Integrating The Rural

Full Title: *Integrating National Development with the Rural Sector*

_Rendering from a speech delivered at the Society for International Development held in Colombo on 11.8.1979_

A country cannot develop unless we have faith in the intelligence of our people. Look at the wisdom and intelligence displayed by the. Sri Lankan people in the political revolution that took place in this country and the number of times they changed governments by the use of the secret ballot. Such people are intelligent. What we lack is proper, appropriate technological know-how. If the opportunity is provided they will know how to keep their records, to keep their accounts and to design the type of equipment or machinery they need

By no means am I an expert on this subject. But I can express very clearly the feelings of the rural people on this subject. What I say may not be quite intelligible to you, if you try to understand what I am going to say from the same terminology we heard in the morning. In the morning we were discussing mostly a large scale, central type of approach to development. I was listening the whole time from the standpoint of an ordinary villager which I am. They would not have understood anything of this mornings proceedings. So there wouldnt have been any psychological integration between the development philosophy, the objectives and the principles that we all have been talking about, with those ideologies or philosophies and the principles of the rural people. And you cannot ignore 72% of the rural people. Either they have to understand the language of the people who plan for the whole country or they have to stand up in revolt. Therefore it is very necessary and very important that at the very outset we have to evolve a development theory and philosophy which is intelligible to all the people in our country; the rural as well as the urban; the educated as well as the less educated; the people who manage society as well as who are subjected to all sorts of management.

I think 30 years after independence it’s high time that we think of development as a common effort on the part of all people. I think somebody mentioned this morning that we have to develop our own development definition. If we look at development in the same way that people in industrialized countries looked at development, I think we do not have the capacity to develop in that manner. Neither is there a need for it. Because happiness is not synonymous with having increased greed and methods and techniques to satisfy that greed. The world doesn’t have enough resources to satisfy such greed. I think that the world will also not be able to stand it. Therefore we have to find out whether we did have any development philosophy in our country-certainly we had. We did not talk about welfare. Instead we talked about awakening, Awakening of the individual to his highest potential; Awakening of human groups to their total potential; the Awakening of the nation to its highest potential.

This awakening is two-fold. You have to awaken yourself as human beings on one hand and on the other hand you have to awaken yourself in relation to the needs you have and not based on greed. A developing country or a poor country like Sri Lanka would have gone 99% on the road to development, if development goals were properly defined and understood by the people.

For the rural people development has six components as far as I have observed. There is a very strong political element in their thinking. When I say political element, this does not mean belonging to one party or another. They mean politics in the sense that they have an opportunity to participate in decision-making. I am not trying to talk theory but I am trying to relate my experiences. Voluntarily we have been able to get active participation of over a million people to this day in Sarvodaya programmes going on in over 3,000 villages in this country. There was no coercion used on them. There were no incentives as such offered to them. But they simply like to participate when they know that such participation is meaningful and beneficial to bring about greater happiness to them. Therefore development has a political element in the sense of giving the people an opportunity to participate to the maximum in decision-making processes, not only at election time. Unfortunately this word participation, peoples participation has become a very mush taxed word in these conferences. But when you go into real actual grass-roots you find that participation that is provided for the people is only the opportunity given to listen to a politician or an administrator or an expert from outside. This is not participation. Therefore the political factor which is one of the 6 components of development as I see visualized by the village people has something to do with direct participation in decision-making. It also has something to do with freedom. I am happy to say today, there is greater participation in our rural areas than they had a few years ago.

Secondly, people look at development as a process where certain social needs could be fulfilled. I could very clearly see again three needs that are often in the social field. They would like to know what we are talking about, in other words they would like to raise the level of their consciousness or education. I do not mean to say that this is the education of the type that we referred to in the morning, that is formal academic education. I do not think that this country needs an educational system like the one that the British used in the 18th century-the British who knew the art of using most modern weapons and most refined forms of diplomacy to conquer our country. The essence of our education was a process of awakenment of the individual and the group to their highest potential, as I mentioned before. So education in the sense that people understand more and more as to the relationships that exist between them and their natural and social environment, them and their government, between them and their village resources, between them and the type of methods and techniques they can use to produce what they need for a higher standard of living, – this type of education is a total education where every man, woman and child in the village could be involved in a meaningful experience. So when they talk of development, this is one factor that they are very keen about, namely, social development. In health development, they would like very much to take over the responsibility for their own health and not leave it in the hands of the Minister of Health. Therefore in that sector and other related sectors also there is a lot that people want to achieve if given the responsibility to participate. No development can take place in a social or psychological environment where man is looking at the next man, not as his brother but as his enemy. In other words, it is very necessary that there is psychological and a social force operating, which can transcend various barriers created by politics, caste, race, language and such other divisive factors. So development also means development of people in these three sectors of Education, Health and what you may call Social Cohesion to raise their level of consciousness, to improve their knowledge to build unity.

