XIII. Indian Development & Agriculture

Village Adoption Programme Unleashes a Multiplier Effect

The Society owns and manages a 123 acre rural development project in the village of Ramapuram, Cuddalore Taluk, South Arcot District, Tamil Nadu. One month after the nationalization of major Indian commercial banks in July 1969, officers of the Society approached one of the largest commercial banks to adopt Ramapuram - an extremely backward village where the average annual income from agriculture was less than Rs. 200 per acre. Ramapuram became the first village in India to be adopted by a nationalized bank for development. The Society administered the entire programme on behalf of the bank, dispersing 123 crop loans for Rs. 63,000. Repayment of loans was 100% and on time. Based on this success, the bank extended the programme in the second year offering crop loans, bullock cart and borewell loans valued at Rs. 750,000. Despite the Society’s success in digging 8 borewells on its own land, not a single farmer would risk digging a well until the Society offered to bear the risk of digging a well for one small farmer. After the first farmer succeeded, 54 others took bank loans and dug wells. This effort had a catalytic multiplier effect on nearby areas not covered by the loan scheme, where 440 more wells were dug during the next two years. Within fifteen years, Ramapuram had been transformed from a very poor, rain fed area into a rich farm region covered with sugarcane and other cash crops, and one of the most prosperous villages in the district. Average income rose 100 fold during this period and continued to rise over the following decades. In subsequent years, the village adoption scheme extended all over India, covering more than 100,000 villages by 1980.

District Development Programme

In the process of studying the developmental potentials of South Arcot District, the Society became aware of a huge, untapped, deep artesian aquifer extending over 2000 square miles and capable of irrigating several hundred thousand acres. In order to exploit this enormous potential, which lay beyond the capacity of individual farmers due to the depth and cost of deep borewells, the Society conceived an integrated, multi-dimensional strategy for developing the district. The strategy centred on the establishment of a semi-autonomous development corporation whose activities would include tapping and distributing water, providing agro-inputs and services, demonstration and training of farmers, marketing, establishing agro-industries, transport and coordination with financial institutions. The Society’s proposal was submitted to the Central and State Governments for consideration. A detailed technical feasibility study was undertaken by the State recommended implementation. The proposal was also supported and commended by Dr. David Hopper, Vice President of World Bank. In the early 1980s the Tamil Nadu Government set up a Tubewell Corporation to undertake some of the functions described in the proposal.

Rural Credit

In 1975, the Union Finance Ministry established a new type of credit institution, the Regional Rural Banks, intended to meet the financial needs of the rural population which were not being met by the cooperative and commercial banks. Based on extensive research and field experience, the Society prepared a set of recommendations designed to ensure the successful functioning of rural banks, particularly with regard to recovery of loans. Among the suggestions accepted by the Union Finance Minister, C. Subramaniam, was a recommendation for granting jewel loans on a much larger scale than ever before. Until then, jewel loans were granted only on a very limited scale by cooperative banks and not at all by commercial banks. Within a decade, jewel loans constituted nearly 50% of all lending by many of the Regional Rural banks and were liberally issued by cooperative and commercial banks as well.

Export of Buses to USA

In 1974-75 following the first global oil crisis, the Society identified a very large demand for buses in the USA to enhance its public transportation system which was not being met by American manufacturers. The Society examined potential US markets through its sister organisation Mere Cie. and provided detailed specifications and market reports to Indian bus chassis and body manufacturers including Telco, Ashok Leyland, TVS, Allwin and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. Great interest was evinced by Telco but a sudden spurt in demand from oil exporting countries in the Middle East made the development of a new bus less attractive than increased production of their standard models.

Liquid Fuels from Coal

Soon after the onset of the oil crises, the Society undertook research in technology for conversion of India’s huge coal reserves into liquid fuels based on technology developed in the US. The society presented extensive technical materials to the Union Energy Minister, Mr. K.C. Pant, and Secretary of Mines, Mr. Chari. It also contacted the U.S. Dept. of State and recommended Indo-U.S. collaboration in this field, a suggestion which was implemented by the Indo-U.S. Joint Commission established in November 1975.

Employment Generation

In 1977, the Society helped establish two pilot projects to promote labour intensive employment opportunities for women in Pondicherry by promotion of export-oriented industries for manufacture of high quality, hand-woven woollen tapestries and floral incense. A training center for these activities was operated for two years and imparted skills to hundreds of young women. Over time, direct employment in these projects grew to more than 500 workers and gradually led to the establishment of other similar business units in the surrounding area.

