2.7 The first such initiative was the Community Development Programme started
in 1952. The programme aimed basically at integrated development at the local level
through co-operation of people and convergence of technical knowledge in various
fields. The Community Development Blocks which were created as local level units
for this purpose across the country at that time exist even today and function as field
level administrative units for many rural development programmes at present as
2.8 The second initiative was taken in the country by introducing the measures
for abolition of intermediary institutions and systems of land holdings such as
Zamindari, Jagirdars etc. The systems were highly exploitative and were responsible
for a caste and land-based nexus perpetuating poverty. This was followed by a
comprehensive policy of Land Reforms. The measures undertaken were based on
the consideration that land was the only productive asset in rural areas. Extension of
the ownership of the land to the poor was, therefore, felt to be an obvious factor to
alleviate rural poverty.
2.9 The third measure adopted was the strategy of Five Year Plan for economic
development. There were Plan-specific strategies towards this end. The first Five
Year Plan focussed on ways and means to immediately tackle the food requirement.
The second Five Year Plan emphasized on the Heavy Industries. In this context it
was felt that the Public Sector would be the leader of the industrialization process in
the country through acquiring the much perceived " commanding height". It was also
expected that there would be a trickle-down effect from the growth based on
industrialization. During Third Five Year Plan the emphasis was again on food grain
production through introduction of new technology in agriculture. The result was a
very successful Green Revolution.
Impact of the earlier Initiatives
2.10 While the achievements through many of the efforts were significant, the
overall impact of the efforts was far from satisfactory to tackle the problem of
poverty. Abolition of intermediary system of land tenure was completed with success,
but land reform which is still an on-going process has not yielded desired results in
terms of either growth or social justice. The success of the Green Revolution was
limited to specific areas and the crops. Green Revolution resulted in inter-crop, interpersonal
and inter-regional disparities across the country. The economy of the
country grew over the years showing significant increase in agricultural and industrial
production. The growth, however, did not contribute meaningfully to the betterment
of the life of the rural poor. The trickle down effect of the development did not work in
India's context. Thus, despite growth, a significantly high percentage of the rural
population continued to live Below the Poverty Line. The poor, including those in the
rural areas, got marginalized in the development process. Poor economic condition,
subsistence living and low bargaining power, unstable and undurable employment
opportunities, distress migration to urban areas etc. continued to be the
characteristic features of the poor in India.
2.11 The Community Development Programme also, which aimed community
participation in development, gradually got replaced by more and more of piecemeal
programmes with bureaucratic bias.
A Re-thinking and attempt to attack Poverty directly
There was, therefore, a re-thinking on the need for re-conceptualization of
the programmes and policies. The need for direct attack on poverty was finally felt
particularly during the Fourth Plan period. The 1970s are a significant decade in this
context. Many new programmes including the Rural Works Programmes (RWP), the
Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP), the Desert Development Programme
(DDP), the Food for Work Programme (FWP), Programmes for Small & Marginal
Farmers (Small Farmers Development Agency-SFDA, Marginal Farmers &
Agricultural Labourers Agency-MFAL) were all tried in rural areas.
The programmes basically had objectives to provide three-pronged attack on the poverty i.e.
(i) in terms of creating an income generating asset base for self-employment of the rural
poor, (ii) by creating opportunities for wage employment for the poor and (iii)
area(land)development activities(programmes) in backward regions like dry-land,
rain-fed, drought prone, tribal, hill and desert areas. Subsequently, there were also
programmes for providing basic infrastructures for better quality of life in rural areas
and also programmes for social security of the poor and destitute. In addition, policy
prescriptions were also made and statutory provisions introduced for the
empowerment of the people and their participation in the development process.