Rural development implies both the economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation. Increased participation of people in the rural development programmes, decentralization of planning, better enforcement of land reforms and greater access to credit are envisaged for providing the rural people with better prospects.
Initially, main thrust for development was laid on agriculture, industry, communication, education, health and allied sectors. Later on, realizing that accelerated development can be provided only if governmental efforts are adequately supplemented by direct and indirect involvement of people at the grass root level, the thrust shifted.
Accordingly, on 31st March 1952, an organization known as Community Projects Administration was set up under the Planning Commission to administer the programmes relating to community development. The community development programme, inaugurated on October 2, 1952, was an important landmark in the history of the rural development. This programme underwent many changes and was handled by different Ministries.
In October 1974, the Department of Rural Development came into existence as a part of Ministry of Food and Agriculture. On 18th August 1979, the Department of Rural Development was elevated to the status of a new Ministry of Rural Reconstruction. It was renamed as Ministry of Rural Development on 23rd January 1982. In January 1985, the Ministry of Rural Development was again converted into a Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which was later rechristened as Ministry of Agriculture in September 1985. On July 5, 1991 the Department was upgraded as Ministry of Rural Development. Another Department viz. Department of Wasteland Development was created under this Ministry on 2nd July 1992. In March 1995, the Ministry was renamed as the Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment with three departments namely Department of Rural Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Rural Development and Wasteland Development.
Again, in 1999 Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment was renamed as Ministry of Rural Development. This Ministry has been acting as a catalyst effecting the change in rural areas through the implementation of wide spectrum of programmes which are aimed at poverty alleviation, employment generation, infrastructure development and social security. Over the years, with the experience gained, in the implementation of the programmes and in response to the felt needs of the poor, several programmes have been modified and new programmes have been introduced. The Ministry's main objective is to alleviate rural poverty and ensure improved quality of life for the rural population especially those below the poverty line. These objectives are achieved through formulation, development and implementation of programmes relating to various spheres of rural life and activities, from income generation to environmental replenishment.
In order to ensure that the fruits of economic reform are shared by all sections of societies five elements of social and economic infrastructure, critical to the quality of life in rural areas, were identified. These are health, education, drinking water, housing and roads. To impart greater momentum to the efforts in these sectors the Government launched the Pradhan Mantri Gramdoya Yojana (PMGY) and the Ministry of Rural Development was entrusted with the responsibility of implementing drinking water, housing and rural roads component of PMGY.
During the Ninth Plan period, several anti-poverty Programmes have been restructured to enhance the efficiency of the Programmes for providing increased benefits to the rural poor. Self Employment Programmes were revamped by merging the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), the Supply of Improved Tool-Kits to Rural Artisans (SITRA), the Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM), the Ganga Kalyan Yojana (GKY) and the Million Wells Scheme (MWS) into a holistic self-employment scheme called Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
Keeping in view the needs and aspirations of the local people, Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRIs) have been involved in the programme implementation and these institutions constitute the core of decentralized development of planning and its implementation. The Ministry vigorously pursue with the State Governments for expeditious devolution of requisite administrative and financial powers to PRIs as envisaged under 73rd Amendment Act of the Constitution of India. On 25th December 2002, under Drinking Water Sector, a new initiative 'Swajal Dhara' empowering the Panchayats to formulate, implement, operate and maintain drinking water Projects was launched. In order to further involve PRIs in the development process, a new initiative 'Hariyali' was launched by Hon'ble Prime Minister on 27th January, 2003. Hariyali was launched to strengthen and involve Panchayati
Raj Institutions in the implementation of watershed development programmes namely IWDP, DPAP and DDP.
Realising that empowerment of rural women is crucial for the development of rural India, a women's component is introduced in the programmes for poverty alleviation to ensure flow of adequate funds to this section. The Constitutional Amendment (73rd), Act 1992 provides for reservation of selective posts for women. The Constitution has placed enormous responsibility on the Panchayats to formulate and execute various programmes of economic development and social justice, and a number of Centrally Sponsored Schemes are being implemented through Panchayats. Thus, women Members and Chairpersons of Panchayats, who are basically new entrants in Panchayats, have to acquire the required skill and be given appropriate orientation to assume their rightful roles as leaders and decision makers. Imparting training to elected representatives of PRIs is primarily the responsibility of the State Governments/Union territory Administrations. Ministry of Rural Development also extends some financial assistance to the States/UTs with a view to improve the quality of training programmes and to catalyze capacity building initiatives for the elected members and functionaries of PRIs.
The Eleventh Plan saw injection of huge resources from the Union Budget to the rural and farm sector. This thrust formed the substance of the Bharat Nirman Programme. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has provided a major foundational support.
Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation has been separated from the Ministry of Rural Development from 13th July, 2011 and renamed as Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The following major programmes are being operated by the Ministry of Rural Development in rural areas,
(i) Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for providing wage employment,
(ii) National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) for self employment and skill development,
(iii) Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) for providing housing to BPL households,
(iv) Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) for construction of quality roads
(v) National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) for social pension
(vi) Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) for improving the productivity of the land.
In addition, the Ministry also has schemes for capacity development of rural functionaries; Information, Education and Communication; and Monitoring and Evaluation.
Budget outlay of Rs 74429 crore has been provided under the Plan head to the Department of Rural Development for the financial year 2013-14.