A rural development programme aims at three things: economic development of the village community; restoration of ecological balance in the village; and improvement of economic and social conditions of the resource poor and disadvantaged sections of the village community through access to income generating opportunities. Today the world over, the rural development process is undergoing a paradigm shift: the old top-down approach is being replaced by a bottom-up approach in which the community is empowered and mobilized for implementing sustainable development projects. Non-government organizations (NGOs) play a significant role in the whole process. Even where government departments implement projects, they do so as a project implementing agency (PIA) adopting a flexible approach rather than a rigid bureaucratic approach.
Our research focuses on monitoring and evaluating rural development programmes in diverse areas such as development of women and children in rural areas (DWACRA), watershed programmes, water and sanitation programmes, Indira Awas Yojana, self-help groups, and land reclamation programmes. Some studies have also covered employment generation schemes such as Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY), and Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), etc. In all such research role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) is emphasized.
We have developed a methodology of developing sustainability indices for evaluation of Sodic Land Reclamation Projects using data on land reclamation, crop production, technology dissemination, institutional development and socio-economic development. This methodology was applied to World Bank sponsored Sodic Land Reclamation Projects (SLRC) implemented during various phases.
We have argued that in the present circumstances, for the effective implementation of rural development programmes, the PRIs need to be assigned a greater role than is the case today. PRIs represent the power structure of the community. Ignoring them leads to various risks. At the moment PRIs are acting only as the lowest level executive bodies in the government set up, responsible for execution of various types of policies and programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development without a clear understanding of the goals and strategies. The usual processes of development are centralized and bureaucratic. In the interest of rural development it is of utmost importance to change the role of PRIs. Let the Gram Panchayats develop their own visions, missions and strategies. As of now they are acting as bodies to recommend names of beneficiaries under different schemes adopted by the Ministry of Rural Development. They should be empowered to prioritize the needs of the local people and allot resources to different schemes according to their own priorities.
Dr. A. K. Sharma
Professor of Sociology
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur