Developmental Programmes of Pre-independence Era
Early effort at rural development was initiated by Shri. Rabandranath Tagore in 1908 by establishing youth organization in the Kaligram Progana of his Zamindari, He tried to create a class of functionary workers who could learn to identify themselves with the people. In 1921 he established a Rural Reconstruction Institute at Shantiniketan in West Bengal. A group of eight villages was the centre of the programme. This project, co-incidentally, had many elements of extension education in both spirit and action. Activities like demonstration on scientific methods of agriculture, training of youths, adult education and health co-operatives were important aspects of the work aimed to make a group of villages self-reliant. This was a very comprehensive programme combining culture, health, education and economic aspects of village life together. Concept of village level workers and regeneration of village organization were put to work. This project was closely guided by Mr. Leonard Elmhirst, an Englishman trained in economics from USA.
Objectives of the Programme:
1. To create a real interest in people for rural welfare work.
2. To study rural problems and to translate conclusions into action.
3. To help villagers develop their resources and to improve village sanitation.
These objectives were desired to be achieved by creating a spirit of self-help, developing village leadership, organizing village scouts called Brati Balika, establishing training centers for handicrafts and establishing a demonstration centre at Shantiniketan.
These demonstration centers conducted demonstration or farmer’s holding for improved practices. Under this programmes establishment of dairy to supply pure milk and better animals to the farmers poultry farm for development of farmers. The students and worker of the institute were provided facilities for training in tanning, pottery, embroidery tailoring etc. This institute also had a mobile library and runs night schools film shows in the rural areas.
Though the institute could not get much help from the government it could not conduct research work on the lines initially planned by R. N. Tagore and so its work remained limited to the eight villages only. But in the course of history, the Government of Independence India did recognize it as an important pioneering centre of extension research in India.
The work was commenced by Dr. Spencer Hatch an American Agricultural expert in Travancore under the auspicious of young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in 1921. The aim of the project was to bring more abundant life for rural people. It was intended to symbolize the three-fold development, not only spiritual, mental and physical but also economic and social. The essential technique of the centre was ‘Self-help with intimate expert counsel’. From the demonstration centre at Marthandam, about hundred villages were covered through Y.M.C.A. centers in villages. The extension secretary was appointed supervise the activities of the group.
Marthandam was in a strategic position to serve the villages. It kept prize bulls and goats, model bee-lives, demonstration plots for improving grain and vegetable seeds, poultry runs with prize laying-hens, a weaving shed, etc. Inside the centre, there was equipment like honey extractors, health charts and the items needed for other cottage vocations. At the centre, cottage vocations were taught and agricultural implements tested. The emphasis throughout was on self-help and co-operation. The successful output of this project was the Egg-selling Club. In 1939 which became a self governing body. Another co-operative society was honey club, where the villagers were taught the use of modern bee-hives and extracted honey scientifically. The honey was cured and marketed co-operatively. There were Bull clubs, weaver’s blub also. The activities conducted at centre could meet the mental, physical and spiritual needs of the villagers. The main shortcomings of the project were inadequate funds and governmental help. The activities were mainly organized the Marthandam and the village workers did not stay in villages. The religious bias of the institution was also a major hindrance in its activites.
3) Gurgaon Experiment:
Rural upliftment movement on amass scale was first started by Mr. F. L. Brayne, Deputy Commissioner in the Gurgaon district of Punjab state. He was prompted by the backwardness, poverty and misery of the people. A village guide had been posted to act as a channel through which the advice of the experts in various departments could be passed on to the villagers. The programme of introducing improved seeds, implements, the methods of cultivation etc. was started throughout the district. As the village guides were not technical men, very little permanent value was achieved in fact. The project could not develop leadership in the villages that would continue work when the village guides had left the villages.
The work again gathered momentum, after 1933, where Mr. Brayne was appointed Commission of Rural Reconstruction in the Punjab. 1935-36. Government of India granted Rs.1 crore for various rural works which acted as a stimulus. Nevertheless the project could not make much headway ass the local talent was not utilized for development process. Most of the work done by exercising authority over the people rather than by voluntary participation of local people.
4) Gandhian Constructive Programme / Sewagram:
Self contained and self sufficient village life was the dream of Gandhiji. He was aware about the grassroots’ problems of India, rural set up and he wanted to solve these problems without intervention of any outside agency. He wanted to solve these problems by local people and through local resources. People know Gandhiji not only as a Mahatma or political agitator, but also as a social and economic reformer. He made people to understand that India lives in villages and that the common man’s upliftment is the upliftment of the country.
Regarding development work in the country, he emphasized that the “salvation of India lies in cottage industries.” They key-words of his economy are: –
Decentralized production and equal distribution of wealth
Self-sufficiency of Indian villages.
For equal distribution of wealth, cruel process of extermination was not followed but throughout the heart of the owners by persuasion and appeal to the better sense of man.
According to him self-sufficiency of Indian villages can be achieved by eradicating middlemen, so that the farmer could get the full price for his produce. He wanted that the tiller should be able to consume his own products like fruits, milk, vegetables etc. Only then will come up the true India.
For better of people he formulated an 18 point programme, which includes the promotion of village industries, basic and adult education rural sanitation, uplift of backward tribes, uplift of women, education in public health and hygiene, propagation of natural language, love for the mother tongue, economic equality, organization of kisans, labour and students and so on.
He wants to make villagers self-sufficient and also want to develop stamina which is useful against oppression and injustice. The important institutions, which were organized to foster his ideas were; all India Spinner Association, All India Village Industries Association, Gandhi Ashram at Tiruchungodi, Gandhi Niketan at Kallupatti, Gandhi Gram at Dindigal, Gandhi Sewa Sadan at Porur (Malawar), Kasturba Ashram in Trichr, Kerala. Truly speaking, the Gandhian constrictive Programme was became big institutions and simple ideas became philosophies. His emphasis on Khadi became the Charka movement and then, the All India Khadi a Village Industries Board. His thought, against untouchability and caste system, resulted in the organization of Harijan Sewak Sangh and many like this. He created leaders like Vinoba Bhave, Nehru, Jayaprakash Narayan, Mira Ben etc. who came form common stock, but got inspiration from Gandhi.
All the people engaged in reconstructive programme felt that their work was needed in a great programme for their country reconstruction. They were soldier of the Grand Army of the Father of Nation. They were builders of a new society and torchbearers of new civilization in this country which, due to their efforts, has again been recognized as an important country.