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A Look At India’s Rural Development Programmes

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By Arpita Sharma:

A Technical Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. C.H. Hanumantha Rao was constituted in 1994 by the Ministry of Rural Development, which recommended a common set of operational guidelines, objectives, strategies and expenditure norms for implementation of area development programmes viz; Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP), Desert Development Programme (DDP) and Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP) being implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development on watershed basis. Common guidelines have also been adopted for other area development programmes such as National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA), development of catchment area of River Valley Projects and flood prone areas, being operated by the Ministry of Agriculture. The common guidelines for Watershed Development provide for a uniform strategy in the implementation of all area development programmes. The main features of this strategy are: [1] Area development programmes to be implemented exclusively on watershed basis. [2] Programmes activities to be confined to the identified watershed of about 500 hectares and are to be executed on a project basis spanning over a period of four to five years. [3] Watershed project to cover a village, as far as possible. [4] Elaborate institutional mechanism at various levels clearly defined for effective participation of the local people and the PRIs in all stages of project management. [5] District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) /Zilla Parishad to be the nodal Government agency at the district level to act as a facilitator and provider of finances and technical assistance to the people’s organisations executing the watershed projects. Based on the recommendations of Hanumantha Rao Committee, comprehensive guidelines for watershed development commonly applicable to the DPAP, DDP and IWDP were issued in October, 1994 which came into effect from 1995-96.

Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP): DPAP aims at to minimize the adverse effects of drought on production of crops and livestock and productivity of land, water and human resources ultimately leading to the drought proofing of the affected areas. It also aims at promoting overall economic development and improving the socio-economic conditions of the resource poor and disadvantaged sections inhabiting the programme areas. During the Ninth Five Year Plan, the programme covers 961 blocks of 180 districts in 16 States namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttranchal and West Bengal. Since 1995-96, 11738 watershed projects of 500 hectare each have been sanctioned for development on watershed basis till end of March, 2001. In the first four years of the Ninth Plan, an area of 19.35 lakh hectare has been covered with Central releases of Rs. 448.29 crore to the programme States. During 2001-02, an outlay of Rs.210 crore has been provided to cover an area of 7.90 lakh hectare under DPAP.

Desert Development Programme (DDP): DDP has been envisaged as an essentially land based activity and conceived as a long term measure for restoration of ecological balance by conserving, developing and harnessing land, water, livestock and human resources. The main objectives of this programme are: – (i) combating drought and desertification; (ii) encouraging restoration of ecological balance; (iii) mitigating the adverse effects of drought and adverse edapho-climatic conditions on crops and livestock and productivity of land, water and human resources; (iv) promoting economic development of village community; and (v) improving socio economic conditions of the resource poor and disadvantaged sections of village community viz; assetless and women. Presently, this programme covers 232 blocks of 40 districts in seven States viz; Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Since 1995-96, 5353 projects costing about Rs.1338.25 crore have been sanctioned till end of March 2001. In the first four years of the Ninth Plan, an area of 8.48 lakh hectare approximately has been covered with total Central release of Rs.369.79 crore. During 2001-02, an outlay of Rs.160 crores was provided to cover an area of 4.04 lakh ha. (approximately). Under DPAP and DDP, funds are directly released to DRDAs/Zilla Parishads for implementation of the programme. From 1999-2000, the funding pattern under these programmes have been changed to 75:25 cost sharing basis between the Centre and the States for the projects sanctioned after 1.4.1999.

Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP): IWDP was started in 1988-89 by Ministry of Environment & Forests with an objective of development of wasteland based on village / micro watershed plans. However, the scheme was transferred to the Department of Wastelands Development (now called Department of Land Resources) during 1992-93. The stakeholders prepare these plans after taking into consideration the capability of land, site conditions and local needs. Promoting the overall economic development and improvement of economic condition of the resources poor and disadvantaged section of inhabitants. The projects under IWDP are being implemented in districts of the country. IWDP is a 100 per cent Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The cost norm is Rs 4000 per hectare. The basic objective of this scheme is to take up integrated wastelands development based on village/micro watershed plans. The stakeholders prepare these plans after taking into consideration land capability, site conditions and local needs. The scheme also helps in generation of employment in rural areas besides enhancing people’s participation in the waste lands development programmes at all stages. This leads to equitable sharing of benefits and sustainable development. The major activities taken up under the scheme are: – (i) soil and moisture conservation measures like terracing, bunding, trenching, vegetative barriers etc; (ii) planting and sowing of multi purpose trees, shrubs, grasses, legumes and pasture land development; (iii) encouraging natural regeneration; (iv) promotion of agro-forestry and horticulture; (v) wood substitution and fuel wood conservation measures; (vi) measures needed to disseminate technology; training, extension and creation of greater degree of awareness among the participants; and (vii) encouraging people’s participation.

Land Reforms: Land reforms have been viewed as an instrument to enable landless to have access to land and for attaining higher levels of agricultural production and income in the rural areas. Land is still a major source of employment and income in rural areas. Therefore, the issue of agrarian reforms continues to remain on national agenda. The major components of the Land Reforms Policy include among others, detection and distribution of ceiling surplus lands, tenancy reforms, consolidation of land holdings, providing access to poor on common lands and wastelands, preventing the alienation of tribal lands and providing land rights to women. Further, for the successful implementation of land reforms, updating of land records by traditional methods as well as through computerisation is an essential prerequisite. 81. Since land is a State subject, the responsibility of implementing land reforms rests with the State Governments. However, two Centrally Sponsored Schemes viz; ‘Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records’ (SRA & ULR) and ‘Computerisation of Land Records’ (CLR) are being implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development.

The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of ‘Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records’ is designed to provide support to the ongoing programmes of tenancy reforms. The scheme places emphasis on modernization of cadastral survey procedures through protogrammetric check methods, further strengthening of training infrastructure facilities for revenue, survey and settlement staff, to enable them to handle modern survey equipments effectively, construction of Record Rooms and office cum Residence of Patwarais / Talathis in remote and tribal areas, purchase of survey equipments for offices of revenue administration particularly at grassroots level, etc. Since 1987-88 to 2000-01, funds to the tune of Rs.197.48 crore have been provided to the States/UTs as Central share under the Scheme, out of which Rs.141.10 crores have been utilised (i.e.72 per cent utilisation). During 2000-01, against the budget provision of Rs.25.00 crore, funds to the tune of Rs 24.50 crore have been spent. In the Annual Plan 2001-02, the Central outlay of Rs.31.00 crore has been provided for SRA & ULR.

The Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Computerisation of Land Records was started in 1988-89 with 100% financial assistance as a pilot project in eight Districts / States viz; Rangareddy (Andhra Pradesh), Sonitpur (Assam), Singhbhum (Bihar), Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Morena (Madhya Pradesh), Wardha (Maharashtra), Mayurbhanj (Orissa) and Dungarpur (Rajasthan). It was started with the sole objective of ensuring issue of timely and accurate copies of record of right to the land owners by the Tehsildar. At present, the scheme is being implemented in 569 districts of the country leaving only those districts where there are no land records. During 1997-98, a decision for operationalisation of the scheme at the Tehsil / Taluk level was taken for facilitating delivery of computerized land records to users and public at large.

Under this programme, funds are released to State Government for purchase of hardware, software and other peripherals and upto 31.3.2001, 2383 Tehsils / Taluks have been covered under the programme. Since inception of the scheme, the Ministry of Rural Development has released Rs.189.21 crores up to 31.3.2001. The utilisation of funds reported by the States/UTs is Rs 97.26 crores, (51% utilisation). During 2000-01, budget provision under the scheme was Rs 50.00 crore, out of which Rs 47.60 crore have been spent. The Central outlay of Rs 45.00 crore has been provided for CLR for Annual Plan 2001-02.
Since the feedback from the States regarding implementation of the scheme has not been forthcoming and progress of utilization of funds has also been very low, it was decided in 1998 to conduct comprehensive Evaluation Studies in eight districts / States viz; Andhra Pradesh (Rangareddy), Madhya Pradesh (Hoshangabad), Maharashtra (Amravati), Karnataka (Mysore), Orissa (Mayurbhanj), Rajasthan (Jaipur), Uttar Pradesh (Aligarh) and West Bengal (Haora).

These studies have since been completed and their main findings are listed below:

  • The monitoring mechanism needs to be strengthened as this is a crucial component for the success of the scheme.
  • There is a need to develop more awareness about the implementation of the scheme.
  • Training under the programme is inadequate, it should be conducted at differtent levels viz; District, Tehsil and Village.
  • Computerisation of Land Records and setting up a Land Information System (LIS) is incomplete without a vectorised database of land holdings through Digitization Cadastral Survey Maps.
  • There is a need of Networking of the scheme at different levels so that data move from District to State and then to Centre through NICNET Network of the NIC.

The process of alienation of tribal land has continued since independence because of an influx of non-tribals into tribal areas as a result of various developmental projects, exploitation of natural resources and industrial activities. It is an irony that on one side outsiders / non tribals infiltrate into the Schedule areas in the name of development while on the other hand local tribal population migrate to urban areas in search of employment/ job opportunities. This has given rise to severe discontent in the tribal areas. It is therefore necessary that the land issue which forms the crux of problem, must be effectively addressed All the concerned State Governments have accepted the policy to prohibit transfer of land from tribals to non tribals and restore the alienated lands to the tribals, and have enacted laws to this effect. However, some existing land legislations pertaining to alienation and restoration may probably require further improvement in as much as that the conditionalities attached to restoration were restrictive and in real sense, no restoration could take place.

Consolidation of fragmented agricultural land holdings forms an integral part of the Land Reform Policy and the Five Year Plans have accordingly been laying stress on its implementation. This operation is considered necessary for the planned development of the villages and achieving efficiency and economy in agriculture. In pursuance of this, many States had enacted legislations but not much progress could be made except in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. In other States, work was continued for some years
and lost momentum thereafter.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:

Arpita Sharma is Doctoral Research Scholar in the Dept. of Agricultural Communication of G. B. Pant University at Pantnagar.[/box]

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