MSU Rural Development Papers
MSU Rural Development
Paper No. 1
Ten Decades of
Lessons from India
Akhter Hameed Khan
Department of Agricultural Economics
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
MSU RURAL DEVELOPMENT PAPERS
Carl K. Eicher and Carl Liedholm, Co-editors
The MSU Rural Development Paper series is designed to further the
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and the Near East. The papers will report research findings on community
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on a wide range of topics such as alternative rural development strategies;
off-farm employment and small-scale industry; marketing problems of small
farmers; agricultural extension; interrelationships between technology,
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MSU Rural Development Papers
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TEN DECADES OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT:
LESSONS FROM INDIA*
Akhter Hameed Khan**
*This paper was prepared and published under Agency for International
Development contracts AID/ta-G-1301 and AID/ta-CA-3 with Michigan State
**Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University,
East Lansing, Michigan. On September 1, 1978, Dr. Khan returned to
Bangladesh as advisor to the Rural Development Academy, Bogra, Bangladesh.
He continues to serve as an adjunct Professor of Agricultural Economics
at Michigan State University.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. THE COLONIAL CONNECTION . . . . . . . . . 1
1.1 Asia, Africa, and South America . . . . . 1
1.2 The colonial era--destruction and reconstruction . 2
1.3 Self-destruction . . . . . . . . . 2
1.4 Features of colonial administration . . . . . 3
1.5 The colonial situation in rural areas . . . . 4
1.6 Three periods of colonial rule . . ... . .. 4
2. PERCEPTION OF FOUR MAJOR RURAL PROBLEMS . . . . . 5
2.1 Famine: cause ana cure . . . . . . . 6
2.2 Abuses of land tenure--tenancy reforms . . . . 7
2.3 Peasant indebtedness--cause and cure . . . . 7
2.4 Rural disaffection and its remedy . . . . . 8
3. NEW IDEOLOGICAL CHALLENGES . . . . . . . . 9
3.1 The colonial response--philosophy of rural recon-
struction . . . . . . . . . . . 10
3.2 Conceptual legacies of colonial rural reconstruction 11
4. RIVAL IDEOLOGIES . . . . . . . . . . . 12
4.1 The Gandhian rural utopia . . . . . . . 12
4.2 Fabian Socialist version of rural reforms--its influence 13
4.3 Rural socialism in Russia and China--its influence . 14
5. WORLD WAR II AND THE TWO CAMPS . . . . . . . 15
6. AMERICAN LEADERSHIP AND AID . . . . . . . 16
6.1 American rural programs--community development . .. 16
6.2 Principles and methods of community development . .. 17
6.3 Shortcomings of community development . . . . 18
7. THE SHIFTS IN EMPHASIS . . . . . . . . . 19
7.1 Origin of the Department of Agriculture . . . . 19
7.2 American model of agricultural extension . . . 21
7.3 The "green revolution" of the sixties . . . . 22
7.4 Safeguards against disaffection: colonial local
government . . . . . . . . .. . 23
7.5 Objectives and performance of post-colonial local
government . . . . . . . . . . . 24
7.6 Origin of cooperatives . . . . . . . . 25
7.7 Colonial rural cooperatives: objectives and
performance . . . . . . . . . . 26
7.8 Progress of post-colonial rural cooperatives . . 27
7.9 The problem of land tenure--two views . . . . 28
7.10 Agronomists and agrarian reform . . . . . 29
7.11 Post-colonial progress of land reforms . . . . 29
7.12 The colonial legacy of rural administration . . . 30
7.13 Attempts at reform of rural administration . . . 31
7.14 Neglect of rural areas--interior colonialism . . 32
7.15 Problems of rural education and health . . . . 33
8. THE CHINESE MODEL OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT . . . . . 34
8.1 Organizing socialist agriculture . . . . . 35
8.2 Securing popular participation and mobilization . . 35
8.3 Priority of rural works . . . . . . . 36
9. SPECIAL PROJECTS . . . . . . . . . . . 37
9.1 Imitations of the TVA model . . . . . . 38
9.2 Pilot projects of the sixties--Comilla, Puebla & CADU 39
10. THE SEVENTIES--A DECADE OF CONSOLIDATION OF TWO MODELS:
INDIAN AND CHINESE . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.1 A decade of reconsideration for American experts . 41
10.2 Reorientation of American aid--new ends . . . . 42
10.3 No change in means and methods . . . . . . 43
10.4 The dilemma of American advisors . . . . . 43
11. RECOMMENDED READINGS . . . . . . . . . . 45
1. THE COLONIAL CONNECTION
One effect of the two great wars of our century was the end of the
colonial era. Empires broke up and foreign rule disappeared from many
Asian and African countries, but it has left deep traces. Over a long
period the traditional political and economic structures of these countries
were torn apart and battered into new forms. At present, their traumatic
colonial experience is exercising a profound influence over these countries
and will probably continue to do so in the future. Few of them have
detached themselves radically from their past, or chosen divergent paths.
Most have retained, almost intact, the colonial superstructure, and also
maintained close relations with their old masters.
During their glorious days, the colonialists used the claim that
their role was very benevolent, that they were civilizing and enriching
the subjugated peoples who otherwise would have remained barbaric and
poor. Nowadays these claims are generally discounted. On the contrary,
one school of thought insists that colonialism is the real father of
1.1 Asia, Africa, and South America
Historically, the colonial situation differed in Asia, Africa, and
South America. South American countries were quickly and completely
conquered in the sixteenth century, and their native cultures were totally
subdued. In Asia, except for the Philippines, colonial domination was
not established until the end of the eighteenth century. Asian cultures
could not be overwhelmed; national revivals began shortly after the
culmination of foreign conquest. Africa was seized by colonial powers in
the nineteenth century and has suffered the shortest period of colonial
rule. The earliest successful anti-colonial revolts took place in South
America. Asian and African countries have become independent quite
recently, thus, South American countries have the longest colonial as well
as post-colonial experience.
1.2 The colonial era--destruction and reconstruction
The colonial era was both destructive and constructive. It destroyed
the old political systems and elites of the conquered people and built new
systems and new elites. It shattered traditional economic patterns and
created a novel economic relationship, that between the so-called mother
country and its colonies, the former being industrial and rich and the
latter, agricultural and poor. It denigrated the religious, social, and
educational institutions of the natives and tried to westernize and
enlighten them. The conquistadors were the heroes and the Christian
missionaries were the saints of colonialism, both working together for
the betterment of "barbarians." Asian or African countries had been
conquered many times, but previous conquerors had, sooner or later,
forgotten the "mother country" and identified themselves with the new
land. Colonial rulers aspired to be different; they wanted to be alien and
superior, and to impose on the natives, not only political subordination,
but also an inferior economic and cultural status.
In spite of the faith of its founders, colonialism did not last very
long. In fact it was inherently self-destructive. First, the inevitable
rivalry between colonial powers led to great wars. Secondly, the reaction
against racial arrogance and political oppression gave birth to powerful
protest movements whose leaders, significantly, were the products of colonial
education. Thirdly, the adverse economic relationship increased impoverish-
ment and discontent. British pioneers of the golden age of the Indian
Empire had proudly proclaimed that they had solved problems which the Mogul
Emperors could not solve. Unfortunately, the golden age soon vanished and
the successors of the pioneers founded themselves surrounded by problems
which were, to a great extent, their own Frankensteins.
1.4 Features of colonial administration
Colonial rulers claimed special credit for establishing "law and
order." For this purpose they built a very strong administration whose
chief features were elitism, centralization, and paternalism. Power was
concentrated in the hands of a small governing class, who regarded themselves
as guardians of the people under their charge, their wards. For smooth
functioning, a hierarchical order was encouraged. The first class elites
at the top placed second and third class elites as collaborators at lower
levels. For the sake of pacification any existing or potential local centers
of authority or defiance were ruthlessly eliminated. The consequence of
pervasive elitism was the widening disparity between the privileged few and
the non-privileged many. The consequence of centralization was general
nonparticipation and the atrophy of local initiative. The consequence of
paternalism was childish dependency and a cult of prayerful petitions.
1.5 The colonial situation in rural areas
The rural areas were gradually transformed under colonial rule. Tak-
ing India as an example, it can be said that at first the imperial peace
was beneficial. Anarchical strife was suppressed and productive cultivation
of land was extended. But after a few decades prospects of common prosperity
faded away as the population began to increase and the rural economy began
to stagnate. Increased population and reduced non-farm employment weakened
the traditional status of farmers, workers, and artisans. Consequently,
landlords became more oppressive, demanding higher rents and resorting to
law courts to enforce their demands or evict their tenants. Another privileged
class, the merchant-moneylenders, also learned to use colonial laws to make
large profits and extort compounded interest from indigent borrowers. The
legal and administrative structure of the empire was immensely strong, but,
in the rural areas, it was often subject to corruption and too often it
became a pliant tool in the hands of landlords and moneylenders.
1.6 Three periods of colonial rule
Colonial administrators considered rural areas extremely important.
They understood that the base of their Indian empire, like previous empires,
was essentially agrarian. Throughout the imperial period they believed they
were engaged in the heroic task of sustaining the villages. But their
perception of rural needs changed from time to time. In the initial phase
the establishment of order and the settlement of land for cultivation were
seen as the two paramount requisites. After conferring these great boons,
the colonial pioneers expected steady rural progress as well as abiding
loyalty. They never tired of pointing out that never before had the
Indian villagers enjoyed such benign justice. But a few decades later,
in the middle period of the empire, in spite of some progress and much
peace, the British administrators had to acknowledge the emergence of
four major problems--the recurrence of famine, the inequity of land tenure,
ever-increasing peasant indebtedness, and smouldering disaffection with the
government. In the third and last phase the rural problems were magnified
and the administrators encountered fundamental challenges--political,
economic, and moral--to the ideology of the empire.
2. PERCEPTION OF FOUR MAJOR RURAL PROBLEMS
During the last decades of the nineteenth century colonial adminis-
trators tried to analyze and solve these four major problems. Famines
occurred at frequent intervals, devastating whole regions, generating
enormous human misery and damaging the splendid imperial image. Evictions
by landlords worsened the plight of tenants and sharecroppers and sometimes
led to violent outbursts. Peasant revolts could seriously undermine the
agrarian base of the empire. The ruthless operations of merchant-money-
lenders were inexorably pauperizing the peasantry, depriving many of them
of their little plots of land. The desperate ones were becoming dacoitss"
or bandits, forming gangs and endangering "law and order." Above all, for
a tiny ruling class of foreigners, the awareness of a lack of loyalty
among the rural masses was a most formidable threat. Luckily, the dis-
affection was concealed in passive apathy, but at intervals, it would flare up
in the form of famine, peasant riots, and banditry.
2.1 Famine: cause and cure
In the imperial era the seriousness of a problem was recognized by
appointing a royal inquiry commission. Not one, but several commissions
inquired into famines and prescribed measures for relief and prevention.
The commissions usually pointed out that famine was a natural Asian
phenomenon, partly due to the climate and partly to bad farming, which
could not be prevented except in a few regions where irrigation canals
could be built. In other regions only its shock could be lessened by
means of quick transportation of food supplies by railways and roads.
Subsequently a famine code was prepared which described, in minute
detail, when and how the dole should be distributed to save the disabled
from starvation, or how to organize public works at "test" (extremely low)
wages for unemployed peasants, or to advance loans to the landowners for
the next cultivation. The famine code was loudly advertised as one of the
imperial achievements, unprecedented in Indian or Asian history. It was
claimed, on the basis of rather dubious statistics, that under British
rule very few villagers died of starvation. More deaths, of course, were
caused by malnutrition or disease. However, famines continued to occur
with disturbing frequency, except in regions where the necessary invest-
ment was made for the control of floods and drought. In one of the very
last years of the empire (1943) the Bengal famine occurred, one of the
greatest man-made famines in Indian history.
2.2 Abuses of land tenure--tenancy reforms
Commissions were also appointed to analyze eruptions of unrest. Of
course, first the soldiers crushed the disturbance, then investigation
exposed innumerable abuses of power by planters and landlords which had
goaded the harried cultivators to revolt. While the commissioners gen-
erally upheld the tenurial system, they expressed sympathy for the under-
dogs, and recommended a little more control over landlords and planters and
a few more rights for tenants. Landless laborers were outside their pur-
view because, until then, they were an insignificant minority. In the
middle period, tenancy reform, or land reform as it is now called, was a
subject of continuous discussion. It remained so until the end of the
empire. Within the context of a stagnant economy, depressed prices,
diminishing holdings, rising rents and interest charges--which of course
the imperial administrators could not change--they really tried, with
small success, to help the peasant farmers, tenants, and sharecroppers.
But, at the end, a very difficult land tenure situation was left for the
2.3 Peasant-indebtedness--cause and cure
Landlords were not the only proteges who were abusing the powers
acquired by them under the empire; merchants and moneylenders were doing
the same. Trade and usury hurt the peasant proprietors to such an extent
that their desperation at last attracted the attention of district officers.
They discovered that low prices and high interest charges were bankrupting
the peasants at an alarming rate. Many of them were losing their lands.
The administrators saw the danger of this trend and wished to reverse it.
Those were the days of laissez-faire when trade operations were considered
sacrosanct, but attempts were made, nonetheless, to reduce usury and
regulate moneylenders. However, under the prevailing circumstances, the
lenders still had wealth and prestige, while the borrowers were needy and
helpless. Regulations were enacted, but rarely enforced. Toward the end
of the nineteenth century, some philanthropic officials wanted to give the
peasants the strength of unity by organizing them into cooperative
societies modeled after the German credit unions. It was hoped that in
this way they would be able to protect themselves from the excesses of
merchant moneylenders, just as the German farmers had done a generation
earlier. During the abnormal agricultural boom of the first world war,
village cooperatives flourished briefly, but the following slump soon made
them insolvent "banks of the bankrupts." The early decades of our century
found peasant indebtedness growing inexorably, not much affected by
regulations of usury or by credit and marketing cooperatives.
2.4 Rural disaffection and its remedy
As an antidote to the distress of rural indebtedness, colonial adminis-
trators imported cooperatives from Germany. As a safeguard against the
dangers of rural disaffection, they imported the Anglo-Saxon concept of
local government. They hoped that local councils would radiate feelings
of participation, banish apathy, and encourage local initiative. Further-
more, beginning logically at the bottom, training in local self-government
would gradually upgrade the Indians for national independence. But the
promotion by eccentric pioneers of the concept of decentralization and
autonomy could not be reconciled with the dominant imperial attitudes which
were centralist, elitist, and paternalistic. Decade after decade, until
the sudden end of the empire, cooperatives or "panchayats" (local councils)
remained not as functional parts of the steel frame but as its trim.
3. NEW IDEOLOGICAL CHALLENGES
Thus, for fifty years colonial administrators grappled with the four
monstrous problems which had emerged in the middle period. The solutions
were far from effective. Instead of disappearing, the monsters became
more intractable. In the third and last period every bastion of the
empire was assaulted by new forces. The imperial ideology was based on
three axioms: the superiority of Europeans, the benevolence of colonial
occupation, and the right of white men to be the guardians of colored men.
The new nationalist challenge refuted every one of these axioms. There
was no superiority; there was no benevolence; and there was no right of
guardianship. On the contrary, there was the inalienable right of self-
determination. In India the nationalist challenge was reinforced by the
spiritual teachings of Gandhi. He declared colonialism a moral abomination,
the British Raj the devil's government, and the world-grabbing western
civilization the scourge of humanity. Side by side with the nationalist
challenge came the socialist challenge. It used the weapon of economic
analysis to attack capitalism and its offspring, colonialism. The appeal
of nationalism and socialism was greatly enhanced in Asia by the rise of
non-European Japan and the success of the Russian revolution.
3.1 The colonial response--philosophy of rural reconstruction
In order to respond to the new challenges--political, economic, and
moral--the colonial administrators evolved a comprehensive philosophy or
ideology of rural reconstruction, which was sedulously propagated in the
turbulent third and fourth decades of our century. In India F. L. Brayne
was the most famous propounder of this philosophy, a self-styled Socrates
of the Indian villages, but similar trends were visible in other colonial
countries. For instance, the "ethical policy" in Indonesia also tried to
rehabilitate rural areas in the same manner. Brayne admitted that village
conditions were indeed miserable. He agreed with Gandhi about the facts
of misery but not about their causes. According to Brayne, the deplorable
rural conditions were not the consequence of the imperial system, as the
nationalists or socialist agitators suggested. No, the misery of the
Indian villagers was due mainly to their own ignorance and bad habits,
their folly and vices. Indeed, they were their own enemies. Brayne
compiled a long list of their shortcomings--lazy farming, burning precious
cow dung, addiction to the hubble-hubble (the hookah), poor hygiene,
litigation, costly death and marriage feasts, female illiteracy, etc.
