The concept of rural development is quite comprehensive and extensive. G. Shah defines rural development as “the development of rural areas, often rural development has meant the extension of irrigation facilities, expansion of electricity, improvement in the techniques of cultivation, construction of school building and provision of educational facilities, health care etc.”
It is claimed that the concept of Integrated Rural Development was originally propounded by the World Bank. In India the concept was put forward in the year 1976 at the All-India Science Congress by C. Subramanyam, the then Finance Minister of India.
He viewed integrated rural development as “systematic, scientific and integrated use of all our natural resources and as a part of this process enabling every person to engage himself in a productive and socially useful occupation and earn an income that would meet at least the basic needs.”
He holds the view that the use of natural resources is possible only through the application of science and technology. Further, proper application of science and technology results in the fulfilment of basic social needs.
G. Parthasarathy refers to four ‘routes’ in the context of integrated rural development: (i) the institutional route of Gunnar Myrdal, (ii) the ‘New Economics’ route, (iii) the Neo-Marxian route and (iv) the Gandhian route. V.K.R.V. Rao defines integrated rural development as “the optimum utilization of the natural and human resources of a given rural area for the enrichment of the quality of life of the population.”
The concept of integrated rural development addresses itself to various rural problems like widespread poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, exploitation, inequitable distribution of land, poor health conditions etc. It signifies that various facets of rural development are integrally connected.
It is a holistic concept rather than a sequential one. K. Om Prakash and G. Satyanarayan rightly observe that integrated rural development embraces all the activities of enrichment and betterment of the overall quality of rural life through appropriate development of man power, resources, infrastructural facilities and provisions of minimum needs and livelihood.
It has far-reaching socioeconomic and political implications for the life of the ruralites.