Government of India has taken up a number of wage employment programmes starting with the Rural Manpower Programme in 1960.
Productive absorption of underemployed and surplus labour in rural areas has, in fact, been a major focus of planning for rural development in order to provide direct supplementary wage employment to the rural poor through public works. The following table describes the programmes undertaken by Government of India over a period of time:
There have been a number of evaluation studies of these wage employment programmes. They reveal
» Funds were not utilized in full. Lack of planning; untimely release of funds, both from the Union Government to the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) and from the DRDAs to blocks; and other factors such as inability of the states to generate matching resources were important factors that contributed to low utilization of funds.
» Coverage of villages and the target group was extremely low.
» A large part of the funds was used less in labour intensive activities and more in capital intensive activities. The normative capital-labour ratio was not adhered to.
» Majority of beneficiaries received less than 30 days of wage employment in a year. Non-poor households were also found to have been the beneficiaries of these programmes.
» There was bogus reporting to achieve targets.
» These programmes created income for the rural poor but left very few durable assets.
» The programmes encouraged corruption, both at political and administrative levels.
Fudging of muster rolls and measurement books was common and resulted in loss of funds that could have been otherwise invested in creation of rural infrastructure.
» Participation of women was lower than the stipulated norm of 30 per cent.
» In most cases, contractors were involved and the use of machinery was also reported, though the schemes expressly forbade it.
Independence and after
But a bold, determined intervention of the government in the field of India’s rural development was made when India achieved its independence in 1947. The First Five Year Plan’s observations on Indian rural life are most apt, and they have not lost their validity even today:
“Agriculture is still the mainstay of life for about 70 percent of the population, and productivity in this sector is exceedingly low.
The size of agricultural holdings has progressively diminished; the old cottage and small-scale industries have been decaying, and the rural population which constitutes about 83 percent of the total suffers from chronic underemployment and low incomes. Population has increased by more than 50 percent in the last 50 years, but the growth of alternative occupations either in the rural areas or in the towns has not been on a scale which could absorb this growing population.
In the limited spheres which have registered expansion, the level of productivity and the level of income have naturally been higher. But, for the community as a whole, the economic development of the last few decades has brought no significant improvement in standards of living and opportunities for employment, and has perhaps accentuated to some extent inequalities of income and wealth.
One of the earliest actions of the Government of Independent India was to initiate wide-ranging measures for rural betterment on a nation-wide basis. In 1952, the Community Development programme was started followed a year later by the National Extension Service. To this date the Central Government has launched nearly forty country-wide programmes in the field of rural development.
Programmes like the Minimum Needs Programmes, Tribal Sub-Plan, Integrated Tribal Development Programme, Special Components Plan for Schedule Castes, Integrated Chief Development services, Adult Education Programme, Twenty-point Programme and Non-conventional Energy, Drinking Water and Sanitation and Watershed Development Programmes etc.
It is particularly since the Seventies that national planners turned their attention to the rural poor and began to formulate plans and schemes exclusively for their benefit. The concern for the rural poor began with the era in Indian politics and became its integral part. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Seventh and Eight Plans have laid the utmost emphasis on ameliorating the economic lot of small and marginal farmers and landless labourers.
A recognition that poverty need not remain confined only to the agricultural sector led the Government to formulate programmes in the Sixth Plan (1980-85) for the poor wherever in the sector they are located, and since then the Integrated Rural Development Programme extends tl benefits to poor fishermen, artisans etc.
This distinguishes this programme – and the National Rui Employment Programme – from others which preceded it. The shift in emphasis is wise and urgent called for it one were only to be aware of the high intensity of poverty in rural India even in mid-eighteen.
At the beginning of the Seventh Plan nearly 222 million persons lived below poverty line in rural India as compared to 50.5 million in urban areas. In other words, in terms of percentage, the poverty ratio was 39.9 per cent in rural areas and 27.7 percent in urban areas in 1984-85. During the Seventh Five Year Plan (1985-90) an outlay of Rs. 2642.99 crores had been provided for the integrated Rural Development Programme and the target was to cover 20 million beneficiaries.
The principal concern of the Seventh Five Year Plan was thus removal of poverty. This Plan promised to reduce the poverty-level from 37 percent in 1984-85 to less than 26 in 1989-90 (the terminal year of the Seventh Plan). The Eighth Five Year Plan observed: ‘Elimination of poverty continues to be a major concern of development planning.
Expansion of employment opportunities, augmentation of productivity and income levels d both the under-employed and employed poor would be the main instrument for achieving this object during the Eighth Plan. It reiterated its commitment to Jawahar Rojgar Yojana and Integrated Run Development Programme.
To attack rural poverty, the Government of India has formulated a three-point strategy. First, augment the asset holding of the poor, land reforms measures have been initiated and special programmes of assistance have been launched. Secondly, schemes have been put into operation to augment wage incomes through expansion of employment in rural areas. Thirdly, programmes like Minimum Needs Programme have been launched to improve the poor’s access to important service like health and education.
Distributive justice is today enlivening the national approach to pave alleviation. The Government of India’s annual budget for rural development programmes stands around Rs. 83310 crores in 1995-96.
Important programmes in the field of rural development are enumerated below:
1. Integrated Rural Development Programme
2. Jawahar RozgarYojana (JRY) in which the National Rural Employment Programme and Rural Landle Employment Programme were merged.
3. Employment Assurance Scheme
4. Indira Awas Yojana
5. Million Wells Scheme
6. National Social Assistance Programme which has three components
(a) National Old Age Pension Scheme
(b) National Family Benefit Scheme
(c) National Maternity benefit scheme
7. Operation Black Board
8. Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWACRA).
9. Training of Rural Youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM). Special Area Programmes
10. Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP)
11. Desert Development Programme (DPP)
12. Integrated Wastelands Development Projects (IWDP) Rural Water Supply and Sanitation
13. The National Water Supply and Sanitation programme, started in .1954, was renamed in the nineties as Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission.
14. The Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP).