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Tuesday, Jan 13, 2004

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Stop preparing development plans for villages: Kurien

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Jan. 12

FIFTY years of growth and development in the country have not been adequate, according to Dr Verghese Kurien, the author of the White Revolution in the country and the architect of Operation Flood.

Holding the Government and the bureaucracy responsible for this lapse, Dr Kurien, who was here to receive the Rotary International Award for vocational excellence, said: "The Union Government should stop preparing and prescribing the development programmes for the villages. India has not yet succeeded in creating a new branch of engineering - rural engineering. This has to be developed to facilitate rural development."

The West Bengal Governor, Mr Viren J. Shah, said: "The traits that make Rotary unique among a large number of social and community service organisations in the world are - its emphasis on the integration of one's vocation, profession, or calling with service to one's community."

Criticising the political elite and bureaucracy, Dr Kurien commented: "They seem to be long on rhetoric about the need to eliminate poverty, but suffer their own poverty of imagination and, even more, of will when it comes to doing anything about it."

He added that eradication of poverty and hunger would be possible only when people were genuinely empowered. India was one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the latest Human Development Index. The Government, in the past five decades or so, had created and sustained the dependence of the people on government, rather than nurturing the self-reliance. This was the cause of nation's undoing, he felt.

The employment opportunities in organised sector, especially in public sector were declining; the way out was to generate more employment in the unorganised sectors in rural areas. Generation of employment in rural sector requires huge amounts of funds. Micro-finance could be potential instrument for the rural poor. "Nearly 40 per cent of rural population and 58 per cent of women are illiterate in 2001. We spend only 3.9 per cent of GDP on education which should be at least 6 per cent," he added.

Drawing a comparison, Dr Kurien said, "The co-operatives and non-government organisations - particularly those that are owned and controlled by the users - have to be responsive to the owners. They build direct accountability of those with authority that is essential to such responsiveness. Governments must get out of areas that it has no business to be in - in the first place," he said. He mentioned that the co-operative dairy sector pumped in more than Rs 10,000 crore annually to the rural economy, and it was also the largest employment provider in the agricultural sector.

"I believe that a co-operative - an enterprise of, by and for users - is the institution that can work best. My experience over the last 50 years confirms that belief," he said. "The only difference between the co-operatives in the West and India was that they enjoyed the same legal and regulatory environment as did any other form of enterprise. Here, sadly, we continue to suffer under a colonial co-operative law that ensure anything but the level playing field for our co-operatives.

Though a new Multi-state Cooperative Act has been enacted not many States have adopted it. "Like any other modern industry, agriculture should also be managed by professional rural managers and not by bureaucrats who do not know about agriculture. Since rural managers are scarce, specialised institutions such as the Institute of Rural Management Anand should be set up for training young managers as well as for orienting the existing managers in modern farm management.

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Stop preparing development plans for villages: Kurien

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