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Rural Development and Change

John P. Lewis

By G.C. Mandal and M.G. Ghosh
Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1976, xvi plus 113, 35.00

By Iqbal Narain, K.C. Pande, and Mohan Lal Sharma
Manohar Book Service , New Delhi, 1976, xv plus 256, 50.00

VOLUME II NUMBER 6 November-December 1977

The reviewer doubly regrets his in­ordinate delay in preparing this note. For one thing, both books are to be wel­comed as examples of an increasing flow of responsible, illuminating, especially region-specific studies coming now from a broadening array of India's applied social science institutions. This fanning out of good work among a greater dis­persion of research centres owes much, no doubt, to funding schemes with just this purpose—specifically, in the present instances, to a UNDP project coordinated by V.M. Dandekar in the case of Mandal­-Ghosh, and to a UOC grant to Narain­ Pande-Sharma. Secondly, in very differ­ent ways, both books are comparatively good news for those who are hopeful about what might be called the incrementalist scenario for Indian rural reform and development. That scenario posits that gains in equity in the countryside are most likely to be made out of growth dividends, that, in particular, strong agricultural expan­sion is an essential condition for making major inroads on low-end poverty and underemployment. At the same time, those of the reformist persuasion hope ardently that the most accessible means for agricultural expansion (i.e., the ‘new technology’ involving improved varieties, intensified inputs, better water manage­ment, etc.) do not prove to be inherently inequitable as between agricultural pro­ducers themselves. They hope, that is to say, that the HYV technology is at least ‘scale neutral’ as between big and small farms, that the institutions framing the technology can give small people equal access to needed information, credit, and marketing facilities, and that while the new technology is generating rising output per worker, it will also facilitate, at least in the near and medium term, rising agricultural employment as well. Politically the reform scenarists are not so much allergic to revolution as sceptical of its occurrence any time soon. Hence they are forced to pin a good part of their hopes on national leaderships, whether Congress, Janata, or something yet to be unveiled, that, despite their political basing in a structure of national elites, find tactical or do-gooder reasons to reach down and around their power bases and deliver greater benefits to the poor, especially the rural poor. There is a further edge to the political scenario: For a combination of compelling reasons in­cluding efficient management and aug­mented resources raising proponents of reform conclude that the radical decen­tralization of politico-administrative decision ...

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