Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Soon after Independence, we adopted economic planning to achieve quick economic development. We had hoped that such planned development would remove poverty in a short time and bring prosperity to every nook and corner of the country. We have, however, been disappointed as poverty still exists on a large scale and the inequalities in the levels of income between the rich and the poor continue to expand.
The planning we mentioned above is executed in the form of 5-year plans. In these plans the policies and programmes are formulated centrally at the top. The Planning Commission is the highest policy-making body in this set-up. These plans are implemented at the lower levels like the state, district, blocks, panchayats etc.
However, such central planning could not fulfill many local needs, and local resources also could not be mobilized for use in the implementation of the plans as all funds were allocated centrally. Many local environmental concerns were also neglected in the formulation and implementation of the plans.
To remove these deficiencies of central planning, efforts are being made to involve people at the local level in the formulation and implementation of plans.
Such planning is known as decentralized planning.
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
• Define the concept of decentralized planning;
• Describe the evolution of decentralized planning, and
• Discuss the dimensions of decentralized planning.
Decentralization, interpreted in simple terms, would mean moving away from the center or deconcentration. In the context of development, which is our concern here, decentralization means transfer of certain authority and power in the matter of formulation and implementation of development plans from the highest organization
or institution at the national level or state level to organisations or institutions at the sub-state level.
The lower level, which includes district, block and panchayat will have a particular role in the planning exercise and will be vested with the powers and the
responsibilities associated with the role. In a truly decentralized situation such power will include the power to determine goals and targets and to raise resources locally.
Decentralized Planning can, thus, be defined as a type of planning where local organisations and institutions formulate, adopt, execute actions and supervise the plan without interference by the central body.
India adopted economic planning with the launch of the First Five Year Plan in 1951.We have discussed at the beginning of this unit that our Five Year Plans have been mainly centralized plans. But even then, from the very first plan onwards attempts have been made by the government to introduce some degree of decentralization into the planning process by strengthening local level planning. Sometimes such attempts have been strong and visible. At other times, they have been weak and dormant.
Thus decentralized planning has evolved in India in fits and starts over the years. Its evolution can be divided into five phases for a brief examination.
Phase – I: The Community Development Phase
The period includes the First Five Year Plan (1951-56) and the Second Five Year Plan (1956-61). During the First Plan the Community Development (CD) programme was started with great enthusiasm to give concrete shape to Gandhi’s ideal of a self-reliant village. Significantly, the programme was started on October 2, 1952 in 55 selected blocks of the country to coincide with the birthday of the Mahatma. It was designed as a people’s movement. According to the then ministry of Community Development, Government of India, “The initiative for Community Development programme comes from the people themselves. Village Communities not only choose the priorities according to which the problems are to be tackled, but they also undertake the major responsibility for implementing them. The role of the Government is to assist all these activities at every stage. Officials guide and help the villagers, provide technical advice and organise supplies, services and finance”.
The programme was implemented through the National Extension Service. In practice, however, the method adopted for the purpose was “top-down” in which all the directions came from the centre. But such directions neither reflected local needs, nor came with the necessary financial and technical resources. Therefore, the members of the community did not take much interest in the programme as was hoped for.
Phase - II : The Panchayati Raj Phase
This (1960-70) phase marks the creation of the Panchayati Raj institutions following the recommendations of the Balwantrai Mehta Committee set up to study the working of the CD projects. The Committee made an historic observation relating to decentralization: “So long as we do not discover or create a representative and democratic institution which will supply the local interest, supervision and care necessary to ensure that expenditure of money upon local projects conforms with needs and wishes of the locality, invest it with adequate power and assign to it appropriate finances we will never be able to evoke local initiative in the field of development.”
According to the Balwantrai Mehta Committee’s recommendations the Panchayati Raj system was to have three tiers at the village, block and districtlevels. At the village and block levels there were to be elected democratic bodies. At the district level there was to be an advisory body under the Chairmanship of the District Collector. MPs, MLAs and other important persons were to be its members. The elected bodies were to be entrusted with planning and development activities.
