The Community Development Programme has been the biggest rural reconstruction scheme undertaken by the government of free India. It has been variously described as the magnacarta of hope and happiness for two-thirds of India’s population, the testament of emancipation, the declaration of war on poverty, ignorance, squalor and disease under which millions have been groaning etc.
An attempt has been made to awaken him from the long stupor of ages, so that he may realise his due in life as well as shake off his lethargy and work in co-operation with government agencies to ameliorate his lot.
The Community Development Programme of the present form is, in the main, an American concept. It is, in a way, the culmination of the economics of rural reconstruction as learnt and developed in the United States with its practical usefulness justified under the Indian conditions.
The programme emerged out of the experiments made at Etawah and Gorakhpur under the inspiration of Albert Meyers.
The Planning Commission has defined the Community Development Programme in these words: “Community development is an attempt to bring about a social and economic transformation of village life through the efforts of the people themselves.”
The projects are of vital importance, according to Pandit Nehru, “not so much for the material achievements that they would bring about, but much more so, because they seem to build up the community and the individual and to make the latter the builder of his own village centers and of India in the larger sense.” It is intended to apply it to the concept of the village community as a whole, cutting across caste, religious and economic differences.
Community Development Programme exhibits several characteristics. They are as follows:
1. It promotes self-confidence among the ruralites.
2. It develops self-reliance in the individual and initiative in the village community.
3. The community development programme effects change at the psychological level of the ruralites.
4. It seeks to create new administrative machinery suited to the manifold needs of the village.
5. It is pre-eminently people-oriented.
6. Community thinking and collective action are encouraged through people’s institutions like the Panchayats, cooperative societies, Vikas mandals, etc.
The role of Community Development Programme in the context of the rural community cannot be gainsaid. The programme is instrumental in raising the standard of living of the ruralites and in reconstructing the rural India. Prof. Carl Taylor rightly observes that the programme signifies active cooperation and involvement of the ruralites in formulating and executing their own plans and programmes. The end result is social change, economic development and emergence of new local leadership at the village level.
Prof. S. C. Dube has highlighted on two aims of Community Development Programme. They are- (a) achieving substantial agricultural production and considerable progress in the sphere of communication, rural health and rural education and (b) transforming the socio-economic life of the village through a process of integral cultural change. The aims of the Community Development Project have been divided into two parts. They are short-term objectives and long-term objectives.
The short-term objectives are as follows:
1. To increase agricultural production both quantitatively and qualitatively.
2. To solve the problem of rural unemployment.
3. To develop the means of transport and communication in the villages through repairing old roads and constructing new pucka roads.
4. To bring about development in the sphere of primary education, public health and recreation.
5. To assist the villagers to build good and cheap houses with the help of modern plans and new building methods.
6. To set up and encourage cottage industries and indigenous handicrafts.
The long – term objective of community development projects refers to holistic development of rural life through optimum utilisation of physical and human resources. It is further oriented to provide all sorts of facilities available in a Welfare State to the ruralites. Taking care of the social, moral and financial progress of the villagers also comes within the purview of the long-term objectives of community development projects.
The Community Development Programme was inaugurated on October 2, 1952. Fifty-five community projects were launched. The programme launched in 1952 was extended to wider areas at the end of the First Five-Year Plan. Nearly one out of every three villages in India was brought within the orbit of this programme.
The Second Five-Year Plan proposed to bring every village in India under this scheme, 40 per cent of the area being brought under a more intensive development scheme. The programme was implemented through units of blocks, each community development block comprising generally 100 villages, an area of 400-500 square kms. And a population of 60 to 70 thousand.
The Community Development Programme is broadly divided into three phases. They are- (a) the National Extension Phase, (b) the Intensive Community Development Project Phase and (c) the Post-Intensive Development Phase.
In the first phase, the areas selected are subjected to the method of providing services on the ordinary rural development pattern with a lesser governmental expenditure. In the intensive phase, the blocks selected are subjected to more composite and more intensive development schemes with larger governmental expenditure.
In the post-intensive phase, it is presumed that the basis for self-perpetuation of the process initiated during the earlier phases has been created and the need for special government expenses reduced. Slowly the areas are left in the charge of the departments for the development.
An elaborate organization has been created to implement Community Development Projects; it is known as the Community Project Administration. Originally functioning under the Planning Commission, it is now under the charge of the newly created Ministry of Community Development.
The entire administration is composed of four major types- the central administration, the state administration, the district organization and the project administration. The power and the control flow from top to bottom making it a hierarchic bureaucratic organization.
Needless to say that the Community Development Programme is a universal phenomenon practised both in developed and developing countries. But, the programme assumes vital significance in developing countries because of their low-level of development in various segments of social life.
Owing to its wider applicability in multifaceted fields of operation, it is not practically feasible to evolve a theoretical framework of the scope of Community Development Programme. However, for the sake of convenience, the field of Community Development Programme can broadly be divided into the following items.
Under this category activities regarding following items are included, (a) reutilisation of virgin and waste lands, (b) repairing of old wells, digging new wells and provision of major/minor irrigation facilities, (c) adoption of qualitative high-yielding seeds, manures, fertilizers, use of tractors etc., (d) provision of credit facilities for the development of animal husbandry, poultry farming, fishery, soil conservation etc. and (e) growth of vegetables and plants etc.
Organisation of ‘co-operative service societies’, multi-purpose cooperative societies, ‘marketing co-operatives’ and other types of people’s institutions.
