“Just as the whole universe is contained in the Self, so is India contained in the villages”… This has been said by none other than Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation and the visionary architect of India’s Rural Development Programmes. The villages epitomize the soul of India. With more than 70% of the Indian population living in rural areas, rural India reflects the very essence of Indian culture and tradition. No wonder then that a holistic development of India as a Nation rests on a sustained and holistic development of rural India. This write-up gives an overview of the Rural Development strategy adopted by Government of India and major e-governance initiatives that have been undertaken in the RD domain, in particular by NIC.
1.1 The Indian Political Administration
India with an area of 3.28 million sq. Km is the seventh largest country in the world. In population, which has already crossed the billion mark, it is next only to China. The democratic set up combined with its billion population gives the country the unique status of being the largest democracy in the world.
India is a Union of 28 States/Provinces and 7 Union Territories. Each state is further divided into districts. There are approximately 600 districts in the country. Each district is further divided into smaller administrative units called development Blocks or Talukas. There are about 6000 Blocks in the country. A block may have urban as well as rural areas. While the urban areas consist of towns, the rural areas consist of villages. There are more than 6,00,000 villages in India.
There are three levels of government : the Central Government, the state or provincial government and the Local Government. Each of these governments is elected by the people at the national, state and local level. The Central or Union Government, head-quartered at New Delhi has the mandate to administer subjects listed in the Central List. The Central List includes subjects that cut across state boundaries and cover the interests of the entire nation such as Defense, Foreign Affairs etc. The Central Government is also responsible for administering the 7 Union Territories. Each State or Province is administered by a State Government which is head-quartered at the state capital. The state governments are empowered to take decisions on subjects listed in the state list. The state list includes subjects that cut across boundaries of local governments and also other state-level issues. The local government, also called local self-governing bodies or Panchayati Raj Institutions. There are two types of local government: urban local bodies and rural local bodies. The urban local bodies are local governments of urban areas and consist of municipalities and municipal corporations. The rural local bodies consist of a three-tier Panchayat system : District Panchayat or Zilla Parishad, Block Panchayat and Village Panchayats.
2.0 The Evolution of Rural Development in India
The predominantly rural nature of India emphasizes the need to bring about a sustainable development of the rural areas and its people, if India is to attain any level of global eminence. However, despite best efforts, rural India has not kept pace with its urban counterpart. The reasons for this are many and include, besides others, historical as well as geographical marginalization. Recognizing the importance of correcting these developmental imbalances and the need to accord due priority to development in rural areas, efforts were on, ever since Independence, to address the problems of rural development in a systematic way.
The most important landmark in the history of Indian Rural Development efforts was the setting up of an organization called Community Projects Administration in March, 1952. The main thrust of the organization was to administer community development programmes at grass root level. The organization and...