Developmental dilemmas

A TRAGEDY of Indian planners as also of those from some other developing countries is that they have considered agricultural development synonymous with rural development.

Development is a must for alleviation of rural poverty, but ironically, conventional development pro- grammes have exacerbated the pressures on the rural poor and unwittingly destroyed the environment as well. In this book, the authors seek to understand the socioeconomic dynamics underlying this paradox and suggest better ways along which development can and must proceed.

Development should not be to improve things, but to enhance humans. Human beings have basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and education. Any process of growth that does not lead to their fulfillment or worse still, causes their disruption, is a travesty of the very concept of development.

The book discusses the general problems accompanying technological innovation with particular reference to the Third World. Roy shows how technology associated with the Green Revolution can lead to environmental degradation, hurting the position of the rural poor, especially women.

The traditional idea that modernisation produces, almost inevitably, more opportunities and a higher status for women does not find analytical support. For instance, the much-touted changes in agriculture, especially the introduction of more advanced technology and the transformation from subsistence to cash crop production, have undermined women's production role by reducing dramatically their participation in actual agricultural operations. The countries in which the status of women is marginalised will continue to stagnate in terms of 'real development' even if they have shown impressive economic performance.

Proceeding from diagnosing the basic problem and suggesting broad policy strategies, the book outlines concr ite solutions through education and rural extension work.

S Gill and R Lamble argue that the chasm between development institutions and local social instibe tutions must bridged. Only then would the reforms focus development effort on the technologies that are most ,socially connected' to local communities, ensuring thereby that basic human needs are served.

The Green Revolution being a new enterprise, introduction of new technology for it has proceeded at random. By raising issues such as this, Kartik Roy and Cal Clark have pointed out effectively how the Green Revolution can finally realise its potential, for it is still not too late to reverse the impact of the new technology. This new work is thus a clarion call to the planners the world over that the rural poor must not be converted into dehumanised objects of development programmes; they must rather be their dynamic designers, positive participants and natural promoters.