Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP)

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The SGSY too is not a new scheme but a reincarnation of an earlier scheme

– the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP).12 The IRDP was

the fi rst major intervention for creating an income generating asset base to

promote self-employment, using a mix of subsidy and institutional credit

from the formal fi nancial system. It was launched in 1976 in 20 selected

districts on a pilot basis and soon extended to cover all the blocks in the

country by 1980. As many as 54 million families were assisted by IRDP

between 1980–81 and 1998–99, by providing Rs 203 billion in credits with

an average loan size in 1997 of Rs 5600. IRDP accounted for almost 35

per cent of all small borrowers’ accounts in commercial banks in India.13

The risk of the loans made by banks under IRDP was borne by the banks,

and the recovery rates on these loans were poor, between 25 per cent and

33 per cent (Long and Srivastava, 2002). A concurrent evaluation of the

IRDP showed that of the 54 million benefi ciaries, only one in seven (14.8

per cent) managed to cross the poverty line (CAG, 2003).

Studies reviewing the state-wise implementation of IRDP and its allied

poverty-alleviation schemes for the Planning Commission showed substantial

problems in implementation, which were also relatively consistent across

the states. For example, MAKER (2002), reporting fi ndings of a survey

conducted in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, found 24 per cent of

the benefi ciaries of poverty-alleviation programs had incomes above the

poverty line while a large proportion of others were in the income group just

below the poverty line. Implementation of poverty schemes in all zones was

steeped in corruption. To access the programs, payment of bribes was an

essential condition. Misutilization of funds was also prevalent since neither

the authorities nor the benefi ciaries took the schemes in the spirit intended.

The authorities viewed them as a source of additional funds for their own

priorities, while the benefi ciaries took the assistance as a subsidy with no

serious thought to the purpose of the assistance. In general, a considerable

amount of funds were siphoned off by local authorities in connivance with

local middlemen. Procedural delays and red-tape were also an endemic

problem reported by benefi ciaries. Similarly, a survey of 104 benefi ciaries

of four schemes in Maharashtra (including IRDP) found weak targeting

with a third of the benefi ciaries above the poverty line. A large proportion

of the benefi ciaries of other schemes in the survey also reported having to

pay bribes to receive benefi ts.