In January 2006, the Society was invited by Dr. Arjun Sen Gupta to submit detailed recommendations to the National Commission on Employment in the Informal Sector, which he chaired. The decision of the Government of India in September 2007 to extend the Employment Guarantee Scheme to all districts of India reaffirms the importance of this research issue.

Internet-Based Employment Generation

In 2007-08 the Society launched a pilot initiative to generate internet-based self-employment opportunities. MSS researchers identified hundreds of self-employment opportunities for publication on www.seekluck.com. More than 50,000 Indian youth have registered with the site in order to benefit from this research project. In addition, the Society sponsored several new websites by internet-based entrepreneurs. More than 100 articles were published on this theme of self-employment in the New Indian Express.

Report to the Union Planning Commission

When the Sixth Five Year Plan was being formulated in 1980, the Society undertook a study to identify new programmes and strategies intended to accelerate development. A report consisting of 138 programmes was prepared and submitted to Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, Member of the Planning Commission, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. The report contains a statement of development principles and strategies as well as programmes covering 12 major areas: planning, agriculture, forestry, agro-based and village industry, industry, commerce, transport, tourism, education, journalism, awards, and urban development. Several of the programmes have been taken up for implementation by the Government. A full page Special Report on the Society's recommendation was published by “The Hindu” in February 1981.

Measures and Indicators of Development

When the Society presented a copy of its report to the Planning Commission and to Mrs. Indira Gandhi in November 1980, the Prime Minister expressed particular interest in the proposal to evolve new measures and indicators of development that would more accurately reflect the real progress of the country than traditional economic indicators like GNP. Later the same day, Mrs. Gandhi addressed a national conference of scientists on the need for new statistical measures of development.

As a result of this interest, the Society initiated a research project on this topic and evolved a new measuring instrument, the Quantitative Scale of Physical Development, QSPD. The scale measures changes in standard of living over ten categories including nutrition, clothing, housing, health, education, transport and communication, community facilities, etc. A preliminary paper describing the QSPD was submitted to the Union Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

In 1981, a field study was undertaken in Thadagam Village, Gingee Taluk, applying the QSPD to measure the development of the village, utilizing baseline data from a survey of the village by the Central Census Organization in 1961 for comparison. The study revealed an overall 47 percent improvement in development of this village in twenty years on a scale of more than 100 development parameters. Subsequently, the Society tested the scale in two more villages and an Annamalai University research team employed it for a comparison of ten other villages.

After a study of the Society’s model, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat requested the Society to prepare a comprehensive plan for the introduction of new development indicators on a nationwide basis and a report outlining six graded proposals with cost estimates was submitted in December 1981. As a result, the Union Planning Commission organised a national conference on Regional Planning and Development Indicators at Nainital in April 1982, and the Society was invited to present its model at the conference.

In 1991, ten years after the original study, the Society returned to Thadagam and resurveyed the village to measure further progress during the period 1981-91 and as an indication of the general success of village development pro­grams in the district. The study in­cluded household surveys of 100 families and detailed nutritional sur­veys of 50 families. Results were analysed statistically and compared with earlier results on the index. Marked improvements were noted in some key dimensions of development including food, clothing, education, recreation and physical assets. 

Report on Agro-Industries

At the request of the Tamil Nadu Minister of Cooperation, in 1982, the Society undertook research on agro-industries suitable for propagation on a wide scale in the state and presented a report to the state government recommending introduction of jasmine and citronella oil extraction industries in the tiny sector and creation of a large plantation of jojoba shrubs in a dry desert tract. The recommendations on jasmine and citronella were accepted by the government and Rs. 4.5 crores were sanctioned for development of these industries through Land Development Bank.

Development Year Strategy

In 1982, the Society undertook a research project to evolve a broad-based strategy for stimulating national development, based on the view that the country was well poised for accelerated growth provided that the enthusiastic support of the public could be enlisted for the effort. The strategy consisted of two parts -- Development Year and Development Model.

Development Year is a massive programme of public education over 365 days designed to disseminate information on past achievements, present opportunities and future potentials in every sector of national life. Development Model is a plan for comprehensive and integrated implementation of all existing development schemes through a new administrative organization in one district to serve as a model for the rest of the country.

A report was drawn up outlining the purpose of this programme, the strategies, goals and mode of implementation. The content of the educational programme was illustrated with descriptions of the themes to be presented during different weeks and days of the year, the techniques for projecting them through the media, the role of various governmental and non-governmental organisations, and the anticipated results. The concept, strategies and objectives of a Development Model were described along with a list of 35 general development activities which could be implemented in every district.

