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The term ‘rural development’ signifies overall development of rural areas to improve the quality of life of rural people. According to Malcolm J. Moseley, Rural development is the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people living in rural areas, often relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas.
Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi has stated that “The future of India lies in its village”. India lives in its villages, and while the cities have grown immensely over the last 25 years, rural areas have not seen that kind of development. For India’s economy to be strong, the rural economy needs to grow. India is predominately an agricultural country and farming is their main occupation as 68.84% (according to the 2011 Census) of its population still live in rural areas. This enormous population contributes for more than 50% of the nation’s GDP. Most of the raw materials used in industries are agricultural products which come from the rural population.
Importance of Rural Development in Indian Economy
Rural economy has traditionally been associated with agriculture. The performance of agriculture sector, therefore, plays a vital role in the economic growth of our country.
India is among the top five producers in the world of rice, wheat, groundnuts, coffee, tobacco, spices, sugar, tea, jute, cotton, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables.
India also produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and is the largest fruits producer and the second largest vegetable producer in the world – potato being the principal vegetable.
From a nation dependent on food imports to feed its population, India today is not only self-sufficient in grain production but also has a substantial reserve. The progress made by agriculture in the last four decades has been one of the biggest success stories of free India and these are the outcomes of systematic plans and periodic schemes by the government of India.
Role of Five-Year Plans in Rural Development
During the plan periods, there have been shifting strategies for rural development in India. Such as
The First Plan (1951-56) was a period when desired changes in the social and economic life of the rural areas were sought through comprehensive programme known as Community Development Programme was launched. Emphasis was given to the development of agriculture, irrigation, power, transport, communication, education, health and employment.
The Second Five Year Plan extended the community development activities all over the country with the inception of Panchayati Raj in 1959. The Khadi and Village Industries Programme and Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP) were the major programmes of rural reconstruction during this Plan Period.
India’s eleventh five year plan and the on-going twelfth plan (2012-2017) has put added emphasis on inclusive growth and as such these two plans are fundamentally different from all the earlier five year plans. The role of the government, in general, had a shift from being the provider, to the facilitator of development processes by creating right types of institutional infrastructure and an environment conducive to broad-based economic development.
Major Rural Development Schemes
Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) The programme was launched by the Centre in March 1976 as a major instrument of the government to alleviate poverty. Its main feature was to enable, selected families to cross the poverty line in a given time-frame by taking up self-employment in various activities like agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry.
AntyodayaYojanaThis programme was initiated by the Government of Rajasthan on 2nd October, 1977 for special assistance to persons living below the poverty line (BPL). It was later on picked up by the then Janata government at the centre in 1978. The idea was to select five of the poorest families from each village every year and help them in their economic betterment.
Training Rural Youths for Self-Employment (TRYSEM) This scheme was launched in 1979 to provide technical skills (training) to rural youths (between 18-35 years) living below the poverty line, to enable them to seek employment in fields of agriculture, industry, services and business activities.
JawaharRozgarYojana (JRY)  This programme came into existence in April 1989 with the merger of the NREP and the RLEGP. Under this scheme, it was expected to provide atleast one member of each poor family (BPL family) an employment for 50 to 100 days in a year at a work near his/her residence. About 30 per cent of the jobs under this programme were reserved for women. The scheme was implemented through Village Panchayats.
Indira AwaasYojana (IAY) Started in the year 1995, IAY is a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development to provide houses to the poor in the rural areas. The objective of the Indira AwaasYojana is primarily to help construction/upgradation of dwelling units of members of SCs/STs, freed bonded labourers, minorities in the below poverty line and other rural households by providing them a lump sum financial assistance.
PradhanMantri Gram SadakYojana (PMGSY) It was launched on 25th December 2000 as a fully funded centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country. The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) It was notified on September 7, 2005. The objective of the Act is to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Challenges in Rural Development
Economic planners argue that problem of rural development is not merely of development of rural areas but the development of rural communities to set aside ignorance and poverty as well as assist the process of creating self-reliant communities.
·       The financial, manpower and managerial resources devoted to the implementation of rural development programmes are utterly inadequate. Better implementation of rural development programmes could not ensure because those responsible for actual implementation are paid reasonably low, inappropriately trained, and less motivated.
·       In many cases, instruments of rural development are not properly selected, and their levels are not consistent. This results in the wastage of valuable public resources, and unnecessary delays in achieving the objectives. The political parties have a vital role to play in rural development. But unfortunately this role has not been effectively realised by any democratic political party so far. The political parties, today, are guided more by party interest rather than by national interests.
·       The concept of inclusive growth has been largely welcomed but there has been criticism by some analysis who argue that putting emphasis only on inclusive growth could make the country an under performer in the region.
·       While the government has been giving top priority to rural development and is spending thousands of crores through various schemes, the concern is that not all the money allocated in the rural development schemes reaches the beneficiary. As a result, the pace of progress has remained stunted and the poor continue to suffer. Absence of people’s organisations to redress grievances; monitor implementation of development programs and functioning as pressure groups.
Enhancing Rural Growth and Way-out
Rural development in India has been subjected to a lot of experimentation. From community development approach to integrated development and more recently to an inclusive; the directions kept on shifting. Major strategies that should be adopted are
·       The rural development programmes need to be demand driven rather than supply driven. One of the major drawbacks of the rural development programmes in India is that they are supply driven seldom based on the felt needs of the communities.
·       People’s participation should be ensured in every aspect right from planning to implementation, monitoring and evaluation so that their needs are fully incorporated while formulating any developmental strategy for them.
·       Provision of adequate resources to the people is also a necessary prerequisite for the developmental programmes to succeed. Adequate resources in terms of finances, man power and infrastructure should be made available to the people and the institutions to work effectively.

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