“The advent of freedom released a number of forces making for radical changes in the rural areas of India. The introduction of Universal suffrage is a revolutionary measure which has placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the traditionally underprivileged sections of our population, i.e., the village dwellers.
They have awakened from the deep sleep of prejudice, illiteracy and degeneration. With the addition of another great factor of national re-construction Panchayati Raj they have been inspired to develop themselves as healthy and self-supporting community.”
The Community Development Programme, which had its august inauguration in 1952 six years after the independence of our country— is a landmark in the history of the development of rural India and, at the same time, it is a dynamo of inspiration for our future village constructors and social reformers.
The scheme, in a nutshell, aims at providing “first increased employment and increased production by the application of latest methods of agriculture, including horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries etc. and the establishment of subsidiary and cottage industries; secondly self-help and self-reliance and the possible extension of the principle of co-operation, and thirdly, the need for devoting a portion of the vast unutilized time and energy in the countryside for the benefit of the village community.”
There were in 1960, more than two thousand Community Development blocs each one consisting of a hundred villages and they were expected to serve about 194 million villagers all over the country. By now, virtually all of India’s 560,000 villages have come under the Community Development Programme. Huge administrative machinery, engaging hundreds of officials including the ‘Gram Sevak’ units at the base has been created. Villagers are beginning to be aware of the fact that there is a Governmental organization charged with the responsibility of rural development.
Our Indian villagers have been suffering from a chronic disease indebtedness which has been one of the major causes of their economic miseries. According to the Community Development Programme arrangements are made for giving loans to poor and deserving cultivators to be paid back conveniently by easy methods. This had a remarkably encouraging effect. The Indian cultivators, who from ages had been squeezed and exploited by moneylenders and zamindars, are now having a sigh of relief.
It is natural that economic well being leads to social well being. Being economically unworried and unburdened, they can now look to other avenues of their progress social, cultural and moral. Again, backward groups, like Harijans, who were throttled by the high caste ‘moneyed groups’, have been greatly benefited by the agricultural loan- giving system.
“The Development officials, in their understandable eagerness to achieve the set targets and to show quick results have been compelled to ignore the less tangible but more important aim of teaching the villagers to help themselves.” The peasants have to be taught that there are resources at their disposal—such as their own capacity for hard work, their skill, initiative and loyalty to the community and the region.
This objective can be realized only by proper local leadership. Panchayati Raj has already been introduced in a number of States, like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and U.P.
“India’s villages have been changing for well over a hundred years. This fact has been obscured by the myths, which educated Indians, and foreigners have perpetrated about them. Since Independence, the Government has launched a vast programme of developing the country as a whole—and agriculture in particular.
The gigantic hydro-electric projects as well as the minor irrigation works, the development of transport facilities, the determined effort to industrialize, the country, the Community Development Programme and the policy of decentralization will ensure that in the not too-distant future India’s villages will change radically.”