ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Colonial 'Borrowing' from Africa

In response to Babu C T Sunil's article "Sociology, Village Studies and the Ford Foundation" (EPW, 28 December 2013), this article argues that to understand the true politics of the community development programme of post-Independence India, one needs to look at colonial Africa and the politics of halting the advance of communism. The failure of the community development programme also explains, partly, the success of Congress's continued dominance in Indian politics.

In response to Babu C T Sunil’s article “Sociology, Village Studies and the Ford Foundation” (EPW, 28 December 2013), this article argues that to understand the true politics of the community development programme of post-Independence India, one needs to look at colonial Africa and the politics of halting the advance of communism. The failure of the community development programme also explains, partly, the success of Congress’s continued dominance in Indian politics.

The narrative by Babu C T Sunil has revived memories of the decade just after Independence when Indians began to take the first steps in nation-building. Revitalising the villages was one of the earliest concerns of the government and this was sought through a programme known as the 1952 community development (henceforth CD) programme. This short-lived programme came to have considerable influence on the state’s approach towards rural development as it evolved. The CD programme is one of the key themes of Babu Sunil’s article and he discusses in detail the many American institutions and individuals who persuaded Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to take up this programme. This assertion is true, but only partly. There is a more complex and older history to it. The history begins with the little known fact1 that the idea of CD began as a British experiment being tried out in Africa at a time when India was still a British colony. A small booklet titled Community Development published by the Colonial Office (1966: 1) in London tells us that the term

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