India was one of the most developed economies in the world till mid of 18th century. India was highly industrialized
and urbanized in its own way. There was a continuum of rural – urban settlements in a rational and harmonious way. The
remotest, smallest villages were linked to a medium village which served the first level of centralization of functions and
activities serving 4-5 villages around in a radius of 2-3 kms. For instance a cobbler could be available at such a medium
village and not in every village. Similarly, a potter could be there making and supplying pots to smaller villages around.
A flayer could be there to lift dead animals from the surrounding villages and to remove the skin to be supplied to higher
up centers for further processing. A blacksmith could be there to repair the agricultural tools, etc.
The next level of centralization could be easily identified at a bigger village serving around 20-25 smaller villages in an
area of about 6-7 kms radius. There could be small markets to meet the routine requirements of villages around. One of
the major characteristic of such a place is generally a weekly market (haat) bringing the buyers and the suppliers from
the area together for local products and requirements.
The next level of centralization or urbanization was the taluka town with regular markets for local and non-local products
to meet the requirements of an area of 20-25 kms covering 100 to 200 villages. Taluka level economy can be said to be
local economy which can be self-sustaining in terms of local resources as well as providing an interface with the non –
local requirements. The next level of centralization / urbanization was probably the district and then the state level reaching
out, further to regional and national centers.
This kind of structure of Indian economy was devastated by the European colonizers after 1757, once they got foothold
in the politics and administration of Bengal to start with. The East India Company became the revenue collector in Bengal.
The balance of trade with England which was highly in favour of India was totally put upside down with the revenues collected
by the East India Company. This is where the de-industrialization of India also started. Centers like Dhaka which
were world renowned for the textile products were devastated and people forced to migrate to rural areas to protect
themselves from the exploitation of the British. The agriculture and local economy of India was strong enough to absorb
the impact of all these upheavals.
This de-industrialization continued for more than 80 years. However, the rural areas and the local economy were strong
enough to absorb all this and remain strong as compared to the other international economies. It was only after 1820
that the rural areas and the local economy were devastated by the European traders and the Indian economy really broke
down. Around 1840 onwards, one finds an exodus of people migrating from rural areas not only to newly coming up
urban centers of India but also to many other countries in the world.
Till 1840, no modern industry could take a foothold in India as cheap labour was not available. The first modern industry
to come to India was the textile mills which despite all the de-industrialisation and devastation, faced a stiff competition
from Indian handlooms and not an inch of the cloth produced in the mills that could be sold in the Indian market. Similar
is the story with other industries.
The British were developing a few coastal cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Madras etc., for their own import
export interests. However, this gave rise to a different concept of urban settings. The rural – urban continuum
that existed in India as a natural growth in a very harmonious way got neglected. A few metropolitan cities
came up. The investments were largely concentrated in these metropolitan cities and the rest of India was
highly neglected. So a new situation developed where we have a few islands of prosperity surrounded by a
ocean of poverty and distress. This is when people like Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and others
started talking about a concept of rural development after 1920s. We even started taking pride in saying and
referring to India as a country of villages and as an agrarian economy. In reality; India was an industrialised and
urbanised nation maintaining a natural harmonious continuum between rural and urban areas. With the distortion
brought about by the British in the economy and geographical continuum of rural – urban settings, the
need for the concept of rural development and technology for the same became more and more evident. This
distinction or disparity of urban and rural should vanish. It’s a continuum and is a one whole nation. The centre
for rural development and technology that came into existence in 1979 at IIT Delhi had the sole aim of correcting
this distortion in national development with inputs of science and technology.
In past three and a half decades, it has made significant contributions in areas like alternate energy technology
(biogas, smokeless chulha, etc.), sustainable agriculture, food processing, food preservation and storage,
bamboo based sustainable housing, mushroom cultivation, waste management, sanitation, etc. Through this
brochure, we share our achievements, contributions and future missions for rural development by implementation
of appropriate technologies. We have a strong team of faculty members, researchers and students to
strive for holistic development at the grass-root level.
As we complete 75 years of Indian independence in 2022; the centre aims to contribute to new India by technologically
fortifying the nation through low cost, last mile, and futuristic technologies. A giant leap in this
direction has been taken through the launch of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan in 2014 by Ministry of Human Resource
Development (MHRD) that aims to utilize knowledge institutions of the country to help villages, which is being
nationally coordinated by CRDT, IIT Delhi. Another key programme envisaged is Scientific Validation and Research
on Panchgavya (SVAROP) in 2017 which will help in reinstating the cattle based economy supported by
critical scientific research. Apart from these key programmes, this brochure takes you on a virtual tour of appropriate
technologies being developed at the centre. There are many expectations from the Centre. As India
is making a fast progress to become a developed nation, the key lies in doubling the income of farmers by
2022 for which we have to create allied activities and rural industries to fulfil this aspiration. Livelihood and employment
opportunities can be created in rural areas by the intervention of science and technology in which
rural development centres like ours play a major role. With the efforts of all in the institute, I strongly believe
that we will be able to see our nation in better position in next five years in technology, education, health and
employment opportunities and pave a way for reverse migration.
- Jai Hind