Panchayati Raj institutions were set up in many states following this report. But at the district level this institution was not regarded as a separate level of government. No Panchayat Samiti or Zilla Parishd at the block and district levels developed a proper development profile of the area. Political leaders dominated the meetings at the Panchayat Samiti and Zilla Parishad. All the development decisions were taken by the State and Central authorities. Lower level units were given guidelines for target and programme implementation from above. These institutions suffered a great decline by the end of 1970s.The Ashok Mehta Committee appointed in 1977 to review the existing situation of Panchayati Raj in the country recommended a two-tier system.
Phase – III : The Special Programmes Phase
During the 4th 5-Year Plan some important changes were introduced to economic planning and development in the country. Up to this time States were getting plan funds from the Centre in the form of assistance for specific projects proposed by the State and approved by the Centre. But this system of disbursement of Central assistance for the States was changed during the 4th Plan. Now the so called Gadgil Formula came into play whereby block allocation were given by the Centre to the States on the basis of 30% grant and 70% loan irrespective of schemes and priorities adopted by the States. This can be described as a step towards decentralization of the planning process from the Centre to the States. The States now had to build up and strengthen their planning machinery to utilize the
Around this time it was also realized that the economic growth achieved in the country so far through the 5-Year Plans had not benefited all groups of society and all
regions uniformly. A need for the launch of special schemes to specifically benefit these areas and groups were felt. This led to the introduction of some special programmes in the plan like the following:
• The Pilot Intensive Rural Employment Project (PIREP)
• The Small Farmers Development Agency Programme (SFDAP)
• The Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Agencies Programme (MFALAP)
• The Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP)
• The Tribal Areas Development Programme (TADP)
• The Hill Areas Development Programme (HADP)
• The Minimum Needs Programme (MNP)
A look at the titles of these programmes makes it clear that now the emphasis in rural development was given on “target groups” and “target areas”. The Development Block was viewed as the most suitable unit for this kind of area planning. Activitiessuitable for the area were to be planned and implemented with close involvement of the local people. A Working Group on Block- Level Planning appointed by the Government under the chairmanship of Prof. Dantwala prepared guidelines for blocklevel planning. But later on, with the change of government and adoption of a new 6th Plan (1980-89) the emphasis of local planning changed from the Block-level to the District-level.
Phase – IV : The District Planning Phase
The Sixth and Seventh Five Year Plans during this period (1980-90) continued with the special programmes in old and new forms. Decentralized Planning at the district and local levels were intensely discussed during this period. The government set up a Working Group on District Planning under the Chairmanship of C.H.Hanumanth Rao in 1982.
The Working Group recommended a unified planning process at the district level covering all sectoral programmes. It gave a detailed prescription for organizing planning at the district level relating to methodology, institutions and other prerequisites.
The G.V.K.Rao Committee appointed in 1985 to recommend administrative arrangements for rural development also pointed out that the district plan should not be viewed simply as a segment of the State Plan. It should be conceived and executed at the district level and integrated into the State Plan. Both the committees provided detailed guidelines to the states to reorganize planning below the State level. Many state governments went for decentralized planning in their own ways while following these guidelines generally.
Phase – V : The Panchayati Raj Revival PhaseDecentralized Planning depends to a great deal on the devolution of functions and powers from government at the top to the local levels. The Panchayati Raj institutions( PRIs ) form the lower level authorities in our country. It has been seen, however, that even when powers and functions are given up to these institutions, something is held back for exercise by competing agencies. Very often the weak constitutional position of the Panchayati Raj institutions was the reason for this neglect.
The Government has tried to strengthen the PR institutions by turning them into constitutional units of self-government through the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution in 1993. As many as 29 subjects have been identified for the PRinstitutions. Many States have already devolved considerable number of functions and powers to these institutions with the power to mobilize resources. At present the trend all over the country is to move fast towards decentralized planning through PRinstitutions. 

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