Thirdly comes the economic sector. When you talk of economic development generally you do not pay any consideration to the related factors. We only talk of one factor that is increased productivity (Uttana Sampada) or we may talk about social justice in the sense of distributing what is produced equitably among the people. There were some other factors which were taken into consideration in this country when we talked of economics. There was a factor which we called Arakkasampada, which meant, in the process of economic production, that they saw to it that what was produced was not destroyed. Just to allow the price mechanism to prevail, you know what an amount of food is dumped into the sea in developed countries while our people are starving here. In our cultures, closely linked with economic development there were certain moral factors which we did not lose sight of. Sometimes pollution can be imported to a country in the name of industrialization. So we have to be careful. Therefore when the village or rural people talk of economic development they always think of four factors that have direct relevance to them. They are:

# Production (Uttana Sampada)
# Protection (Arakka Sampada)
# Social environment in which production takes place (Kalyana Mittata)
# Consumption pattern (Sama Jeevakata)

Therefore if we follow our own methods of economic development based on the above four factors, 72% of the people of this country will easily understand what it means to develop economically.

These three sectors political, social and economic have to be combined with three other sectors. Development is meaningless if that development does not pay heed to our moral principles. Moral principles which bring about certain social relationships in our village communities should be preserved if they are useful. There are cultural values which we cherish. These cultural values are very important to make us happy. There are spiritual values which have a meaning to our people. In this country acquisition of more and more wealth and creation of endless needs was not the aim in life. People looked for something higher once they satisfied their basic human needs or may be their secondary human needs. They have spiritual goals to follow which I think most industrialized countries have lost today. Therefore if we are to integrate any national development effort with the rural people these 6 factors-moral, cultural, spiritual, political, social and economic, should be integrated into one whole process. Is this possible? This is possible.

In the morning we heard how Madam Judith Hart mentioned about inter-dependence. Inter-dependence can have different meanings to different people. Sometimes it is very useful for developed, industrialized, rich countries to talk of inter-dependence and brotherhood with us. But this talk must be based on realities. Unequals cannot talk of brotherhood. Co-operation is not possible without co-sharing. Still in my country as well as in other poor countries of the world we have tens of thousands of people who go to bed without one square meal a day. They, the starved people, cannot sit down and talk together with over-fed people as equals. Therefore when you talk of co-operation, North-South dialogues, the fundamental sufferings that most of the people in rural areas and urban slums are going through should not be lost sight of. First solve it and then talk of other things. Because they cannot wait. They cannot wait till the year two thousand to get their basic health care or their daily square meal. It could be given to them within no time, if a change of heart takes place in the rich countries of the world.

In our countries I believe the right form of development is to awaken the potential of our people from the grass-roots up, irrespective of the World Bank and all the other help we get. Let us welcome help but let us not depend on them.

