Since its inception, Pakistan has embarked upon a number of rural and agricultural development progammes to increase the productivity and quality of rural life. These programs were partially or fully extended to all the provinces of the country including Azad Jammu & Kashmir. In different forms, almost all the successive programs of rural development have followed the model of development-from-above, maintaining a key role for the public officials and influential individuals in the rural areas. Local Government & Rural Development Department in AJ&K has evolved gradually from following rural development programs:
The Village Agricultural and Industrial Development (V-AID) Program, 1953-1962
The idea of "community development" - development through community based village organizations based on popular participation - was much in vogue in the early 1950s, and was introduced in India as a partnership between the local (elected) councils and government departments. In Pakistan, after the visit of a group of the Pakistani government officials to the United States to study the rural extension work in 1951, it was decided to adapt the American extension model to the conditions in Pakistan with the financial and technical assistance from the United States. It was suggested that Pakistan needed an organized effort to provide for various needs of the villagers; to identify things that villagers needed, and to bring the different nation-building government departments together to meet the needs. All of these ideas were packaged into the, Village Agricultural and Industrial development (V-AID) Program in 1953. The officially stated objectives of the V-AI D Program were to:
- Increase the output of agriculture and village industries for higher rural incomes.
- Provide more water, schools, health care centers, and other social and creational facilities.
The V-AID organization was put under the control of appointed government officials, as Development Officers, Supervisors, and Specialists to support and supervise the work of the front-line Village AID workers. In each district villages were organized as a Development Area to be administered by a Development Officer. The Development Officer was to be supported by Supervisors and Specialists drawn from different provincial departments (Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Health and Education) to gist the villagers to do their self-help work. The activities included in the Program were;
- Improvement in crop and livestock production.
- Building roads, bridges, culverts, schools, wells, and drains.
- Planting trees.
- And removing health hazards.
The village councils were appointed and not elected by the villagers. The most important link between the government organization and villagers in each Development Area was the Village AID worker - a multipurpose extension agent trained for one year in a government V-AID training institute. Each Village-AID worker was expected to supervise 5-7 villages, or there were about 30 Village-AID workers in each Development Area. The Village-AID worker was supposed to act as a guide, philosopher and friend to the villagers and his functions included education, organization, motivation, formation of all purpose village councils, modernization of, agriculture, improvement in health facilities, building roads, giving credit, arranging marketing and generating self-help.
The Basic Democracies System (BDS), 1963 - 1973
It came on scene in 1959 it was designed to bring the elements of community development and political development together, especially at the local level. The government administrative and development tiers were organized into five levels. The lowest tier was a union council, a group of villages comprising 12-15 village councilors. On an average, such a union council covered a population of 8,000. The councils carried out social and economic development work in their respective areas. The problems that the union councils tried to solve were related to education, infrastructure, agriculture and sanitation. The BDs went a long way in developing awareness and local leadership among the rural masses but the change in the Government in 1970 saw the abolition of the BDS and the introduction of a new rural development approach - the Integrated. Rural Development Program (IRDP).
The Rural Works Program 1963-1972
The Rural Works Programme (RWP) had its origins in a pilot project for community development undertaken by the late Akhter Hameed Khan as Director of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (PARD) in Comilla (now in Bangladesh). He experimented with a pilot project in which the rural communities with the assistance of government completed capital works, link roads, subsidiary irrigation channels, etc. to promote agricultural growth and provide rural employment. The basic purpose of the pilot project in Comilla was to assess the capability of the village people, basic democracies and the local government officials to undertake sizable development programs in their respective areas. Another important purpose was the working out of the procedure for implementation and maintenance of the project works. By the middle of 1961, the pilot project had demonstrated that the basic democracies institutions and government officials were capable of executing the program. The officially announced objectives of RWP were to:
- Provide increased employment in rural areas on local projects not requiring large investments and their benefits can be easily recognized by the workers.
- Create infrastructure such as roads, bridges, irrigation .channels, etc. in rural areas.
- Create an effective nucleus of planning and development at the local (Union Council) level and associate increasing segment of the population in the development effort.
- Mobilize human and financial resources for the implementation of local projects through taxation and voluntary labor.