The Socrates of the Indian villages, having diagnosed the disease, pre-
scribed the cure. Quite logically it consisted in the acquisition of
knowledge and the reform of vicious habits: learning and practicing better
methods of agriculture, health, education, and social conduct. Brayne
assigned a new role to the government officer, viz to be the missionary of
enlightenment and reform. Contrary to the popular stereotype of an
arrogant and corrupt bully, the officer was to convert himself into a
guide, philosopher, and friend of the villagers. He was also to inspire
the loyal old collaborators, members of the gentry, to mend their ways and
give a proper lead to the commoners. Brayne invented resounding rural
reconstruction slogans--reform yourselves, help yourselves, and follow
the official leader. They are still ringing in our ears.
3.2 Conceputal legacies of colonial rural reconstruction
In the last phase of the empire there were two parallel perceptions
of rural problems and rural development--the departmental perception and
the philosophical or ideological perception. The departments confined
their purview to their own fields--local government, cooperatives,
education, health, agriculture, irrigation, etc. It was narrow but
specific. The philosophical view was broad and obscure. Brayne's rural
movement, a true child of colonial paternalism, resembled Victorian
philanthropy, which also blamed the poor for their poverty and offered
self-help as a panacea. Hard-boiled administrators regarded the rural
reconstruction approach with contempt. The movement did not make any
substantive change anywhere and vanished at the beginning of the second
world war. But it left amazingly influential conceptual legacies in the
form of three stereotypes: the peasants as childish, ignorant, and
docile; the officers as true guides, philosophers, and friends of the
peasants; and the rural gentry as the government's loyal assistants, and
the peasant's natural leaders. The principles and methods of colonial
rural reconstruction were readily accepted after the war by succeeding
governments and international agencies. They found the old approach,
originally invented to counteract subversion, extremely appropriate as a
non-revolutionary philosophy and technique of rural development. We may
note that a revolutionary organizer like Chairman Mao had entirely
different ideas about the characteristics and roles of peasants, bureau-
crats, and the gentry.
4. RIVAL IDEOLOGIES
4.1 The Gandhian rural utopia
In the last period, the colonial philosophy of rural reconstruction was
competing with three other ideologies--the Gandhian, Fabian Socialist, and
Marxist Socialist. Let us glance briefly at their rural visions. For
thirty years Gandhi's ideas challenged the imperialists and inspired Indian
idealists. Gandhi was a nationalist as well as a utopian. He not only
denounced colonialism, but also rejected industrialism and urbanization.
His vision of the good life was not the acquisition of abundance, but the
curbing of wants, an ascetic renunciation. He thought that the misery of
the villagers was mainly caused by the selfishness and greed of their
rulers, the rich, and of themselves, as well. It could be cured only
through the sacrifice of self and service to others by everybody, rich and
poor alike. With few needs and much love everyone could live happily again
in self-sufficient little republics which, presumably, the Indian villages
used to be in the golden age. The missionary of the movement, the guide-
philosopher-friend, was the "constructive worker" who embodied its high
ideals and showed the true path to the villagers. The constructive
workers were social monks and their ashramss" (centers) were modern
monasteries. Undoubtedly their contribution in popularizing feelings of
national pride and defiance was great. But their neo-monasticism seemed
to avoid or overlook important economic issues. After independence its
role in the economic development of villages did not prove very dynamic.
When Gandhi was alive, admirers like Louis Fischer claimed that for the
next generation Gandhi, not Lenin, would become the real Master. Post-
Gandhian years scarcely justify such faith. As a matter of fact, as far
as rural uplift is concerned, Gandhi's movement of constructive work has
been only a little more effective than the official rural reconstruction
sponsored by F. L. Brayne. Very few areas were changed permanently or
substantially by either. But again significant conceptual legacies have
been left by the Gandhians for the present-day planners--the concepts of
the missionary "gram-sevak" (servant of the village), the little village
republics, and the bonds of love and sacrifice.
4.2 Fabian socialist version of rural reform--its influence
England, the birthplace of modern capitalism and imperialism, was
also a cradle of socialist thought. Before the end of the nineteenth
century the Fabians laid the foundation of British socialism. When the
Labor Party came into power, socialist theories began to influence
political and economic structures in England and even the colonial
government in India. Of course, the actual shifts in India were much
smaller and slower; but socialist ideas, nonetheless, undermined
imperial faith and caused a great intellectual ferment. Their full impact
was seen in the plans made by succeeding governments. Nehru, the first
prime minister of India, was a disciple of the Fabians. Five Year Plans
of India or Pakistan declared that their goal was the welfare state. .They
wanted to be socialists in the British manner.
Unlike Lenin or Mao, the British socialists had never lived with
peasants. Consequently Fabian thinking about rural problems was not very
profound. They thought that rural conditions could easily be improved by
three measures: first, the implementation of agrarian reforms to remove
palpable inequities, redistribute land, and impose ceilings on ownership;
second, the formation of cooperatives to prevent exploitation by middlemen
and moneylenders; third, the rapid expansion of education, health and
other welfare services to raise the rural standard of living. Later, when
the succeeding governments tried to implement these measures, two serious
faults were found: efforts to curb privileges were too often thwarted by
the privileged; and expansion of welfare services was rarely matched by
expansion in production. The superstructure of the pseudo-socialist,
imitation welfare states was raised precariously on good intentions.
4.3 Rural socialism in Russia and China--its influence
The Russian revolution presented a new vision of rural areas
unencumbered by the ancient oppressors--emperors, aristocrats, landlords,
merchants, and moneylenders. When Lenin redistributed land among the
Russian muzhikss" (peasants) he thought that the example would quickly
inspire the Indian "kisans" (peasants) to protest for their rights. He
also knew that, contrary to the predictions of Marx, it would not be
the well-fed workers of industrial nations, but the hungry colonial
peasants who would carry the banners of proletarian revolutions. And,
indeed, in the wake of the first world war rural unrest spread in
China, India, Burma, Indochina, and Java not uninfluenced by the occur-
rences in Russia. However, the horrors of Stalinist collectivization
diminished the rural appeal of socialist parties. After the second
world war the Chinese revolution refurbished the vision of rural
socialism. The inequity, poverty, and humiliation which the Chinese
peasants had suffered resembled the plight of peasants in many other
Asian and African countries. Thus, the epoch-making changes in China
could not escape their notice.
5. WORLD WAR II AND THE TWO CAMPS
Soon after the second world war colonial empires crumbled and
foreign rulers departed, leaving the unfinished task of rural develop-
ment to their successors. The old problems remained unsolved, compli-
cated, and formidable. For the new states, putting their topsy-turvy
house in order proved even more difficult than regaining independence.
The world was now divided into conflicting camps. China, the largest
of the poverty-stricken, backward countries, joined the Socialist camp.
India and most other ex-colonies joined the "American" camp. They
built on their colonial foundations and retained, almost unchanged,
their political, economic, and administrative heritage. They made
gradual reform, not revolution, their motto and maintained intimate
relations with their old masters. During the fifties there was much
talk about the whole world watching an exciting race between the two
shabby giants, India and China. At that time, most American experts
believed that liberal India, aided by rich nations, would surge ahead,
leaving radical and unaided China floundering in distress and disorder.
Today the great race or its outcome is rarely mentioned.
6. AMERICAN LEADERSHIP AND AID
From 1950 onwards America was the undisputed leader of the "free
world" camp. The leader was determined to restrain, by hot or cold war,
the expansion of radicalism, and to bolster client nations. First
Western Europe and Japan were rehabilitated so that their prosperity and
progress might serve as bulwarks against revolutions. The Marshall Plan
spectacularly vindicated American leadership. It seemed obvious that a
helping hand could be extended in the same manner to the poorer camp
followers, and American assistance could stabilize ex-colonial states as
it had stabilized Western Europe and Japan. The great leader started
aid programs all around the world. Apart from military aid, material
aid was given in the shape of loans, grants, capital, and consumer goods.
Technical aid was provided in the form of experts, advisors, and foreign
training. And ideological aid flowed in through the dissemination of
orthodox economic and sociological wisdom. In the new dawn of the fifties
rulers of many penurious states regarded America hopefully as the good
fairy and foreign aid as a magic wand.
6.1 American rural programs--community development
In this decade two great rural programs were sponsored by the
Americans--community development (CD) and agricultural extension (AE).
The former was newly fashioned by American sociologists, while the latter
was an old product of the American land-grant colleges. Both CD and AE
were generously supported and carefully supervised by American advisors.
