Missing Links In Development Strategy

by Garry Jacobs

After three decades of effort and five plans, India is now fully poised for rapid development. The infrastructure has been created, the possibilities have been recognized, and the energies of the population have been stirred to awakening.

Yet in many fields there is an essential missing element which must be provided, a strategic gap which must be filled to complete the circuit. If the leadership of the country recognises what is needed and supplies it, a self-generating and self-multiplying prosperity movement can be created releasing the inherent dynamism of the population.

The missing ingredient is in some fields a necessary part of the physical infrastructure such as demonstration of profitability, financial schemes, market support, vocational training, incentives for innovation, technical support, or maintenance services. In other fields the physical infrastructure is complete, but still nothing moves. Here the psychological infrastructure may be lacking, i.e. a felt need in the people for achievement, or the scope and incentive for upward social mobility. In still other cases the missing link may be a policy decision at the cabinet level or an administrative reform.

In a field where the felt need for development is fully activated, the presence of supporting social institutions, physical infrastructure, and financial schemes is enough. But often there is a gap between the knowledge that a new activity is beneficial and willingness of the population to take initiative. This gap must be bridged by a living demonstration which acts as a catalyst for imitation. That demonstration will be effective in proportion to its physical, social and psychological proximity to the people.

Large scale demonstrations receive widespread publicity and become common knowledge of the entire population. Small scale demonstration under conditions approximating those of the people and located nearby, have the greatest psychological impact. A graded series of models and demonstration at all levels and all sizes will ensure the maximum dissemination of information and the greatest motivating power for imitation.

In agriculture, what is needed today is a graded demonstration programme based on integrated model farms of various sizes, to demonstrate yields of Rs.2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000 per acre based on a variety of remunerative crops, cropping patterns, and modern farming techniques.

Specialists from the state departments and universities can be formed into teams or boards to plan out and manage demonstration at all levels. The smallest models may be 3 to 5 acre plots leased out from farmers in each village for cultivation by the team for 5 or 6 seasons. Even one acre plots can be cultivated as models for the smallest farmers emphasising intensive cultivation of highly profitable cash crops like fruits and flowers which can return upwards of Rs.10,000 per acre. Each panchayat union can establish a five or ten acre farm to be manned by the agricultural teams for demonstration of soil erosion, water management, plant protection techniques on a long term basis.

There is special need now for demonstrating the profitability of less traditional crops like fodder grass, orchards, and fuel trees which offer immense potential for high returns. Demonstration of fodder grass can be linked to a multidimensional strategy. In each village 25 landless labourers who traditionally harvest grass and market it, can be given 25 cents each of lands fitted with irrigation facilities. A Grass Development Corporation can be established to demonstrate intensive grass cultivation. When coupled with a financial scheme, each labourer can earn Rs.3000 from his quarter acre plot, in addition to the normal income he ordinarily derives from selling grass. This strategy also lays a firm foundation for a successful dairy industry.

The importance of marketing support for agriculture is very well illustrated by the specialised role in marketing of organizations such as the Food Corporation of India for grains, the Anand Dairy Corporation, for dairy products and the Indo-German Nilgiris project for vegetables. There are many other crops which can benefit from a similar marketing support.

The best strategy would be to establish autonomous government-owned or cooperative corporations for each activity that needs development such as grass, fuel crops, oil seeds, orchards, vegetables, sugar, cotton, paper, essential oils, poultry, fishing, etc. These corporations can combine marketing operations with demonstration, technical support, financial schemes, training programmes, processing and preservation adapted to the particular product.

The missing link for development in some areas is only a small incentive to spur a pioneering effort. If the incentive is supported by a financial scheme for those who imitate the pioneer, a powerful social lever is created.

A number of schemes can be introduced for small farmers. For example, the first man to dig a successful well in a village with a proven water table, but no well for irrigation, can be given the cost of the well free; and a scheme for well loans can be introduced for all other parties who come forward to dig wells.

Similar incentive-cum-loan schemes can be introduced for the first man in a village to install an oil engine or electric motor pump set; for the first to introduce a new profitable vegetable, orchard, flower or fuel crop; for the first to build a compost pit, introduce compost manuring, rent a government tractor for plowing; for the first to introduce hybrid cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, etc. In addition to cash incentives, other attractive and prestigious rewards can be offered such as free educational tours to other near and distant agricultural centers for the first in a village to demonstrate Rs.5000 per acre profit from one to five acre plots.

The missing link for forestry development is an administrative initiative. The need, knowledge, scope, and profitability of tree planting are well known. One such initiative is the introduction of minimum tree planting criteria as a condition for issue of new industrial licenses in excess of Rs.1 crore and quotas for scarce raw materials, especially trees for paper factories.

There are over 43 million hectares of cultivable wastelands and lands under miscellaneous tree growth in India, which reduces to about 2.5 lakh acres per district, out of which large tracts can be made available for these schemes. Public Works Departments may require tree planting as a part of each contract for new roads, bridges, and buildings. Minimum targets can be set for villages, panchayat unions, districts, and states seeking allocation of funds for electrification, roads, schools, hospitals, or industries.

A programme for unemployed youth can also be introduced, whereby they may register to raise a specified number of trees on government forest lands. Those who succeed may receive first priority for government jobs for which they otherwise qualify. A similar scheme can be established for applicants seeking admission to agricultural colleges and other educational institutions.

At a higher level there are still other missing elements which are necessary for a more rapid development. One such is the need to upgrade the portfolio of the development minister in the central cabinet to the level of Deputy Prime Minister and to appoint the most dynamic man to this post.

The chief aim of the government is no longer law and order or tax collection. The main preoccupation is with development, and this portfolio must be supported by the necessary political will to ensure rapid progress in this sphere.

In fact, there is a growing awareness within the government that it is the unexpressed aspirations of the people for development which are responsible for the increasing social tensions we see today. Law and order itself can only be maintained in future by fostering developmental activities which can absorb the enormous social energies now coming to the surface.