Accordingly, on 31st March 1952, an organization known as Community Projects Administration was set up under the Planning Commission to administer the programmes relating to community development. The community development programme inaugurated on October 2, 1952, was an important landmark in the history of the rural development. This programme underwent many changes and was handled by different Ministries.
In October 1974, the Department of Rural Development came into existence as a part of Ministry of Food and Agriculture. On 18th August 1979, the Department of Rural Development was elevated to the status of a new Ministry of Rural Reconstruction. That Ministry was renamed as Ministry of Rural Development on 23rd January 1982. In January 1985, the Ministry of Rural Development was again converted into a Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which was later rechristened as Ministry of Agriculture in September 1985. On July 5, 1991 the Department was upgraded as Ministry of Rural Development. Another Department viz. Department of Wasteland Development was created under this Ministry on 2nd July 1992. In March 1995, the Ministry was renamed as the Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment with three departments namely Department of Rural Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Rural Development and Wasteland Development.
Again, in 1999 Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment was renamed as Ministry of Rural Development. This Ministry has been acting as a catalyst effecting the change in rural areas through the implementation of wide spectrum of programmes which are aimed at poverty alleviation, employment generation, infrastructure development and social security. Over the years, with the experience gained, in the implementation of the programmes and in response to the felt needs of the poor, several programmes have been modified and new programmes have been introduced. This Ministry's main objective is to alleviate rural poverty and ensure improved quality of life for the rural population especially those below the poverty line. These objectives are achieved through formulation, development and implementation of programmes relating to various spheres of rural life and activities, from income generation to environmental replenishment.
In order to ensure that the fruits of economic reform are shared by all sections of societies five elements of social and economic infrastructure, critical to the quality of life in rural areas, were identified. These are health education drinking water, housing and roads. To impart greater momentum to the efforts in these sectors the Government had launched the Pradhan Mantri Gramdoya Yojana (PMGY) and the ministry of rural development was entrusted with the responsibility of implementing drinking water, housing and rural roads component of PMGY
During the Ninth Plan period, several anti-poverty Programmes have been restructured to enhance the efficiency of the Programmes for providing increased benefits to the rural poor. Self Employment Programmes have been revamped by merging the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), the Supply of Improved Tool-Kits to Rural Artisans (SITRA), the Training of Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM), the Ganga Kalyan Yojana (GKY) and the Million Wells Scheme (MWS) into a holistic self-employment scheme called Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
Keeping in view the needs and aspirations of the local people, Panchayati Raj Institutions have been involved in the programme implementation and these institutions constitute the core of decentralized development of planning and its implementations. The Ministry is also vigorously pursuing with the State Governments for expeditious devolution of requisite administrative and financial powers to PRI's as envisaged under 73rd amendment act of the Constitution of India. On 25th December 2002, under Drinking Water Sector, a new initiative 'Swajal Dhara' empowering the Panchayats to formulate, implement, operate and maintain Drinking Water Projects has been launched. In order to further involve PRIs in the development process, a new initiative 'Hariyali' has been launched by Hon'ble Prime Minister on 27th January, 2003. Hariyali has been launched to strengthen and involve Panchayati Raj Institutions in the implementation of Watershed Development Programmes namely IWDP, DPAP and DDP.
The empowerment of rural women is crucial for the development of rural India. Bringing women into the mainstream of development is a major concern for the Government of India. Therefore, the programmes for poverty alleviation have a women's component to ensure flow of adequate funds to this section. The Constitutional (73rd) Amendment, Act 1992 provides for reservation of selective posts for women. The Constitution has placed enormous responsibility on the Panchayats to formulate and execute various programmes of economic development and social justice, and a number of Centrally Sponsored Schemes are being implemented through Panchayats. Thus, women Members and Chairpersons of Panchayats, who are basically new entrants in Panchayats, have to acquire the required skill and be given appropriate orientation to assume their rightful roles as leaders and decision makers. To impart training for elected representatives of PRIs is primarily the responsibility of the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations. Ministry of Rural Development also extends some financial assistance to the States/UTs with a view to improve the quality of training programmes and to catalyze capacity building initiatives for the PRI elected members and functionaries.
This Ministry of Rural Development is a nodal Ministry for two international organizations viz., the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) and the Afro-Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO).
The Ministry consisted of the following three Departments:
1. Department of Rural Development
2. Department of Land Resources
3. Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation
However, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation has been separated from the Ministry of Rural Development from 13th july,2011 and renamed as Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The Department of Rural Development implements schemes for generation of self employment and wage employment, provision of housing and minor irrigation assets to rural poor, social assistance to the destitute and Rural Roads. Apart from this, the Department provides the support services and other quality inputs such as assistance for strengthening of DRDA Administration, Panchayati raj institutions, training & research, human resource development, development of voluntary action etc. for the proper implementation of the programmes. The major programmes of the Department of Rural Development are Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, (PMGSY), Rural Housing (RH) Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) and Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY).
Department of Land Resources implements schemes to increase the bio-mass production by developing wastelands in the country. Department also provides the support services and other quality inputs such as land reforms, betterment of revenue system and land records. It also undertakes development of desert areas and drought prone areas in the country. The major programmes of the Department of Land Resources are Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) The Desert Development Programme (DDP) the Integrated Wasteland Development Programme (IWDP) and Land Reforms (LR). These aim at increasing the soil and moisture conservation and productivity of the wasteland of the degraded lands thereby increase the income of the people.
The provision of Drinking Water Supply and extension of Sanitation facilities to the rural poor are the main components of the activities of the Department of Drinking Water Supply. The major programmes of the Drinking Water Supply Department are The Swajaldhara, the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) and the Total Sanitation Programme (TSP).