India is predominantly an agrarian country. Therefore 80% of India's population lives in villages. Hence it becomes important that proportionate amount of attention and funds be spent for betterment of the rural folk. But inspite of their being in majority, they have been lagging behind in the fields of education, civic amenities, medical facilities and economic well being. So the Government of India realize the need of improvement of condition of rural people. Many programmes and projects for the upliftment of rural folk have been started.
One of the earliest steps taken was to bring about the Community Development Programme which was started in 1952. Its purpose was to ensure the supply of improved high quality seeds, modern implements and chemical manures to farmers. Also irrigation facilities were improved, facilities were provided for the upliftment of livestock and small-scale village industries. Ministry of Rural Reconstruction was formed in August 1979 whose major task was in the field of rural development.
Besides this another programme i.e. Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) has been launched by Government in 1979. It aims at creating additional employment and raising the income levels of the identified target groups, consisting of marginal and small farmers, agricultural labourers, small artisans, and persons belonging to scheduled castes and tribes. To start with the programme was sought to be taken up in such blocks where necessary infrastructure already existed. The launching of this programme was widely welcomed as a better deal for the rural poor.
Under IRDP there were further smaller agencies like Small Farmers Development Agency (SFDA). The Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP), Command Area Development (CAD), Desert Development Programme (DDP) which all aimed at rural upliftment. Under this programme of upliftment, mahajani debts of small and marginal cultivators and agricultural labourers have been written off. The bonded labour has been freed. House sites have been made available for the rural poor. Surplus land has been distributed among the landless and the small farmers. Schemes like Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM) were started and priority was given to youth trained under this scheme to obtain IRDP loan.
The programmes were also assisted internationally e.g. USA has been giving liberal loans for projects which have been initiated in the villages. Besides economic scheme, a rural health scheme was launched in the country, which aimed at training of community health workers. Another important programme, "Operation Flood" v/as launched in July 1970, with the assistance of World Food Programme (WEP) to bring about a real breakthrough in milk production. This programme ensured a link between the rural milk producers and urban milk processing plants.
Several other steps have also been taken for rural upliftment. Agricultural incomes have been exempted from income tax and wealth tax. Zamindari system has been abolished. Recently Jawahar Rojgar Youjna has been launched from 26th April, 1989. Under this scheme 30% of the employment to be generated would be reserved for women; at least one member of the poor family in the rural areas for 50-100 days in a year will be provided employment near his or her residence.
So in all, there are many such programmes aiming at the rural upliftment, but what all -they need is proper infrastructure and a proper system of monitoring and evaluation. Then, there is no doubt that socio-economic reforms can uplift the rural masses from their present position. Although it is a challenging task, but not impossible.