People have their needs. Employment will have to be re-defined in our country as Right Livelihood. That was how we defined employment those days. Employment is right livelihood. People have various needs. Now in our village development work we have identified Ten Basic Human Needs and about 167 sub-human needs. The first need, a clean and beautiful environment we have divided up into 42 activities under environment in which people can participate. An adequate and clean supply of water is the second. Again this has been sub-divided into so many sub needs. Clothing, Food, Basic Health Care, Housing, Communication, Energy, Education, Spiritual and Cultural Needs. They all are sub-divided into sub-needs which people can understand. They feel now there are a lot of things that are within their capacity to do. Then of course there is a process, there is a method, to do it. If you dig a well there is a science of doing it. You need a certain skill which is required for this work to give the training necessary. Put all the resources from the government and international agencies into it so that it does not become a welfare exercise of doling out assistance. On the other hand it becomes a supportive force to allow the people to awaken themselves. And the opportunity for this awakening is nor given. You talk about the public sector and the private sector.It is the same sector. One is managed by government bureaucrats and the other by the government corporation technocrafts. It is not the peoples sector. Now there have been lots of liberalizations that have been done, to allow people who can do any economic activity. It is fine that there is a clear policy. I liked Dr. Tilakaratnes speech this morning which was a very clear expression of the government policy. What I say is that the same opportunity should be given to the weak sector, the people as a whole, for self-development. This is not yet given. True that there is a Ministry of Rural Development. It is yet another Ministry. There is no opportunity given to the rural people to organise themselves so that the planners can say Here are the facilities available; prove your worth. People will prove it, I know because I am struggling with the people. This trust in the people is not there because something is wrong with our thinking. We are looking outwards for standards. I do not say we should look inwards. But I say we should look from the bottom up, then there is a way to liberation and only that way we can bring about an integration between the national and the rural level.

When we work with rural folk I would like to say that you will be amazed to see the organisational capacity these people have. Expatriates are welcome. In my Movement about 40 foreign friends are working. They are not called experts but they are participatory friends, participatory resource personnel, because we believe that if the rural people are given the opportunity and the youths are given the opportunity, they can acquire all the skills necessary. This opportunity should be given. Anybody trying to do a study of the government servants of today, for example at the Assistant Government Agent level, will be amazed that today they are a different lot. The less English they speak the more efficient they are. I know of excellent administrators of today who are totally different from the brown sahibs we had in the past. A country cannot develop unless we have faith in the intelligence of our people. Look at the wisdom and intelligence displayed by the Sri Lankan people in the political revolutions that took place in this country; the number of times they changed governments by the use of the secret ballot. Such people are intelligent. What we lack is proper, appropriate technological know-how. If the opportunity is provided they will know how to keep their records, how to keep their accounts, to design the type of equipment or machinery they need. This opportunity is not yet given.

In conclusion my contribution to this seminar is that when we think of strategies for development integrating the rural sector, with the nation as a whole, they should incorporate in such strategies an understandable language to the common people. Otherwise they will be alienated. The age-old values still have a relevance to our people. Therefore there must be a value system and not just growth of G.N.P.s and all that. There must be a value system in the whole process. His Excellency our President and the Hon. Prime Minister in all their speeches are always talking about this value system. We must integrate this value system into the economic field too. In the same way that you give opportunities to private sector for business enterprises, give the village communities also opportunities for self-development.

In development activities there is too much of dependence still placed on bureaucracies. The people and their non-governmental organisations are still not sufficiently involved. If the NGOs are given the same facilities as those enjoyed by the private or the bureaucratic sector, I can assure you that we can do ten times the volume of work that would be otherwise done. A couple of years ago I addressed a UNICEF Meeting held in Manila. I was at the World Food Conference. I have participated in many UN sponsored meetings. In all these places there is loud talk about peoples participation. But when it comes to actual practice I am sorry to say that the United Nations Agencies are also far away from the people. At best they too are international bureaucracies. They too are not yet integrated with the rural people or the urban poor. I know they have to operate through governmental bureaucracies. But if both United Nations and the Governmental bureaucracies cannot find workable programmes with peoples organisations they should stop talking about the importance of peoples participation.

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement from which I come has been working in rural areas for the last 22 years. It is a peoples movement in the true sense of the word. We have been very concerned to be co-operative with the bureaucracies. Yet they simply do not have a process that enables them to work with us. It is still the trickling down theory that exists in practice.

Therefore we have to think anew on this subject of integrating the rural sector with national development. If it is necessary to de-link we have to de-link. If it is necessary to re-link, we have to re-link. In other words there is a whole new process that has to be started to bring down the decision-making powers that are presently over the heads of the people and not within reach of the people. Then only power will spread out and a whole awakening process will begin. It is only through a process like that, that the entire community can participate in development, which then becomes synonymous with awakening. And who is more concerned with development than the people who are hungry, who are deprived and who have nothing to fall back on? Give them a chance and that is the only way to integrate national development with the rural sector.