GIDR in its earlier years till early 1992, GIDR was known as Gujarat Institute of Area Planning (GIAP) had mostly taken up area planning exercises. Planning for growth centres, full employment at block level, identification of service centres in tribal blocks, baseline surveys of the blocks in the potential irrigation command area of the Narmada project, planning prospects for Kachchh district's agriculture, integrated development of Matar taluka with expansion in irrigation were some of the important area studies under take by the Institute. The Matar taluka experience, the Talala growth centre plans and the service sector planning for tribal districts were published and received recognition. The aspects covered in most of these studies were regarding application of regional planning models, data collection and analysis for regional planning exercises, impact of area development plans on growth and development of the regional economy. Thugh most of the area planning exercises the foundation for partnership with various state government departments was laid which was later consolidated into continued working relations on development problems of the state.

Learning from Area Planning

Most area planning exercises were taken up in the context of regional planning exercises. Unlike the macro planning exercises that end up with indicative plans for potential growth scenario and investment strategies, the micro plan exercises at the Institute were for development of blueprint plans. The implementing agencies could directly translate the area plans into programmes if they so decided. The objective of most of these exercises was not only to dwell upon suggesting strategies for investment and resource mobilisation for economic development with well specified growth and distribution targets, but it was also to develop concrete implementable plans. The exercises were carried out within the framework of multilevel planning where the macro plan objectives, strategies and allocation patterns are given and fixed. The planning at the decentralised level that is district or block had to be attempted within given resource constraints as well. Thus, in most cases the exercises were really planning at local level rather than planning for local level. GIAP/GIDR has been one of the few organisations in the country, which with planning professionals could make this distinction and prepare plans accordingly. The tradition later helped the professionals to get deeper into the issues at grassroots level, collect relevant data and analyse the micro situation and relate it with the macroeconomic environment. About 13 reports were prepared in all covering district plan, block plans, social inputs plans and service centre plans.

Learning from Evaluation and Impact Studies

The Institute was involved in a major impact study "Agricultural Growth and Equity: A Micro level Experience." It was undertaken between 1975-76 and 1985 and it examined the impact of Mahi Right Bank Canal's irrigation impact on the agricultural growth in Matar taluka of Kheda district. The study observed significant positive impact on the living standards of agricultural labourers and small and marginal farmers. It also noted substantial multiplier effect on the non-agricultural activities resulting from growth in income through irrigated agriculture. Thus, the study brought out the positive growth and distribution impact of irrigated agriculture. Another important finding of the study was that irrigation also brought with external inputs in the form of HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers and mechanical devices for cultivation. Thus, the traditional agriculture, which had a commercial aspect limited to sale of surplus agricultural produce, transformed in modern agriculture and entered market vortex in which the farmers interacted with market both for inputs as well as sale of output. The study has termed this transformation as marketisation. Matar taluka witnessed the process between 1965-66 and 1975-76 with the expansion in area under canal irrigation.

Government of India has been implementing several rural development programmes with a specific focus on poor and poverty. GIDR has been actively involved in undertaking evaluation studies of many of them. The twin objectives have to provide proper feed back on the situation on the ground and to study the programme in the context of regional planning efforts for development with growth and distribution objectives.

The evaluation of the drinking water situation in "no source" villages in early 1990s brought the problems of shortage and poor quality of drinking water in the drought prone areas of Gujarat. The number of fully covered habitations was falling and partially covered was on the rise. The evaluation clearly brought out low priority accorded to the rejuvenation of the defunct sources. Community management in creating, rejuvenating and maintaining was suggested as better solution to resolve the crisis. This is consistent with the need to shift to decentralised planning of the regions involving communities.

The Concurrent evaluation of Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), an anti-poverty programme of the Government of India, brought out that identification of beneficiaries continued to be a problem, role and participation of Gram Sabhas were marginal and choice of schemes were rather limited. Another related study was on the group approach in the IRDP. It also brought out the identification issue and reported relatively better placed members coming together to form groups for economic activity. A positive feature was that poor beneficiaries saw the advantage in coming together as a group and improving the viability of the selected enterprises. Bringing together women around specific economic enterprise is helped through the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) programme. Its performance study in Gujarat suggested that consultation of members; their training and participation were rather limited. Even the groups supported by the NGOs did not fare better. Traditional skills such as embroidery and handicrafts were the ones that were supported in large numbers. The studies bring out an important aspect of the development efforts in the country. The special rural development programmes that are funded mainly by the Government of India fail to get integrated in the regional plans at the state and the lower levels. The programme at the state and the regional level was not planned integrating the natural resource base and the skill levels of the population.

Housing for poor are supported under a Government of India's programme namely Indira Awas Yojna (IAY). The programme is good in so far as it provides shelter to the shelter less and poor. However, once again GIDR study suggests beneficiaries of the programme have not been involved in building houses. Ownership is given only to the male members and women are in no position to make claim. They are mostly single room structures compelling the beneficiaries to hold on to their old houses. Half the beneficiaries do no see the need for sanitation facilities. Most houses do not have sanitary blocks. The findings link well with GIDR study of the sanitation programme in Gujarat. It found that there existed substantial demand for sanitation facilities irrespective of socio-economic status. The awareness campaign by the local nodal agency did not generate enough enthusiasm among people. It was found that there was need for more patience and better demonstration and communication skills to influence and change the behaviour of rural population.

Despite multilevel planning exercises in the country and the states, sectoral approach to development has been the mainstay of the government programmes. Most of the reports have argued for an integrated approach in the programmes in the regional planning framework.

Regional development with NGO Participation

Non government organisations and institutions have been very important in the process of economic development in India in general and Gujarat in particular. This is especially true for the areas and sections of population that are remote and backward and therefore generally fall out of the ambit of the State and market led economic initiatives. Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and Socio-religious movements have played important role in the rural transformation in Gujarat. GIDR has been interested in studying the role and participation of NGOs in the development process. The studies conducted by GIDR have mainly brought out the following aspects.

Most NGOs are delivery organisations that play the role of honest brokers and thereby improve the efficiency in the programme implementation. A large number of organisations have their historical antecedents and/or influence of the Gandhian values and ways of working. The mid-1970s saw emergence of professional organisations engaging in rural development process using technology and institutional innovations. The failure of populist policies politics of the political parties, social activists emerged since early eighties and they have raised issues relating to rights over the natural resources, financial allocations, and claims on participation in the process of planning and implementation of the projects and programmes. The studies have pointed at the important contribution of NGOs in identifying and demonstrating on pilot basis novel and innovative approaches for development projects and schemes that take care of growth and distribution both. The studies also bring out the changes in the characteristics of the NGOs. The voluntary nature is giving way to professionalism and at times compromises on the values and become pragmatic. The studies suggest that the NGOs have to be vigilant about their growth and dynamics.