Attaching importance to primary education, adult education and social education with the aim of expanding the mental horizon of the ruralites.
For solving the problem of rural unemployment, attempts have been made for the setting up of small scale and cottage industries.
Provision for mobile, permanent dispensaries, arrangements for maternal care, medical aid during pregnancy, midwife service, child care etc.
Repair of old roads, construction of new roads and arrangement for transportation and communication facilities.
Imparting vocational training in the field of tailoring, embroidery, carpentry etc.
Attempting to provide safe drinking water by repairing old wells or constructing new ones.
Social welfare activities include rehabilitation of old, disabled and destitute, provision for better housing, organisation of sports, promotion of cultural activities etc.
Critics point out that the Community Development Programme has not yielded desirable results. It is worth mentioning in this connection that for a vast country like India with as many as 5,50,000 villages, a hoary history and diversities pertaining to races, languages, religions and cultures, a period of little more than five decades is insufficient to bring about any substantial changes. Ensminger, a noted sociologist, has rightly cautioned critics to exercise patience before pronouncing any judgement regarding the success of the community development programme.
Another difficulty of evaluation of the programme is that it is extremely difficult to establish a cause-effect relation because the village communities of India are exposed to multifarious forces of social change. Since the multifarious forces are operating in unison, it becomes an uphill task to know the role of each force in bringing about social changes in the villages. Under these circumstances, the evaluation reports are to be considered with a certain amount of care and caution.
The strategy of community development programme is essentially global, aiming at a uniform pattern of staffing and planning all over the country. No attempt has been made to relate the block development plans to local problems and needs. The spatial aspect of the rural development plan has largely been ignored.
Political observers envisage that democracy as a system of governance in India has failed miserably. Caste system prevailing in India has made a mockery of democracy. Traditionally dominant castes have seized the reins of power and manipulate the administrative machinery to their advantage.
They enjoy all powers and privileges whereas the lower caste people are still saddled with galling responsibilities and enjoy little privilege. The schism among castes grows wider day by day and the lower castes still reel under the exploitative pressure of the higher castes. In such a context community development programme fails to achieve the desired consequence.
The next serious stumbling block in the way of community development is the bureaucratic temper. Bureaucracy in India is proverbially negative in attitude and impervious to any innovation. Imprisoned in red tape they render all Endeavour’s of community development ineffective through inordinate delay. Instead of trying to win the goodwill, confidence and cooperation of the people, the bureaucrats have incurred the displeasure and distrust of the beneficiaries.
This unfortunate attitude of the bureaucrats has come under severe criticism. Observers like Dube, Lewis and others have warned the planners against such adverse situations. Even Nehru once severely chastised the development workers to shed this despicable superiority complex which he cynically called the ‘jeep mentality.’
Leadership studies in the village communities of India show that although there is increased representation of youths on the Panchayats and cooperative committees, they function only as the henchmen of their elders. Important and vital decisions are taken by the elders. The office holding youngsters are required to implement the decisions in their statutory capacity.
The officers in charge of the Community Development Programme claim that the programme has succeeded in narrowing the gulf existing between the rich and the poor in the villages. But such a claim does not seem to have any logical foundation.
In practice, the programmes are so implemented that the lion’s share is monopolised by the rich, leaving the bulk of the poor masses to fend for themselves. Indeed, writers like Dube have pointed out that in the name of shiamdana and other voluntary services, the poor people of the village air exploited and made to offer voluntary service to the rich groups in the village.
The success of the Community Development Programme depends, for the most part, on the emancipation of the rural women. But the emancipation of the rural women is possible only through the active cooperation and support of a large number of trained female workers. But at present they exist in very small number.
The failure of the Community Development Programme is attributed to the lack of harmony among various departments of the government. Furthermore, there is lack of coordination between the bureaucrats and the ruralites.
General apathy on the part of a sizeable number of ruralites also stands in the way of the CDP. In the absence of the proper and active cooperation of the public, the programme has failed to take the shape of a genuine public movement.
A number of suggestions have been made for the successful working of the Community Development Programme. They are as follows:
1. Greater stress is called for increasing agricultural production both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to meet the needs of the country’s fast multiplying rural population.
2. The Community Development Projects should lay utmost stress upon the solution of problems peculiar to the locality.
3. Only those officials having expertise in rural psychology should be appointed.
4. Both male and female workers should be selected or appointed from among the villagers themselves. They should undergo extensive training in social work. Efforts should be made to motivate them to work in the villages with missionary zeal and a spirit of service.
5. Efforts should be made to impress upon the ruralites that the Community Development Programme is not oriented to any specific group rather it is for the entire village. Community development work should be so arranged that cooperation of all castes, classes and parties becomes available.
6. Efforts should be made to involve reputed voluntary agencies in Community Development Projects. A harmonious nexus between governmental agencies and non- governmental agencies will go a long way in making the programme a signal success.
7. The development of the village community should come substantially and essentially from the people themselves, the government being only a guide and source of the wherewithal which the people themselves cannot provide.
8. Balwant Rai Committee has suggested that village Panchayats and Panchayat samitis should function as the veritable instruments for making the programme a success.
In fine, the Community Development has started a new fire in the country side, a fire that is burning the sloth and filth that we have inherited over centuries, and purifies us for a pilgrimage to our new destination. One only hopes that this fire will be kept burning and that neither lack of people’s enthusiasm nor lack of finance will prevent us from reaching that destination in the shortest possible time.