The CD program as a synthesizer easily absorbed elements of colonial
rural reconstruction as well as Gandhian constructive work. But, of course,
CD professed to be far more modern and comprehensive. It promised political
peace by including everyone in a harmonious community and putting an end to
conflicts. It promised economic prosperity by inculcating the desire for
development and by securing common participation. As a weapon of the Cold
War, CD offered the quietism of consensus as a superior alternative to
6.2 Principles and methods of community development
Brayne wanted to uplift the villagers by sending an official guide-
philosopher-friend. Gandhi wanted to do that by sending a constructive
worker. Following in the footsteps of Brayne and Gandhi, CD relied mainly
on a government village-level worker (VLW) as the agent of change. Sending
a missionary outsider was considered essential in every case. The VLW,
like Brayne's guide, was advised to collaborate closely with the local gentry,
the established or "natural" leaders. Evidently, the VLW came to help
everybody, not by fighting for the weak against the strong, but by uniting
all of them, weak and strong, into a fraternal community. Surely all
could join hands for the sake of development. Love of development, like the
love of God, should make the lions fondle the sheep. The VLW, acting as a
catalyst, would unite the villagers by discovering for them their common
needs, felt or unfelt. Then he would lead them to a common endeavor. He
would teach them to form councils and committees for the completion of
projects. Much, of course, would be done by means of self-help, as Brayne
had proposed before, but, now and then, the VLW would further encourage and
stimulate the villagers by obtaining for them matching grants and technical
assistance, just as the Americans were stimulating the client governments
with foreign aid. The VLW would be a multipurpose agent representing all
"nation-building" departments. He would combine the functions of a
missionary, organizer, technician, and patron. Community development
aspired to coordinate the activities of other departments, and follow an
integrated approach. Its vision of development included the improvement
of everything: social harmony, economic production, education, health,
6.3 Shortcomings of community development
It was in India that CD first became a great rural program. Then,
under American auspices, it was introduced in dozens of other countries.
In the fifties it became a world-wide movement. But its decline was as
sudden as its rise. In 1964 U.S. AID abolished its CD division and forgot
the name itself. The initial faith in CD and the subsequent disillusion
is best illustrated in the speeches from 1950 to 1958 of Prime Minister
Nehru. Careful analysts found that CD had four crucial imperfections:
(A) It promoted welfare activities more effectively than
productive activities. Particularly, it seemed in-
capable of solving the national food crisis.
(B) CD did not succeed significantly in forming harmonious
communities. It did not secure general participation.
The poorer classes remained as they were, apathetic and
(C) CD's reliance on its own agents and total collaboration
with established leaders further confirmed the elitist
and paternalist bias, a colonial heritage, and inhibited
the growth of true local initiative.
(D) CD's role as a generalist captain and coordinator was not
acceptable to the specialist departments. Agricultural
experts especially complained about the inadequacy of a
multipurpose VLW as their agent.
In India, after a decade of great faith and enormous investment in CD as
the best strategy for rural development, the emphasis suddenly shifted
to modernizing agriculture, building of rural institutions, panchayats,
cooperatives, and land reforms. Community development was quietly
abandoned by both parents, America and India.
7. THE SHIFTS IN EMPHASIS
Colonial rulers had left behind the three perennial problems:
scarcity, disparity, and disaffection. They had also left legacies of
solutions: agricultural "demonstration and propaganda" to counteract
scarcity, cooperatives and tenancy reforms to check disparity, local
government to redress disaffection, and finally a philosophy and tech-
nique of rural reconstruction. From 1950 to 1970 in India, the three
problems persisted, but there were fluctuations in their pressures like
an intermittent fever. The old solutions persisted too, only slightly
altered by external influence. From time to time, in reaction to the
fluctuating pressures, policy-makers shifted from one solution to
another--to CD, to intensive agriculture, to panchayats and cooperatives,
to agrarian reform, and back again to integrated rural development.
These shifts, although slower and less pronounced, had begun to take
place in the last period of the empire.
7.1 Origin of the Department of Agriculture
In India the recurrence of famine was an important factor in dis-
crediting CD. Growing scarcity of food grains for the teeming millions
was an intolerable burden, upsetting national plans which were based on
import of capital goods, not food. It raised the cost of living and
violently agitated town dwellers and industrial workers. Food produc-
tion became a matter of utmost urgency. Agricultural experts were
called forth to be the standard bearers in the war against hunger and
save the nation from collapse. We may remember that the Department of
Agriculture was first set up in 1880, after a series of famines, and
according to the recommendation of a Royal Commission. The department's
functions were to collect statistics, set up training institutions, and
upgrade the skill of farmers by means of "demonstration and propaganda."
For several decades the department's performance was weak and marginal.
Its research was strongly biased in favor of cash crops exported to
England. Cheap food crops grown for local consumption were neglected.
Subsistence farming was practically unaffected by the department's efforts.
While scientific methods were raising yields in Europe or America, the
Indian peasants continued to follow traditional methods, and yields
remained stagnant. In fact, with further fragmentation of holdings,
cultivation of marginal lands, and general exhaustion of the soil, the
average yields even declined. Forty years later, in response to the
post-war rural depression, another commission was appointed to inquire
into the crisis in agriculture. The commissioners recommended that the
scope of research, education, and extension be adequately enlarged. They
extolled the achievements of American agriculture and presented it as a
model for emulation. This was perhaps their most significant suggestion.
The colonial administrators had imported, before the end of the nineteenth
century, the model of cooperatives from Germany and the model of local
government from England. It is a pity they delayed by several decades the
import of the American model of agriculture.
7.2 American model of agricultural extension
It was not until 1950, when the British were gone from India, that
the American model of agricultural extension (AE) really arrived. Then,
propagated by scores of American experts, and hundreds of native experts
trained in American universities, and supported by enormous funds, it soon
became a dominant influence. The experts assumed that Indian agriculture
could be modernized in the same way, though not to the same extent, as
American agriculture had been. First, research and extension should be
linked as was done long ago by the land-grant colleges. Then, a class of
progressive farmers should be created, who would gladly accept the findings
of scientific research, and put the new technology into practice. They
would soon emerge out of their subsistence-level cocoon, and try to maximize
their profits by raising the levels of input and output. An extension agent
or assistant, trained and guided by experts, should be sent to the village
to demonstrate new techniques, first to the local leaders. The demonstra-
tions would soon convince the villagers. Larger and larger numbers would
adopt the methods and within a few years traditional agriculture would be
modernized. Unfortunately the actual results were not so spectacular,
From 1950 to 1960 the adoption of improved methods was agonizingly slow.
In most regions subsistence farming remained very much the same. Exten-
sion experts blamed the stolid peasants for not accepting what was so
patently good for them. The Asiatic peasant, some experts complained,
was a fatalist, a nonachiever. He was not an "economic man." But more
cogent reasons can easily be discovered. Evidently, in these sluggish
regions, the infrastructure which supports commercial agriculture did not
exist. Neither did a potential class of commercial farmers. Destitute
cultivators of tiny holdings, constantly damaged by floods or droughts,
were not a promising clientele for extension agents. Besides, the agent
himself was often ill-trained and poorly supported by appropriate
7.3 The "green revolution" of the sixties
American-sponsored agricultural extension had started in 1950 as a
junior partner of CD, but the food crisis turned the tables. After 1960 CD
was demoted and AE became the senior partner. This was the time of the
invention of miracle seeds and the heavy use of chemical fertilizers.
Scientific cultivation of some crops--corn, wheat, and rice--was making a
remarkable advance. An agricultural revolution--"a green revolution"--
in the poor countries seemed not only possible but imminent. The high
hopes were fulfilled to a certain extent. A dramatic increase in the
production of wheat, rice, and corn did indeed take place, but not every-
where and not for everybody. It took place mostly in favorable regions,
where flood and dought were under control and where a sufficient number
of well-to-do farmers were present with enough enterprise and resources
to secure the extra inputs--seeds, fertilizers, credit, and machines.
For instance, the green revolution spread quickly in the Punjab because
that province already had the best irrigation system, and the largest
number of affluent farmers with economic holdings. On the other hand,
Bengal, afflicted by alternating flood and drought, and without many
economic holdings, lagged behind. By 1970 it was seen that the so-called
green revolution was a boon for favorable regions and favored classes, but
distressed regions and distressed classes could not reap its benefits
immediately. Even in the favorable regions, the new rural entrepreneurs
preferring maximum profits to traditional obligations, evicted old
tenants. If the emerging capitalist agriculture did increase productivity,
it also increased disparity and disaffection.
