Between hunger and growth: pursuing rural development in Partition’s aftermath, 1947–1957

Built from the ground up by three thousand Sikh and Hindu refugees in the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947, the town of Nilokheri in East Punjab emerged as an unlikely centre of agricultural education and scientific exchange. With support from the Ford Foundation, Indian and American scientists and development planners worked through the 1950s to transform the refugee township into a model of agricultural innovation and community development. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru even cast Nilokheri as the first step on the ‘road to new India’ that would bring the nation to self-sufficiency in food production. Over the course of a decade, experimental farms, workshops, and agricultural training centres rose around the village. The bustling town rapidly became an internationally recognised centre for deploying new farming technologies, training farmers, and sharing scientific knowledge. Yet for all its initial promise, allegations of bureaucratic mismanagement dogged the project, floodwaters disrupted the site in 1957, and Ford’s interest shifted by the early 1960s. The Nilokheri experiment, however, set the stage for the scientific and social interventions of India’s Green Revolution, contributing to an international development paradigm that persists today.

Jack Loveridge
Taylor and Francis Online