A preliminary report was presented to Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, then Member of Parliament, and to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. At the latter’s request, the Society prepared a more comprehensive report entitled “Themes and Programmes for Development Year” detailing the information to be projected during the programme and the mode of implementation. The second report contains 29 major themes for public education along with a list of truisms to be projected and misconceptions to be removed. It also includes illustrative material for ten programme weeks including scripts for radio skits intended to dramatise achievements and potentials.

The second report was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and referred to the Planning Commission and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for detailed examination. A summary of the report was also published as a full page special report by "The Hindu" in August 1982.

Legal & Economic Administrative Reforms for Development

In 1982, the Society presented recommendations for stimulating national development to Dr. L.K. Jha, Chairman of the Commission for Economic and Administrative Reforms. A report was prepared outlining 12 reforms designed to reduce bureaucracy and corruption, stimulate agriculture and forestry, and promote industry, etc. At the request of the Ministry of Law of the Tamil Nadu State Government, the Society also conducted a preliminary study to identify reforms which could be introduced in the state legal apparatus. A report was prepared containing 50 minor reforms in the field of court procedure, education, transport, cooperative banking, sales tax collection and other areas to add a stimulus or remove road blocks to development.

Export-Oriented Handmade Paper Industry

Beginning in 1975, the Society commenced a ten-year research project with the objective of developing the technology for an export-oriented handmade paper industry in India to manufacture high quality art and printing papers for the Western market. Detailed experiments and testing were carried out on a pilot basis to perfect measures to ensure quality up to international standards. Market surveys and test marketing done in the USA revealed a very high demand for quality handmade paper, estimated at more than 3 lakh tonnes per year. A report detailing the market potential, economics and technical feasibility of this industry were submitted to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and examined by National Small Industries Corporation, which offered to finance 20 units based on the new technology. UNIDO carried an announcement about the new technology in its international newsletter. In 1984, a pilot unit was established by Mira Papers Pvt. Ltd. at Tirukovilur, South Arcot District, and exported paper to the USA at a price of Rs. 60,000 per ton, roughly five times the price of Indian mill-made paper. The American buyers found the paper to be of very high quality.

Blue Revolution in Aqua-Culture

In 1983, the Society identified a new technology developed in the USA for intensive cultivation of hybrid fresh water fish utilizing sophisticated breeding and production techniques. With the assistance of the Society, a large scale research cum commercial project was established near Chengleput, Tamil Nadu by Vorion Chemicals & Distilleries Ltd. to utilize this technology as a commercially viable means of processing and recycling organic effluent from its ethanol plant. After extensive testing, an 80 acre commercial fish farm was commissioned achieving yields of more than 20 tons per acre per year - 10 to 15 times the normal yield from inland aqua culture projects in India. This technology holds forth the promise of creating a Blue Revolution for fish culture in India. A single acre of cultivation can return a net profit of more than Rs.1 lakh per year. Even small 10 to 15 cent plots can generate very attractive returns for small and marginal farmers. In 1991, this technology received a national R&D award from the Department of Science & Technology.

Potential for Indian Software Exports

In 1984, the Society undertook a detailed study of the export potential for computer software and programmers from India to Western Europe and the USA. The study involved personal discussions with more than a dozen software houses in Switzerland, Sweden, France, Denmark, Norway, Holland and the USA including a meeting with IBM in New York. The study revealed that there is an enormous demand for programmers in the West that is not being met by educational institutions in those countries. A deficit of nearly one million programmers was expected by 1990. Western companies expressed serious interest in exploring the potential for collaboration with India in order to meet their growing requirements for technically qualified manpower. The Society has prepared and submitted a report to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat based on the study. The report recommends the establishment of export-oriented computer training institutes in India to prepare 20,000 students a year for work in this field. The institutes could be operated in collaboration with Indian and foreign companies, several of whom have expressed interest in the idea. An article based on the study was published in the United Nations newspaper Development Business, in December 1984. At the time of the Society’s study, India’s total software exports amounted to only $10 million per annum. Potential size of India’s offshoring industry is estimated at US $ 120 to 180 billion by 2015.

Book on Indian Development

In 1985, the Society published Kamadhenu: The Prosperity Movement in India, a book presenting a wide range of strategies to accelerate India’s development drawn including articles previously published in The Hindu newspaper and material from two reports presented to the Government of India.