7.4 Safeguards against disaffection: colonial local government
The danger of popular disaffection was, as we have seen, recognized
by colonial administrators in the middle period. They often saw smoulder-
ing apathy burst into flames. As a remedial measure they tried to intro-
duce institutions which might give the alienated rural people feelings of
belonging. However, from 1880 to 1920 the efforts were more symbolic
than real. After the war came the challenge of widespread national agita-
tions. The administrators now gave priority to local government in order
to achieve three objectives: (a) turn the people from passive subjects to
active partners; (b) mobilize local resources, money, or labor, and to
assume major responsibility for rural reconstruction; (c) provide apprentice-
ship training for full self-government, an art presumably unknown to the
Unfortunately, as we have already noted, truly autonomous local
government was incompatible with fundamental imperial principles, and
therefore never became an integral part of rural administration. There
was too little decentralization or delegation of real power, and too much
domination by officials and their junior partners, the rural gentry.
Using the pretentious slogan of self-help there was too little allocation
of resources for the immense task of rural improvement, while the foreign
colonial connection and the concommitant urban bias continuously depressed
the rural areas.
7.5 Objectives and performance of post-colonial local government
In 1958 Indian evaluators of CD pointed out that the primary need of
rural areas was institutional. Instead of building a lot of "brick and
mortar" projects, as CD was doing, panchayats and cooperatives should be
organized or strengthened. Disappointed with American-sponsored CD, the
planners turned back to older traditions. The reasons for emphasizing
local government appeared more urgent than before. It was essential that
the rural people identify themselves with their government; otherwise
there would be instability. The rural people must assume responsibility
for planning and financing their own development; otherwise the central
government could to very little. Self-reliant local institutions
obviously were the best means for popular participation and general
mobilization. If the reasons were the same as before, unfortunately the
impediments also were the same. Colonial traditions of centralism,
elitism, and paternalism still prevailed. The administrative machine and
its manner of operation was almost unchanged. Not surprisingly, the
panchayats did not possess much vitality. On paper the design looked
magnificent. In reality it was still a facade. There was, as before,
too little decentralization and too much domination by official and
unofficial elites. There was still the same old urban bias in the
allocation of resources. After a decade the local councils secured only
nominal participation. There was no general mobilization of villagers
and their resources. Nehru admired the dynamic role of cooperatives and
communes in China, and expected similar performances from his local
bodies. But Nehru did not do what Mao had done to enforce rural autonomy,
to curb the elites, and to curtail the urban bias. Unlike the communes, the
role of "panchayats" (local councils) remained subordinate, secondary, and
7.6 Origin of cooperatives
Cooperatives, born in Western Europe around the middle of the
nineteenth century, were like the trade unions, a reaction against the
excessive power of rising capitalism. This excessive power threatened
to make laborers, peasants, and consumers helpless. When the dreams of
utopias or early socialist revolution faded away after 1848, they began
to adjust themselves to the capitalist system. The laborers started to
protect themselves through trade unions and the small farmers and
consumers through cooperatives. Trade unions and cooperatives, in the
course of time, became powerful and independent movements, but they did
not completely forget their anti-capitalist origin and maintained bonds of
mutual assistance with socialist parties. By the end of the nineteenth
century, cooperatives had greatly improved the condition of farmers in
Germany, Denmark, and Ireland. In the twentieth century, socialist states
of Eastern Europe and China, as well as Japan, Israel, and Taiwan, have
successfully used cooperatives for rural development. Because of their
peculiar constitution, cooperatives can coexist with both capitalism and
7.7 Colonial rural cooperatives: objectives and performance
British administrators had imported the concept of cooperation to
solve the problem of rural indebtedness. The Indian peasants were caught
in a vicious cycle. Their numbers were increasing while their holdings
were diminishing. The law of demand and supply was raising land rents,
while colonial trade was depressing crop prices. Low yields, low prices,
and high rents increased the need for credit. Again increased demand and
high risk raised the interest rates. Thus, a typical small proprietor
had a low income and large debts, and paid high rents and still higher
interest charges. He marched steadily towards bankruptcy until he finally
lost his land. On the other side, a typical merchant moneylender quickly
multiplied his assets. Colonial administrators thought that rural
cooperatives would break this vicious cycle. In each village the peasant
proprietors would unite for mutual help, acquire the habit of thrift, and
gradually accumulate their own capital. A thrifty group would become
credit-worthy and then would be able to borrow cheaply from a bank instead
of a usurer. The members would learn not only to save, but also to invest
wisely in better farming. Through cooperation they would escape from the
clutches of the moneylender. They would also escape from the middleman
by marketing their own produce jointly. Rural cooperatives, however, did
not perform in colonial India as they had done in Germany or Scandinavia.
Evidently the moneylenders, the middlemen, and the debt-ridden peasants
were symptoms of a diseased economy. The symptoms could not be cured by
credit unions unless the real causes were remedied. Colonial experts, who
were not critical of the imperial economic system, ascribed the failure
of the cooperatives to the noncooperative character of peasants. The
Asian peasants did not possess the Protestant ethic.
7.8 Progress of post-colonial rural cooperatives
Cooperation, as we have seen, had flourished briefly during the
boom years of the first world war and then collapsed in the following
slump. The second world war again brought better prices and more employ-
ment for the villagers. Inflation reduced the burden of old debts.
After independence there was a spectacular expansion of the cooperative
movement. A greater amount of funds were allocated for rural credit.
Moneylenders and merchants could no longer exercise their old monopoly.
They now faced some institutional competition. In countries where they
were immigrant proteges of the colonial power, they were forcibly
suppressed. However, the rural cooperatives, while spreading widely,
showed some serious shortcomings. One expert called the Indian cooper-
ative movement a colossus with clay feet. Originally cooperatives were
designed to ensure both production and equity and to turn the backward
into progressives and the weak into strong. Colonial cooperatives did
not achieve these objectives. They could not break the vicious cycle.
Post-colonial cooperatives are bigger and better supported by the govern-
ment than their predecessors, but, as yet, it cannot be claimed that rural
cooperatives have succeeded, widely and substantially, in performing the
productive as well as the protective function. Of course, there are
islands of success. But, on the whole, rural areas are not being trans-
formed by cooperatives. The rapidly growing proletariat of sharecroppers
and landless laborers are not involved. Very few significant attempts are
being made to organize cooperative agriculture for peasant proprietors.
Colonial cooperatives tried to compete with the old merchant moneylenders.
Post-colonial cooperatives are competing, in the same feeble manner, with
the new rural entrepreneurs. For the present, rural capitalism, not
cooperation, is on the rise.
7.9 The problem of land tenure--two views
In the nineteenth century the land question troubled all the three
Asian empires--Indian, Chinese, and Russian. In the twentieth century it
contributed to their fall. Contemporary revolutions, contrary to the pre-
dictions of Marx, have been nurtured in rural areas. Probably future
Asian or African revolutions will also have rural roots. Socialists
believe that there can be no development without a revolution, that in
ex-colonial states a social transformation must precede technological
transformation, that the latter is impossible without the former. There
are some non-socialist experts, also, who think that grossly inequitable
ownership of land is definitely a hurdle in the way of progressive agri-
culture, a fetter on production. According to them, certain types of land
tenure generate and perpetuate rural poverty. More than a hundred years
ago there were some revenue officials of the empire who condemned the
Permanent Settlement, or the system of landlordism, as a regressive measure
in every respect. They advocated that all lands should be owned directly
by sturdy cultivators. More recently experts like Wolf Ladejensky kept
predicting, in the fifties and sixties, that in spite of CD, agriculture
extension, and cooperative credit, many Indian regions would not move
forward until the shackles of regressive land tenures were removed.
7.10 Agronomists and agrarian reform
American agronomists, however, have absolute faith in technology.
They think they can teach modern methods to every cultivator, big or
small, owner or sharecropper. Of course, they recommend some extra help
for the little fellows, in the shape of subsidized credit or fertilizer.
In response to the clamor about land tenures, agronomists claim that
their technology is neutral, not concerned with social structures. But,
in effect, the American model of agricultural extension is appropriate
for promoting commercial or capitalist agriculture. It succeeds quickly
where conditions are favorable, as we have seen in the case of the
Punjab. But there are other places where individual enterprise is too
severely handicapped. In these unfortunate areas the majority of culti-
vators must first have more secure rights and then be organized into
groups. Where holdings are very small and their owners are extremely
poor, mutual aid and cooperation is not only beneficial, but is, in fact,
essential. While private ownership can be retained, excessive disparities
must be curtailed, services and supplies must be pooled, credit and market-
ing must be conducted jointly, as has been done in Japan and Taiwan. These
remarkable models of nonsocialist agrarian reform evolved in the fifties,
but ex-colonial states have not yet been able to follow them successfully.
