The earlier development efforts concentrated in creating the conditions in which surplus production could be generated.

The advantage of such facilities usually went to the affluent section of the population, considered to be more amenable to change and consequently able to benefit from development efforts earlier than their less advantaged countrymen.

The concepts of diffusion, demonstration effect and trickle down process were expected to gradually spread development to the rest of the society.

They acted to justify the inequitable development by way of explaining the phenomena as natural course of development.

However, the reality did not substantiate the previous assumptions related to development.

The declining agricultural productivity in the country, growing unemployment and under employment and the high rate of deforestation have perpetuated a state of under-development and increased disparity in the society.

The notion that the bureaucracy or any other external agency can develop the rural areas has proved fallacious.

Concern with poverty and unemployment now indicates a sharp shift in the direction and priorities of planning, from building capacities and infrastructures to developing human resources and social services and to the more effective utilisation of manpower.

The widening gap between the rich and the poor has indicated that the Gross National Product may in itself not be sufficient to indicate the extent of development.

Therefore, a more appropriate concept of Net National Welfare, of which physical quality of life is one indicator, has been emphasised. The emphasis, therefore, has been on meeting the basic needs of the people, with those below the poverty line being the target population.

The role of the development agency is that of a facilitator, promoter and helper; the needs and conditions of the people are best known to themselves and that they have the highest interest in their own development.

Consequently, without their active participation, effective development is not possible.

That is why sometime planners and bureaucrats refer about lack of popular participation in the development process.

What they refer to is the people's failure to ratify and accept the programme uncritically rather than participate.

However, with the people actually undertaking their own development, the tendency to utilise the people will be replaced by the tendency to cooperate with the people. The local representative units, therefore, are the most suitable organisations to formulate and undertake local level plans.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 6, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.