In India, the scope of development is not narrow but very wide, as it includes not just the economic development but the growth on social front, quality of life, empowerment, women and child development, education and awareness of its citizens. The task of development is so huge and complicated that just implementing government plans is not sufficient to fix the problem. To achieve this, a holistic vision and collaborative efforts involving various departments, agencies and even NGOs is required. Owing to such a great need, the number of NGOs in India is increasing rapidly and, at present, there are about 25,000 to 30,000 active NGOs in India.
Superficially, rural development seems to be a simple task but, in reality, it is not. Post Independence era has seen many rural development programmes through different five-years plans. Alleviating poverty, employment generation, more opportunities for generating income, and infrastructure facilities are emphasized through the policies and programmes of the government. Along with this, the panchayat raj institutions have also been initiated by the government to strengthen the democracy at grass roots level. But in spite of all the efforts rural poverty, unemployment rate, low production still exists. The fight is still on for the basic facilities such as livelihood security, sanitation problem, education, medical facilities, roads, etc. Still there is a huge gap in terms of infrastructure that is available in urban and rural areas. The basic rural development should include all these apart from employment, proper water supply and other basic facilities.
NGOs or Non Governmental Organizations have more benefits of working in rural areas as compared to governmental organizations because NGOs are more flexible, NGOs are specific to a particular locality and moreover these are committed towards serving the public and community as a whole. As the task of development is massive, many NGOs are playing vital role in the rural development of India in collaboration with the government.
NGOs in India
Since ancient times, social service has been an integral part of Indian culture. Soon after Independence, a number of NGOs had emerged in India. Mahatma Gandhi even pleaded to dissolve the Indian National Congress and transform it to a Lok Seva Sangh (Public Service Organization). Though his plea was rejected, but the followers of Mahatma Gandhi started many voluntary agencies to work on various social as well as economic issues of the country. This was the first phase of NGOs in India.
The second phase of NGO development started in 1960 when it was felt that just the government programs were not sufficient to complete the task of development in rural areas. Many groups were formed whose role was to work at grass root levels. Moreover, favorable state policies had drastically affected the formation of NGOs and their roles at that time. Over the years, the role of NGOs in rural development of India increased. At present too, their role significantly changes with the change in the policies of the government through different plans.
In the sixth five-year plan (1980-1985), a new role for NGOs in the rural development had been identified by the government. In the seventh five-year plan (1985-1990), the Indian government envisaged an active role of NGOs in developing self-reliant communities. These groups were supposed to show how the village resources along with human resource, skill, local knowledge that is greatly underutilized could be used for their own development. As NGOs were working in close connection with local people so bringing such a change was not a tough task for them.
Owing to this, in the eighth five-year plan, more importance to NGOs for rural development in India had been given. Under this scheme, a nation-wide NGO network had been created. The role of these agencies was the rural development at a low cost.
In the ninth five-year plan, it has been proposed that NGOs would play a significant role in the development on the public-private partnership model. More scope has been provided to NGOs by the government for rural development through the agricultural development policies as well as their implementation mechanisms.
As with every five-year plan, the role of NGOs in the rural development of India is growing, so NGOs are now attracting professionals from different fields. NGOs act as planners and implementers of developmental plans. They help in mobilizing the local resources to be used for development. NGOs help in building a self-reliant and sustainable society. These agencies play the role of mediator between people and government. NGOs are actually the facilitator of development, education and professionalization.
Hurdles on the way to rural development
A major problem that NGOs are facing in India is their dependency upon government funds or external donations. With this dependency, NGOs are less flexible in carrying out their task as most of the tasks depend upon funds. Moreover, the structures of NGOs have become bureaucratic in nature leading to a decreased effectiveness in the overall development.
Then the traditional thinking of rural people, their poor understanding, and low level of education for comprehending new technology and efforts, lack of awareness are people related hurdles that NGOs are facing. Villages also lack infrastructure facilities like water, electricity, educational institutes, communication facilities that leads to their slow development.
Apart from these, there are certain problems like economics such as high cost technology, underprivileged rural industries, social and cultural differences, conflicts between different groups, administrative problems like political interference, lack of motivation and interest act as hurdles on the way to rural development in India.
But in spite of all the hurdles, NGOs will keep on working for rural development in India. NGOs selectively utilized the local talent, train the individuals and use this for rural development. But the complete success of the rural development actually depends upon the willingness and active participation of rural people in the development processes and efforts.