While it was decide to execute RWP primarily by the basic democracy institutions, the overall administrative control and supervision of the program was exercised by the government with the close association and guidance of concerned officials at all levels. In the provinces, the governments created Directorate of Projects for RWP in the Departments of Basic Democracies and Local Government (BDLG). In the field, the Deputy Commissioners were designated as controlling officers to organize and supervise the execution of the program in the districts. Directors of Basic Democracies were assigned in various departments for the supervision and evaluation of the program. The Sub-Divisional Officers (SDOs) were given control of the Union Councils and Tehsil I Taluka Councils. The Union Council Chairman, representing about 10,000 people, became an important elected official in the RWP. This, of course, diluted greatly the participation of the People at the village level since most decisions were made at the Union Council level in collaboration with government officials. The representation of rural people in the Basic Democracy institutions was made more ineffective by the structure of the Tehsil/Taluka and District Councils and the role of appointed officials. Some experts have regarded the program as a "successful innovation in rural development" because it:
- Led to the completion of over 60,000 projects in a variety of rural infrastructure and services; the average cost of these projects was much lower than those constructed by the government departments.
- Mobilized local contribution, in labor, land, cash, to the extent of about 15 per cent of the total cost of all projects.
- Provided jobs right where the people lived and reduced underemployment or seasonal unemployment in rural areas.
- Improved the village infrastructure like irrigation channels, drains and embankments created awareness among the people about the development needs and induced them to prepare plans.
It was also claimed that the broad-based participation in the process of planning by the people for their own welfare was one of the most important achievements of RWP. No expert evaluation of the program was ever done. The program was considered having several serious problems throughout its implementation.
- The Basic Democracy institutions did not permit participation by villagers in the preparation of plans and implementation of projects. The Union Council members, particularly their Chairmen, were not accountable to their voters at the local level. They and the appointed government officials made almost all the decisions without the active participation of village people.
- The members of Provincial Assemblies, influential rural elite, and government officials with executive authority had great influence on the quasi-representative Councils.
- The use of RWP funds for political purposes during the elections for President in 1965 made a mockery of people's participation in RWP. The reportedly large scale misuse of public funds intended for the RWP was a direct consequence of the government's decision to use the Union Council members as an electoral college for the election of President and members of the Provincial and National Assemblies.
- The availability of financial support for the RWP depended on changes in the counterpart funds released from the sale of PL480 food commodities. Reduced food supplies under the PL-480 program directly affected the implementation of RWP.
- There was considerable shortage of technical skills and supervision for members of the Union Councils to complete the infrastructure projects at reasonably low cost and minimum acceptable standards.
- Adequate arrangements were not made for proper maintenance of the completed projects. Union Councils and the Line Departments were unable to develop institutional arrangements at the village level because the villagers were not involved as stakeholders in the program.
- There was a tendency to give preference to a small number of relatively large scale projects (schemes) over small scale projects. It seems that this tendency was common to the elected Union Council members / chairmen and the public officials. It can be argued that the preference for the large-scale projects resulted from the potential for economic and political gains to the involved individuals or parties.
Local Government & Rural Development Department (LG&RDD), 1978
In 1978-79 Local Government and Rural Development Department was established by integrating/merging Peoples Works Program and Integrated Rural Development Program. Since 1978, Local Government and Rural Development Department is working for socio-economic uplift of rural population (88%) of the Sate of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Besides the Annual Development Program, LG&RDD is also working as line department for implantation of many projects funded by international agencies/donors, such as (World Bank, IDA, UNICEF, FAO, Asian Development Bank etc.) for socio-economic uplift of rural population by providing basic facilities and rural infrastructure. LG&RDD is responsible for:
- To prepare and implement development programs for rural areas.
- To uplift socio-economic condition of rural masses.
- To implement Annual Development Program donor assisted projects as agreed by Government of AJ&K.
- To promote and utilize local resources.
- To mobilize and organize rural masses for participatory rural development.
To achieve above mentioned objectives LG&RDD makes arrangement of funds from following resources:
- Annual budget from Government of AJ&K.
- Funds generated by Local Councils.
- Funds/contribution from local communities.
- Assistance from Government, Semi-Government organizations.
- International Agencies/Donors as agreed by Government.