etc constitute the social aspect of the rural development
Eradicating rural poverty, increase in rural employment and productivity constitutes the main tasks of such development.
The term ‘rural development’ is used in a wider connotation which implies the integrated development of rural areas. Here the emerging focus is the human development which strikes a harmonious balance between the individual, the community and the country and which carried the planning to the grass-root level into the hands of rural people, the beneficiaries, who can meaningfully contribute to its formulation and implementation.
The rural development is also area culture specific which provides for alternative regional strategies for spatial- functional organization. The goals of the economic equity, social justice and self-reliance demand that man should be considered as the focus of development and the poor and the deprived should get the top priority. It is well reflected in the World Bank Policy Paper (1975) which states: “Rural development as a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people – the rural poor.
It involves extending the benefits of development to the poorest among those who seek a livelihood in the rural areas. The group includes small scale farmers, tenants and the landless”(World Bank).