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Lessons from the Devapur Project

Not by Prosperity Alone

The Paradox of Rural Development in India: The Devapur Experience by Suresh Suratwala, Bhopal: Kishore Bharati, 2020; pp 197, 150 (paperback).

Suresh Suratwala’s narration, The Paradox of Rural Development in India: The Devapur Experience makes for compelling reading. The narration travels on two tracks. The first track is a dream script. We have a young postgraduate in applied sociology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (one of its first batches: 1953–55) who is inspired by M K Gandhi’s call for going to villages. He gets support from a repu­ted philanthropy trust, Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust (SDTT) to run a project in nine vill­ages of a difficult drought-prone terrain—the Man taluka of Satara district.1 He leaves the comforts of his life and surroundings, coming as he does from a prosperous upper-middle-class business family in Mumbai, and chooses to stay in the project area for next 35 years of his life, dedicating his time and energy to the development of these nine villages. In his own words, he never felt any constraint of funds or technical personpower support, and had complete administrative freedom. In 1990, when he leaves the project, now scheduled to be closed, he can definitely look back, with considerable satisfaction, at the development that has taken place in these nine villages. The data, based on professionally carried out surveys, bears this out. For anyone wanting to work in the field of rural development, one way or the other, there could not be a better outcome than this.

But—and this is an important but—the narrator does not look back at this development with satisfaction but with much dismay. That is the parallel track on which the second part of the narration runs. It is a script of a dream that has gone sour.

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Updated On : 15th Sep, 2020

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