Seminar on Indian Development

In July 1986, the Society organised a seminar on Indian Development at the annual conference of the Western Economics Association in San Francisco. A paper outlining the Society’s model of the development process was presented by Dr. David Lane. Dr. S. P. Gupta of World Bank, Dr. Irma Adelman and Dr. Sherman Robinson of University of California at Berkeley were guest participants.

Evaluation of IRDP

In 1986, the Society undertook an evaluation of the Integrated Rural Development Programme in Pondicherry covering 1145 beneficiaries. The study revealed that IRDP had raised the average income of beneficiaries by 81 percent and that three fourths of loan recipients recorded an income rise of at least 30%. Recovery of loans was only 45%, but a substantial portion of this could be attributed to improper identification of beneficiaries. The study examined the role of education, prior experience, occupation and community on performance. In addition, it evaluated the overall return on investment of IRDP and found it to be an extremely high 139%, approximately ten times the average anticipated return on all Seventh Plan investments.

Conference on Indian Development Potentials

In March 1988, the Society organized a two-day national conference in Chennai to highlight untapped potentials and strategies for accelerating Indian development. Participants included David Smith, chief economic adviser to US Senator Edward Kennedy; the President of the Federated Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry; the Vice Chancellors of Pondicherry University and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; Chairman of the State Planning Commission; and a former Adviser in the Union Planning Commission. Financial assistance was provided by a grant from the Union Planning Commission.

National Foundation of India

Preparations were underway during 1991 for establishment of the National Foundation of India (NFI). The Society worked with the Governor of Maharashtra, C. Subramaniam, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and other founding members of NFI to evolve strategies to make NFI a dynamic and effective instrument for national development. The So­ciety prepared two papers detailing a range of innovative educa­tion, research and development programs for NFI to initiate.

Prosperity 2000 Strategy for Full Employment

In 1991, the Society conducted a study of the commercial potentials of Indian agriculture in collaboration with the International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF) in order to evolve a strategy to generate full employment in India during the succeeding ten years. The study examined the technological and commercial potentials of cash crops and animal husbandry and identified missing organizational linkages needed to full exploit India’s capacities. The study concluded that 100 million new jobs could be created within a ten year period by accelerated development of commercial agriculture, agro-industry and agro-exports.

The findings of the study were published as a book entitled Prosperity 2000: Strategy to Generate 100 Million Jobs in India within 10 years. The Prosperity 2000 strategy was subsequently presented to the Prime Minister and the Planning Commission of the Government of India and incorporated the recommendations in the Eighth Five Year Plan. The Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium was established by the Government to implement the programme and district level studies were initiated by the Government in 12 districts around the country.    

In 1994, Society staff worked with Agriculture Finance Corporation to apply the Prosperity 2000 strategy in Pune District, Maharashtra. The study focused on the potentials for stimulating development of commercial agriculture in areas such as flower cultivation, vegetable and fruit production and processing, inland fish culture, mushrooms, etc. The study concluded that this strategy could generate additional employment of 750,000 in the district.

In 1996, the Society organized a national conference on India’s economic potentials in Chennai to discuss strategies to stimulate employment generation and economic growth.

In 1997, the Society applied the Prosperity 2000 strategy to identify opportunities for stimulating employment generation in the Union Territory of Pondicherry. This study identified potentials for increasing total job creation in the state by 15%.

India’s Vision 2020

A Society staff member was invited as a member of the Vision 2020 Committee constituted by the Union Planning Commission to draw up a plan for the development of India over the succeeding 20 years. In summer 2000, Society staff prepared and presented a paper to the Committee on the Role of Knowledge in Development. In 2001, the Society prepared a chapter for the Committee on Toward a Knowledge Society, covering issues related to education, technology development and dissemination of information. In January 2002, the Society prepared a draft of the final report for the Committee, integrating recommendations from more than 25 discussion papers submitted to the Committee. The Society continued to serve on the editorial committee responsible for finalizing the report until its release to the public in December 2002.

Task Force for Creation of 10 Million Jobs a Year

In 2002-03, the Society was invited to serve on a Task Force established by the Union Planning Commission to propose strategies to achieve full employment in India. The Task Force was chaired by Dr. S. P. Gupta, Member of Planning Commission. The Society participated in numerous meetings of the taskforce and presented two papers on Employment Potential in the IT Industry and Innovative Strategies for Employment Generation through Wasteland Development and Bio-fuels Production. 

