Rural Development

Atanu Dey writes:

At the turn of the 20th century, the US population was largely rural. Agriculture and related occupations employed the vast majority of Americans. The government saw the need to make higher education available to the rural populations. That was the birth of the so-called land-grant universities. (The University of California, which I attended for several wonderful years, is one such.)

Providing higher education to the children of the rural families was the need. So did they start very little colleges in the tens of thousands of little rural communities? No. They started large universities for the children of farmers to go to. The idea was that these trained people would then go back to the farms and increase the farm productivity. But what was the actual outcome? The children of the farmers got urbanized and did not want to go back to the rural areas. As luck would have it, technologies developed in urban areas were successful in raising farm productivity which meant that so many were not needed in the farms anyway. And who developed the technologies and labored in all those urban areas? Those children of rural farmers who went to the colleges were the people who supplied all the necessary bits that the rural farmers required.

The point I am trying to make is that it was not rural development that made the difference in the rural areas. It was what happened in the urban areas that changed the rural areas.

The problem with rural development, in my considered opinion, is that the focus has been the village. Nothing wrong with focusing on a village, of course. But you do have a problem if you have to focus on 600,000 villages. The moment you try to focus on 600,000 thousand of anything — villages, songs, books, cars, you name it — you become unfocused and unhinged. That is what happened with rural development.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.