7.11 Post-colonial progress of land reforms
In the last two decades many land reform measures were introduced in
India and elsewhere. As a first step, the rural aristocracy, landlords,
and planters who had flourished under colonial rule were deprived of their
extraordinary privileges. Ceilings were imposed on ownership. Some land
was redistributed, but the growing numbers of tenants, sharecroppers, and
landless laborers have only partially benefited from these measures, and
the small proprietors have rarely been fully helped to modernize their
farming as in Taiwan. Land reform regulations, imperfect as they were, have
been further thwarted in two ways. First, the new ruling classes, though
less exclusive and more populist than their forerunners, still have a strong
elitist bias. Their concern for the rural poor is more rhetorical than
genuine. Hence, the enacted rules were easily evaded. Secondly, the model
of development that was being promoted under the inspiration of American
experts was that of capitalist agriculture. It not only offered a simple
and quick shortcut to increased production, but its emphasis on commercial-
ization and maximizing profits was very agreeable to the new rural elites.
However, as we have seen, capitalist agriculture distributes benefits
unevenly and aggravates disparity. Agrarian reforms in many ex-colonial
states have been enfeebled by lack of genuine sympathy and the confusion
7.12 The colonial legacy of rural administration
Implementation of rural programs has generally been much weaker than
their planning. Often, in the field of operation, good policies have
been distorted, and expectations have not been fulfilled. For this gulf
between planning and implementation, the system of administration must be
held responsible. The system is a colonial legacy, originally designed
for establishing order and collecting land taxes. It had performed both
functions with a firm hand. For pacification and tax gathering, it had
demanded complete obedience and humble submission. It had ruthlessly
suppressed every potential center of defiance. It was highly centralized.
A small elite corps of district officers possessing overwhelming prestige
and power played the key role. The best of them saw themselves as fathers
or guardians and regarded their autocracy as pure benevolence. After
independence, certain changes took place in the system. The departments
were greatly enlarged. Under American influence new agencies and state
corporations were set up, but the expansions and innovations took place
mostly at the top. There was little change at the bottom. The district
remained, as before, the hub of rural administration, and the prestigious
district officer continued to be a magistrate and collector. As the
structural pattern of rural administration was not altered, it is not
surprising that the old attitudes which had built and operated it also
7.13 Attempts at reform of rural administration
Apart from the expansion of the "nation building" departments
(agriculture, education, health, etc.), three attempts were made to
reform the nature and approach of rural administration. The first
attempt was made by the colonial rural reconstruction (RR) movement,
the second by CD, and the third by the local government (LG) programs,
Colonial RR gave a new dimension to the district officer. Besides being
a magistrate and collector, he was to become the father of development,
the guide-philosopher-friend of the villagers. Obviously the RR reform
was confined to attitudes. On the one hand, it did not in the least inter-
fere with the paternalist framework. On the other hand, it brought
idealistic reinforcement. Thirty years later, CD pointed out the need for
a new orientation for administrators. It criticized them for the "law and
order" mentality. Development required much more than obedience and
submission from the people. It required active participation. This point
was further emphasized by the proponents of local government. They said
that the rural people and their resources could be mobilized only through
strong, self-managed, self-supporting local institutions. Government
departments should be synthesized with and work through these institutions.
CD and LG laid the foundation of a rural administrative infrastructure.
But, after five decades of expansion and reform, rural administration still
displays serious faults. It generally fails to deliver services and
supplies promptly and equitably. The failure is due partly in inadequate
resources, partly to an elitist bias, and partly to lack of coordination.
And rural administration generally fails to secure popular participation.
Traditional attitudes have prevented any synthesis with local institutions
or a real partnership with the people. The inhibiting influence of
paternalistic centralization, which prevailed in the past, has not yet
7.14 Neglect of rural areas--interior colonialism
Villages were economically depressed by the colonial connection and
further degraded by urban domination. It is said that the rural people
suffered from an exterior as well as an interior colonialism, and even
when the former went away, the latter stayed on. In the post-colonial
era the gulf between the cities and the villages, instead of being
bridged, has been widened. Urban bias has distorted national planning.
The villagers are mistreated economically and they are given only meager
and second-class welfare facilities. This discrimination is well
illustrated by the examples of rural education and health services.
Fewer and inferior schools or clinics and more illiteracy and ill health
are found in the villages. Such planning keeps the villages shabby and
miserable and consequently creates the intractable problem of the great
exodus from the villages to the cities. Migration to the cities physically
transfers the difficult rural problems and by concentration magnifies them.
It is the nemesis of rural neglect.
7.15 Problems of rural education and health
In the post-colonial era the Departments of Education and Health have
been enlarged and the scope of their activities extended considerably.
Compared to fifty years ago, death rates have declined and more children
are going to school. But, after twenty-five years, there is as much
disillusion with programs of rural education and rural health as with
other rural programs. At the present pace, it may take a hundred years to
wipe out illiteracy or reduce ill health. The orthodox systems are also
very costly. They place themselves beyond the reach of the rural poor.
In both systems the elitist and urban bias is apparent. Schools, it is
said, provide the best exit from the village. Fifty years ago, Gandhi
severely criticized the exclusiveness and anti-rural bias of colonial
education. He tried to invent an inexpensive, relevant, and practical
system of basic education which did not become popular or common. More
recently, experiments and suggestions are being made to find cheaper
and fewer rural alternatives to the slow-moving and capital-intensive
conventional systems. Nonformal education and extensive use of paramedics
are two examples. But the battle between these little Davids and the
orthodox Goliaths has not yet begun.
8. THE CHINESE MODEL OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT
We have examined the progress of rural development in India. Let us
also glance briefly at the contemporary Chinese model. The basic problems
of scarcity, disparity, and disaffection were essentially similar in both
countries. But the Chinese communist leaders perceived the priorities in
a different manner. They were determined to put an end to both exterior and
interior colonialism. They considered the rural class structure and the dis-
parate ownership of land and capital as causes of poverty and as fetters on
production. They recognized clearly the damage done to the villages by
urban domination and a centralized bureaucracy. Rural reconstruction in
China, under communist leadership, passed through three stages. The first
stage began with peasant revolts and redistribution of land. The upper
classes of landlords and the rich gentry were abolished, but private owner-
ship of land was retained and small farmers were organized in mutual aid
teams. The second stage began with the assumption of sovereign power.
The goal of a complete social and technological transformation was clearly
defined. The first step towards socialist agriculture was to organize
cooperative or semi-socialist agriculture, a halfway house. The mutual aid
teams were combined into cooperatives, first small and then large, and land and
implements were pooled. The third stage came next with the transition to
socialist agriculture, and the organization of communes, brigades, and
teams. All means of production were now owned collectively and the rural
people were ready for technological progress.
8.1 Organizing socialist agriculture
Socialist agriculture can have as many problems as, or even more problems
than, the capitalist agriculture. The Chinese were travelling a rough and hard
road. But fortunately the leaders were wise and they had learned three
important lessons from the terrible Russian example. First, agriculture
was given equal priority with industry. Secondly, instead of complete
central control, autonomous and compact rural institutions were built
extensively. Thirdly, within the collective system, extremely ingenious
and flexible adjustments were made, which provided incentives for higher
production to communes, teams, and individual members. Above all, the
rural areas received far more favorable economic, political, and social
treatment, and urban domination was greatly reduced. Now, after two
decades, although the Chinese villagers are still poor, the fearful
pressures of scarcity, disparity, and disaffection are diminished. It
seems that the vicious cycle of privilege and poverty has been broken.
Few experts can claim that the same has happened as yet in India.
8.2 Securing popular participation and mobilization
Planners in India always recognized the crucial importance of
popular participation and mobilization, but they were frustrated by
their administrative systems. On the other hand, the success of the
Chinese planners in achieving these objectives was remarkable. Their
concern for local organization and local initiative was genuine. Instead of
a superior, patronizing attitude, the Chinese leaders had great faith in
the common sense, fortitude, and courage of the peasant. Truly autonomous
and powerful institutions, cooperatives, and communes, which by involving
the masses, harnessed their stupendous energy were built. On the foundation
of this faith organization was accompanied by intensive social and technical
training. "Organize and educate" summed up in a slogan the Chinese method
of rural uplift. This method, in spirit as well as in form, differed from
the Indian method, which was deeply influenced by the conceptual legacies
of the colonial past. The Chinese central government did not appoint village-
level workers or extension agents to guide and control the villagers, or
stimulate them with favors or grants. Under the Chinese system of training,
the workers or leaders, technical or organizational, sprung up from the groups
and were selected and controlled by their groups. And, to a great extent,
the groups became self-reliant, managing and mobilizing their own resources.