Project for Advanced Agricultural Technology

In 1999, the Society collaborated with California Agricultural Consulting Services (CACS) of USA to evolve a plan for disseminating high yielding soil management and production technology in India and for creating a computerized expert knowledge database system to make the latest information available to farmers throughout the country.

In summer 2000, the Society in collaboration with CACS submitted a proposal at the request of the Union Planning Commission for establishment of a Farmers’ Training that would train lead farmers and farm managers from all over India.

In July 2001, the Tamil Nadu Government requested the Society to prepare a proposal for a pilot project to introduce, demonstrate and disseminate advanced agricultural production technology throughout the State. The pilot proposal involved acquisition and transfer of technology from a leading US firm, California Agricultural Consulting Services. It called for the establishment of a model farm cum training centre at Neyveli to train farm school instructors, establishment of 500 village-based privately owned Farm Schools, and training of more than 24,000 farmers within four years. The objective of the proposal was to double or triple the average net income from agricultural lands. To assure off-take of the increased farm produce, the project envisioned establishment of rural industries, including biomass power plants, oil extraction units, ethanol plants, fruit and vegetable processing plants. The strategies focused on developing the potentials of biomass power, ethanol from sugarcane, edible oil from Paradise Tree and fuel oil from Jatropha. Based on these recommendations, the Government announced a major programme for wasteland development in the State.

In January 2002, the Society presented a scheme to the Government of Tamil Nadu for a massive farmer training programme to disseminate CACS technology to more than one lakh farmers throughout the State. The Government conducted more than 15 high level meetings to discuss the proposal and requested the Society to submit a detailed project feasibility report. In December 2002, the Government of Tamil Nadu requested the Society to submit and present a detailed proposal for establishment of a pilot programme at Neyveli to demonstrate and disseminate high productivity crop production methods based on CACS technology. The Society also participated in a one-day training programme for 600 agricultural officers in Kerala during January 2003 and in discussions with the Government of Kerala regarding a proposal for a pilot project in Malappuram District.

During 2003-04, the Society focused on the economic and employment potentials of jatropha as a source of bio-fuel that can be grown both on wastelands and irrigated lands and on promoting the use of bio-mass power. Its views were presented to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu during the inaugural session of a conference on Opportunities in Tamil Nadu organized by the New Indian Express Group. Following the conference, the Chief Minister requested a copy of the presentation and took steps to promote both these potentials within the State.

 Nutrient content of Indian soils before treatment (100% is optimal)

Furrow irrigation of Tomatoes in Tamil Nadu

Furrow irrigation of vegetables at Gemini farms


Since 2000, MSS has conducted extensive research on the potential of Jatropha as an economically attractive, environmentally friendly biofuel crop for extensive cultivation on medium grade cultivable wastelands in India where few other crops can be grown. Cultivation of oil bearing crops such as Jatropha can serve as an economically attractive alternative to the import of fuel oil. Establishment of local oil extraction units can stimulate rural industrialization. Establishment of one million hectares of Jatropha oilseeds plantation will be sufficient to provide one million year-round employment opportunities. This plant was introduced from Africa, where it grows in the wild. A wild species already grows in India and is often used as a fence crop. The plant produces large quantities of seeds which contain up to 35% oil. The oil is a bio-fuel and substitutes for No.2 diesel and kerosene. It can be blended in diesel motor fuels up to 15%.


Images of Jatropha plant

National Farmers’ Commission

At the request of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the National Farmers Commission set up by the Government of India, the Society prepared an update of the Prosperity 2000 Strategy for creating 100 million jobs in India within 10 years, which was originally adopted by the Government of India in 1992. The updated and revised strategy was presented to members of the Commission and to senior central and state government officials at three meetings conducted in Ahmedabad and New Delhi during November 2004. The final report including a detailed business plan was submitted to the National Farmers Commission in December 2004. The Commission promptly adopted the Society’s recommendation for establishment of 50,000 village-based farm schools and forwarded the proposal to the Government.

National Commission on Enterprises in the Informal Sector

Dr. A. K. Sengupta, Chairman of this Commission which was constituted by the Government of India during September 2004, invited the Society to prepare and present recommendations to the Commission on strategies to accelerate job growth in the informal sector to support the Government’s commitment to full employment in India. The Society presented its findings to four members of the Commission at a closed meeting during October 2004.

Workshops on Entrepreneurship & Self-employment

Starting in April 2004, the Society participated in numerous workshops of graduating college students organized by I.N.D.I.A. Trust on entrepreneurial and self-employment opportunities for youth based in Chennai.