Rural development in India: reversals for diversity

Rural development in India: reversals for diversity

This paper argues that in the search for more equitable and effective rural development, professionals and professionalism are part of the problem. Normal bureaucracy, normal professionalism, normal careers, and normal modes of learning interlock to sustain centralised, standardised and simple perceptions, prescriptions, and programmes.

The environments and livelihood strategies of the poorer are often, in contrast, dispersed, diverse and complex. To enable the poor to gain more of what they want and need requires policies and programmes which decentralise, diversify, and encourage demand from below. Trends in these directions can be discerned in rural development in India over the past ten years. Examples are found in canal irrigation, lift irrigation, watershed development, social forestry, and agricultural research and extension. Recent developments in the approach and methods of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) show potential for carrying these processes further through personal, professional, and institutional change.