8.3 Priority of rural works
One striking difference between the Indian and Chinese attempts to
increase agricultural production was the role of rural public works.
Unlike the Indians, the Chinese gave it the highest priority. The Chinese
perceived clearly that without constructing a proper infrastructure--
embankments, drainage, irrigation, afforestation, terracing, roads--
cultivation would be restricted and yields would remain low and uncertain.
Agricultural progress would take place in areas where land was developed
and risks were reduced. Rural works would pave the way for progressive
agriculture. Hence, the villagers were mobilized everywhere to improve
the physical land and water environment, which had been badly neglected
during two hundred years of decline and anarchy. The institution of the
commune made possible an immense yet widely scattered mobilization.
Chinese leaders had also given high priority to solving the problem of rural
unemployment. They realized that traditional agriculture, restricted and
risky, could not provide enough work, especially when there was too little
land and too many people. But the idle, surplus manpower could be
immediately engaged in rural works, which would soon enlarge the scope for
intensive farming, and permanently increase the demand for more employment.
Indian planners did not definitely apprehend the interdependence of, and
the linkage between, rural works, institutional organization, intensive
farming, and control of rural unemployment.
9. SPECIAL PROJECTS
In colonial times as well as recently, some rural regions have attained,
by means of special projects, a level of prosperity higher than the commonly
prevailing level in that country. Two famous examples under the British
Empire were the Canal Colonies in the Punjab and the Gezira Scheme in Sudan.
The Canal Colonies turned the Punjab into the granary of India. First, the
infrastructure of irrigation, roads, and market towns was built and arid
lands were made fertile, or, in Chinese terms, the base for a progressive
and stable agriculture was established. Then, settlers were carefully
selected and given good-sized holdings (minimum of 12-1/2 acres), and
better welfare services than they had previously. Within a decade the new
settlers became remarkably productive and affluent farmers. A flourishing
agriculture encouraged the growth of rural industries. In spite of the
subsequent increase in population and the fragmentation of holdings, rural
Punjab has, ever since, maintained its progressive lead.
Like the Canal Colonies, the Gezira Scheme also began with the
settlement of newly irrigated lands. But here, furthermore, a British
Commercial Syndicate assumed an important management function. It
financed and strictly supervised the cultivation of cotton by the settlers,
and bought, processed, and exported the entire crop to England. With
substantial holdings, adequate credit, extension guidance, and efficient
marketing, the first generation of Gezira farmers soon became wealthier
than their compatriots elsewhere. Later, their prosperity declined when
their families multiplied and the prices of cotton slumped.
9.1 Imitations of the TVA model
Many ex-colonial countries started settlement programs similar to
the Canal Colonies or the Gezira Scheme. In the fifties, another model,
regional development modeled after the TVA, became very influential. The
American TVA model twenty years earlier had spectacularly improved a
depressed area by controlling floods and rebuilding the physical environ-
ment. TVA was also famous for a coordinated approach, for combining
physical engineering with human (social or institutional) engineering.
Many poor countries eagerly adopted the TVA model for their hydro-electric
projects. These projects succeeded, more or less, in controlling floods
and generating electricity. But the comprehensiveness of the original
could hardly be reproduced by the imitators. The TVA could draw upon the
enormous resources of a great nation. Through tourism and migration the
small, impoverished region could easily be integrated with a vast, affluent,
continental economy. Neither of these crucial supports was available to
the imitators in poor countries.
9.2 Pilot projects of the sixties--Comilla, Puebla, and CADU
For a few years, in the sixties, three pilot projects attracted the
attention of international experts. These were the Comilla Projects in
Bangladesh, Puebla in Mexico, and CADU Project in Ethiopia.1 The Comilla
project was sponsored by a training academy. It tried, through prolonged
action research in a large experimental administrative unit, to evolve
viable models which could be replicated in the whole country. Over a
decade four Comilla models were actually replicated and are still being
followed in Bangladesh, namely, an improved system: (1) of local govern-
ment; (2) of small farmers cooperatives; (3) of comprehensive rural works;
(4) and of extension training of and through group representatives. The
Comilla approach emphasized the importance of local institutions and
rural works and insisted that these were essential foundations for a
progressive agriculture. Unfortunately, the villagers were willing to
accept this approach more eagerly than political leaders, administrators,
and extension experts.
The Puebla project was designed to modernize as quickly as possible
the growing of corn by medium and small farmers. An area with favorable
physical and social conditions was chosen and ample extension advice and
inputs were provided. The farmers responded by rapidly adopting the
profferred technology and increasing their yields.
CADU was set up under Swedish supervision in a fertile region in
Ethiopia. Large investments were made in extension, credit, marketing, and
ICADU refers to the rural development project which was launched in
1967 with substantial assistance from the Swedish International Development
Aurhority (SIDA) Province. CADU refers to the Chilalo Agricultural Develop-
ment Unit in Arruse Province. For background on CADU see Nekby (1970) and
Tesfai Tecle (1975).
roads. The project aimed to promote both production and equity. According
to the evaluations made by the Swedes, the project soon succeeded in raising
production and the standard of farming. But the Swedes were less satisfied
about the equity aspects of the project. In fact, they found that the advent
of commercial farming, by eroding traditional bonds, worsens the position of
sharecroppers. CADU was precariously dependent on foreign assistance.
The encouraging results obtained in settlement schemes, river valley
projects, or pilot projects highlight the potential for development. They
also specify the preliminary conditions which must be fulfilled to start the
10. THE SEVENTIES--A DECADE OF CONSOLIDATION OF TWO MODELS:
INDIAN AND CHINESE
We have surveyed broadly a century of rural development in India. Our
bird's eye view showed the emergence, in the final decade of the last
century, of a number of profound rural problems. We described how these
problems were perceived by colonial administrators and what solutions were
advanced by them. Then, early in our century, came a decade of war and
revolutions. It was followed by two decades of colonial rural construction,
which was ended abruptly by another decade of war and revolutions. At the
end of the war the world was divided into two camps. In the nonsocialist
camp, joined by India, American influence intermingled with colonial
traditions. The fifties may be called the American decade of community
development and agriculture extension. The next decade saw the culmination
of American influence, along with a return to older traditions. This was
the decade of the "green revolution," and institutional and agrarian
reforms. Concurrently, in the socialist camp, the Chinese model of rural
reconstruction was fully fashioned. At present, in the seventies, the two
fallen Asian giants, India and China, are standing on their own feet, and
marching along two parallel roads to development. Evidently, for both this
is a decade of consolidation. Although both are eagerly absorbing western
science and technology, neither desires her rural efforts to be guided or
supervised by foreign experts. China freed herself from foreign tutors in
the fifties and India is doing the same in the seventies. We can say that
twenty-five years after the end of the colonial era, there are before us two
major models of rural development. On one side is the Indian model which
can be fairly described as a shabby, genteel, rural capitalism--disparate,
anarchical, and unstable, full of rewards and profits for the rich and
strong, but also full of distress and despair for the weak and poor. On
the other side is the Chinese model--a rural socialism, drab, austere, and
harsh, but extremely organized and disciplined like a human hive.
10.1 A decade of reconsideration for American experts
For American development experts the seventies has become a decade of
reconsideration. Twenty years ago, encouraged by the success of the
Marshall Plan, they had confidently believed that other indigent client
countries could also be rehabilitated in the same way, if not to the same
extent. Economists, sociologists, and agronomists came forward to master-
mind assistance to the recently emancipated slave nations, now politely
called the less developed countries (LDCs). The stages of economic growth
were mapped out for the LDCs. By substantially increasing capital
investments and managerial skills, both of which could be initially
borrowed from America, the LDCs should quickly increase their GNP. When
the cake would become bigger, everyone would have a larger slice, or when
wealth became abundant, it would trickle down everywhere. While the
economists pointed out this straightforward road to development, the
sociologists propounded ingenious ways of manipulating, motivating, and
mobilizing the rural people. The agronomists suggested that low-yielding
traditional agriculture, which gave only beggarly returns, should, by
demonstrations and incentives, be transformed into opulent modern agri-
culture. After guiding the performance of client LDCs for two decades,
the development experts were disappointed. Poor and uneven progress has
especially discredited the economic planners. In most LDCs, in spite of
American aid, even when growth did take place, it was pathetically small,
and decidedly it did not trickle down. In the seventies, the bright old
confidence has evaporated, leaving in its place dark doubts and the agony
of reappraisal. There is now a gnawing concern about the distribution of
the benefits of development. It almost seems as if American donors are
about to make social justice a categorical imperative for the LDCs who
are recipients of aid. As Keynes said, "We are all socialists now."
