| Agricultural policy in India: need for a fresh look (1992) |
Perhaps the most serious lacuna of the DAPR is the (implicit) presumption of the policy makers that whatever the objectives of the agricultural policy, the existing administrative machinery can achieve them. This has not been borne out by our experience with the implementation of various agricultural policies in the past. Furthermore, this is in contradiction of a well-known management principle underlying successful development programmes that for each objective, an appropriate organisation structure should be specified and that both the objectives and the structure should be congruent with the prevailing socio-economic and political environment (Paul, 1982 : 229). It is strange that no commission or committee constituted by the government so far has seriously questioned the adequacy and appropriateness of the existing administrative structure for agricultural and rural development purposes. In a way this was but to be expected because most of those who were on those commissions and committees either had been or were part of the administrative system and it would be unreasonable on to expect them to demolish the system which had served them so well. Therefore, all of the recommendations and suggestions of the various committees and commissions were aimed at reforming and reorienting the system rather than evolving a new and more appropriate system for the purpose.
The existing system, even after incorporation of the various reforms evolving from the recommendations of the different committees and commissions, is not appropriate for development purposes. This is largely because the qualities, training, and orientation required for the efficient discharge of the responsibilities of maintenance of law and order, collection of revenue and taxes, maintenance of essential services etc., are just the ones that hinder development. For instance, efficient discharge of the law and order responsibility requires qualities of evasiveness, coercion, toughness, circumspectness, and capacity to dispense expedients. For developmental work, however, one needs to be receptive, open-minded, communicative, empathetic, persuasive, and have the capacity, willingness, and perseverance to go out to the people to find out what they want and then to go further and find out, in consultation with them, practicable and lasting solutions for their problems. In these days of high specialisation, how can one be expected to become adept at simultaneously handling varied responsibilities requiring contrasting personal traits, and skills?
Therefore, what is needed is a non-conventional non-governmental organisa-tion (NGO) structure for designing, implementing, and monitoring agricultural development programmes. The role of the government should be limited to provision of funds, creation of the necessary basic infrastructure, expansion and strengthening of agricultural production base, provision of education, research, extension and training facilities, and regulation.
Fortunately, we have in India, a living example of a non- governmental system that has been successful in promoting people-centred development more efficiently and effectively than the governmental system. This system is known as the ‘Anand pattern co-operative structure’ (Singh, 1986 : 312-314). The system has evolved gradually over a period of over 40 years and has been adopted by the Government of India for dairy development in the country under Operation Flood (OF). The OF programme was designed and promoted by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), then a non-governmental organisation but now a statutory corporate body. The programme sought to replicate the Anand pattern dairy co-operative structure in selected milksheds in India. The Anand pattern dairy co-operatives formulate and implement their own policies and programmes for dairy development in their area and hire professional managers and technicians to assist in its implementation. The role of the government is limited to assisting the co-operatives financially in implemen-ting their own programmes. The government funds for dairy development are placed at the disposal of the co-operatives.
Besides the Anand pattern co-operative structure, there are many other forms of formal and non-formal associations which could do a better job of implementation and monitoring agricultural and rural development programmes. For example, PRADAN, a Delhi-based NGO and The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), an Ahmedabad-based NGO, both promote people’s organisations at the grassroots level to take up agricultural and rural development projects. The role of the NGOs is to organise people and help them with technical information, training and, to some extent, funds of their own. Besides, they also help the grassroots organisations to secure financial assistance from various governmental and non-governmental sources. In most cases, the performance of the programmes taken up under the auspices of NGOs has been better than that of government programmes. However, this statement cannot be generalised as there are many NGOs which do not have the necessary technical and managerial expertise and financial discipline to initiate and support agricultural and rural development programmes. The government should identify and support potentially good NGOs so that they could complement and supplement the role of the government. There is no specific mention in the DAPR of the role of NGOs in agricultural development. However, the background note on "Agriculture in the Eighth Plan" makes a casual observation that "the voluntary organisations in the area have to be persuaded to play a major role in the development of the region/villages" (P.7). We do not know how serious the policy makers are about this statement. In our opinion, this statement should have been elaborated and the role that the government wants the NGOs to play in agricultural development should have been specified.
The people’s organisations including the Anand pattern co-operatives suffer from a serious drawback at present in India. The drawback is that in majority of the cases they are captured by the rural elite and most of their benefits cornered by them and their allies. But this is common to all democratic institutions in our country including the Panchayati Raj institutions. There are no easy and short-term solutions available for this problem as it is intertwined with the problem of underdeveloped human resources. It can be resolved only in the long-run through a well-planned programme of human resource development focusing on providing adequate facilities for and an easy access to good education, nutrition and health care, vocational training, and self-employment and wage-paid employment in rural areas. In our opinion, this should receive the second highest priority next only to national defence in terms of allocation of funds and other resources. The rationale for this recommendation lies in the human capital models of development which assert that a well developed person can create/find his own ways of development and attain fullest possible development on his own. The role of the government should be to provide an enabling environment for human beings to unfold and realise their development potential. Neither the DAPR nor the background note on agriculture emphasizes this crucial factor in development. That is why we have recommended earlier in this paper that all-round development of the farm community should be the main focus of the DAPR.