Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More of the Same...again and again

Its frustating! The number of rural poor is a staggering 22 crores (GoI figure). In terms of Rural Development Interventions, we commit the same mistakes again and again.
Take self employment programmes/missions and projects. First we had programmes like Training Rural Youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM), Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) under the Integrated Rural Development Programme of GoI.These programmes miserably failed as only 14% of poor households covered under the programme were able to cross the poverty line.
One of the reasons for failure was that, surprise surprise, they were seen as separate in nature and not INTEGRATED. Funny, since the programme itself was called INTEGRATED Rural Development Programme.In the late nineties, the babus in Delhi dovetailed all these programmes into a grandiose programme called "Swarnjayanti Gram Swarojgyari Yojana (SGSY)".
In SGSY, they blindly adopted the SHG model which had seen success in the microfinance sector. So the idea was to get all the poor (the households identified as poor) into groups of ten, adopt a cluster approach and provide backward and forward linkages to ensure these enterprises would become successful, self reliant, sustainable business enterprises.
The main difference between SGSY and IRDP was the emphasis on social mobilisation through the SHG approach.The babus thought that the SHG mobilisation is an easy thing to do and envisaged it being done by "prominent" NGOs.
The result? Everyone took a target approach and went on forming SHGs.No one knew how activities were to be chosen. In the end, the SGSY was plagued from problems like uneven spread of SHGs, high attrition rate, poor accessibility to credit,lack of training and capacity building, and lack of dedicated implementation structure.
So the babus recast SGSY into NRLM. The draft of this Mission is silent on why SGSY failed. And as Prof.Shylendra of IRMA says NRLM is merely a rehash of SGSY.
What that means is some more hundreds of crores will go down the drain without any tangible benefit to the poor of this country.
If we have to come out of this problem, we need radical measures to attain elimination of poverty. Merely addressing problems in the schemes, programmes, etc is treating the symptoms. We need to address the systemic issues, and these can only addressed through radical measures. If not addressed in time, extreme scenarios as seen in Dantewada will be a common sight in rural India.

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