10.2 Reorientation of American aid--new ends
Disillusion with the past, and desire for a new orientation, a turning
point, is seen clearly in the recent speeches of the World Bank's President
and the policy directives of U.S. AID. They ruefully admit that too often
development in the LDCs has not benefited their poorer classes. After a
quarter century of aid, sixty percent of the LDCs population continues to
live in "relative poverty," and forty percent in "absolute poverty." And
the majority of the relative and absolutely poor live in the rural areas.
Amends must now be made for past neglect. Henceforth, the primary purpose
of development programs, or aid projects, should be to help the poor in
general, and the rural poor in particular. Much greater investment should
be made in rural development, and special attention should be paid to the
interests of the poorer sections of the rural population--subsistence
cultivators and the landless laborers. Rural programs should be carefully
designed to reach and serve these "target groups."
10.3 No change in means and methods
Of course, everyone should applaud the new poverty and target groups
orientation. But it is, as yet, little more than a declaration of intent.
Another decade must pass before the results can be judged. Until now, apart
from the rhetoric, no significant changes are perceptible in the operational
methods, in the means to achieve the end. If carefully analyzed, the new
programs for the improvement of peasant farmers, or landless laborers, are
not so very different from the old programs. To serve the small farmers,
the old orthodox extension approach is proposed, which relies mainly on a
government agent to deliver techniques, credit, and fertilizers. Rural
works for the benefit of laborers resemble the old paternalist relief programs.
And "integrated rural development" goes only a little further than good old
10.4 The dilemma of American advisors
American advisors face a dilemma when they champion the uplift of the
rural poor in LDCs where the ruling elites are not genuinely interested in it.
Of course, food or money can be brought from America for temporary relief
of hunger or distress. The hungry can be fed and the naked can be clothed
for a short time. But to engineer a permanent change in the status of the
downtrodden poor is a different matter. Rural poverty is not simply due
to lack of funds or of technology. Frequently the rural depressors are
built into the political or economic system. Sponsors of antipoverty
programs are assuming that foreign aid can be used as a lever to shift the
gears of an indifferent national government, reverse its urban bias, and
definitely turn it around toward rural development and the rural poor. The
next decade will tell us whether this was a realistic belief, or merely, in
the words of Samuel Johnson, an example of the triumph of hope over
I. General background on India
1. Bettleheim, Charles. 1968. India Independent. Trans. from French by
W.A. Caswell. New York: Monthly Review Press.
2. Spear, Percival. 1966. India, Pakistan and the West. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
3. 1965. Oxford History of India 1740-1947. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
4. Streeten, Paul and Michael Lipton. 1968. The Crisis of Indian
Planning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
II. Colonial and Post-Colonial Rural Situation
5. Bhatia, B.M. 1963. Famines in India, A Study in Some Aspects
of the Economic History of India 1860-1945. New
York: Asia Publishing House.
6. Darling, Sir Malcolm. 1947. The Punjab Peasant in Prosperity
and Debt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
7. Dumont, Rene. 1965. Lands Alive. Trans. from French by Suzanne
and Gilbert Sale. London: The Merlin Press.
8. Scott, J.C. 1977. The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Haven:
Yale University Press.
9. Thorner, Alice and Daniel. 1962. Land and Labour in India.
New York: Asia Publishing House.
10. Wallerstein, Immanuel, ed. 1966. Social Change, The Colonial
Situation. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
III. Colonial Rural Reconstruction and Its Rivals
11. Brayne, F.L. 1946. Socrates in an Indian Village. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
12. Gurley, John G. 1976. Challengers to Capitalism. San
Francisco: San Francisco Book Company.
13. Mehta, Ved. 1976. Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles. New York:
14. Namboodiripad, E.M.S. 1958. The Mahatma and the Ism.
New Dehli: Peoples Publishing House.
IV. American Development Leadership
15. Kuznets, Simon. 1959. Six Lectures on Economic Growth.
Glencoe: Free Press of Glencoe.
16. Lewis, John P. 1962. Quiet Crisis in India; Economic Develop-
ment and American Policy. Washington: The Brookings
17. Mason, Edward S. 1955. Promoting Economic Development:
the U.S. and Southern Asia. Claremont: Claremont College.
18. Millikan, Max and Donald Blackmer, eds. 1961. The Emerging
Nations: Their Growth and U.S. Policy. Boston: Little,
Brown & Company.
V. Community Development
19. Council of Social Development. 1966. Actions for Rural Change--
Readings in Community Development. New Delhi.
20. Ensminger, Douglas. 1972. Rural India in Transition. New
Delhi: All India Panchayat Parishad.
21. Hunter, Guy. 1969. Modernising Peasant Societies. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
VI. Agricultural Development
22. Asian Productivity Organization. 1973. Planning for Agricultural
Development: The Asian Experience. Toyko: Asian Productivity
23. Ford Foundation. Agricultural Production Team. 1959. Report
on India's Food Crisis and Steps to Meet It. New Delhi:
Issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Food and
Agriculture and Ministry of Community Development and
24. Hopper, David W. 1976. Food Production in India: A Perspective.
Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.
25. Hunter, Guy. 1970. The Administration of Agricultural Develop-
ment: Lessons from India. London: Oxford University Press.
VII. Local Self-Government and Cooperatives
26. India (Republic). Team for the Study of Community Projects and
National Extension Service, B. G. Mehta, leader. 1958.
Report. New Delhi: Government of India Press.
27. Thorner, Daniel.
1964. Agricultural Cooperatives in India: A
Bombay: Asia Publishing House.
28. Tinker, Hugh. 1954. The Foundations .of Local Self Government
in India, Pakistan and Burma. London: University of London,
29. United Nations Research Institute
"Rural Cooperatives as Agents
on Debate." Geneva: UNRISD.
on Social Development. 1975.
of Change--A Research Report
30. Uphoff, Norman and Milton Easman. 1974. Local Organization for
Rural Development--Analysis of Asian Experience. Ithaca:
Cornell Rural Development Committee.
VIII. Rural Administration and Rural Education
31. Braibanti, Ralph and Joseph Spengler, ed. 1963.
and Economic Development in India. Durham:
32. Gorwala, A.D. 1951. "Report on Public Administration." New
Delhi: Government of India Press.
33. Streeten, Paul and Michael Lipton. 1968. The Crisis of Indian
Planning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
34. Ward, F. Champion, ed. 1974.
Reconsidered. New York:
Education and Development
IX. Chinese Model of Rural Development
35. Oksenberg, Michael, ed.
New York: Columbia
36. Stavis, Benedict. 1978.
in China. Ithaca:
1973. China's Development Experience.
Politics of Agricultural Mechanization
Cornell University Press.
1974. Making Green Revolution: The Politics of
Agricultural Development in China. Ithaca: Cornell Rural
X. Special Projects
38. Gaitskell, Arthur. 1959. Gezira: A Story of Development in Sudan.
London: Faber & Faber.
39. Khan, A.H. 1974. "Reflections on the Comilla Rural Development
Projects." American Council on Education, Overseas Liaison
Committee, Washington, D.C.
40. Nekby, Bengt. 1971. CADU: An Ethiopian Experiment in Developing
Peasant Farming; a Summary of the Work of Chilalo Agricultural
Development Unit During the Period of the First Agreement,
1969-70. Stockholm: Prisma Publishers.
41. Tecle, Tesfai. 1975. "The Evolution of Alternative Rural Develop-
ment Strategies in Ethiopia: Implications for Employment and
Income Distribution." African Rural Employment Paper No. 12,
Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University,
East Lansing, Michigan.
XI. New Orientation of Foreign Assistance
42. Coombs, P.H. and M. Ahmad. 1974. Attacking Rural Poverty.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
43. McNamara, Robert S. 1973. One Hundred Countries, Two Billion
People: The Dimensions of Development. New York: Praeger.
44. Owens, Edgar and Robert Shaw. 1972. Development Reconsidered;
Bridging the Gap Between Government and People. Lexington:
45. World Bank. 1976. "Public Works Program in Developing Countries."
World Bank Paper 224. New York: World Bank.
MSU RURAL DEVELOPMENT PAPERS
Akhter Hameed Khan, "Ten Decades of Rural Development:
Lessons from India," 1978.
Lane E. Holdcroft, "The Rise and Fall of Community
Development in Developing Countries, 1950-65: A Critical
Analysis and an Annotated Bibliography," 1978.
Single copies of MSU Rural Development Papers may be obtained free by
writing to: MSU Rural Development Papers, Department of Agricultural
Economics, 206 International Center, Michigan State University, East
Lansing, Michigan 48824, U.S.A.
RDP No. 1
RDP No. 2