Planning at the Grassroots Levels

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An action Programme for the Eleventh Five Year Plan Summary: Inclusive grow th implies an equitable allocation of resources to every segment of the society. India, being an emerging economy, targets high growth rate and promotes inclusive growth. Devolution of power at disaggregated level is crucial for this process. Ministry of Panchayat Raj has appointed an expert committee (2005) to analyse the increasing role of the Panchayats to achieve this goal. The m ajor roles of Panchayats include reinforcement of planning at a more disaggregated level, improvements in the ir delivery systems, and review guidelines of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). Ever since the launch of first Five Year Plan in 1951, government of India has made a number of attempts to establish decentralized planning. The aim is to achieve integrated and participatory development at the disaggregated level. The first two five year Plans introduced Community Development Blocks and District Development Councils. However, these plans did not specify the enforcement framework for their establishment. In 1957, most of the Panchayats at the village, block and district levels were established following recommendations of the Balwant Rai Committee but no significant roles and resources were assigned to these institutions. The Administrative Reforms Commission, in 1967, by highlighting the importance of planning and coordination between implementing agencies, recommended allocation of resources to the local levels. In 1969, the Planning commission issued guidelines to the states for implementing strategic planning at the district level. During 1983-84, the centrally sponsored scheme was launched to assist states in strengthening their planning. The Hanumantha Rao Committee (1984) and G.V.K. Committee (1985) were also formed for this purpose. Thereafter, the 73 rd constitutional amendment Act came into force on 24th April 1992 to give constitutional status to Panchayati Raj institutions at the state and district levels. These institutions aimed at devolution of powers and responsibilities to the panchayats for economic development and social justice. Recently, Ministry of Panchayati Raj convened several Round Table meetings with state dignitaries to further intensify decentralized planning in India. However, despite these rigorous and continuous attempts, the current policy of decentralized planning is considerably diluted since most department schemes envisage separate and self contained ‘planning’ process in their guidelines. The expert committee under the ministry of Panchayati Raj, in its report, has defined three steps for streamlining the process of decentralized planning at the district level – decentralized envisioning, planning, consolidation and integration. The report recommends a high degree of participation and coordination in the process of developing these district visions. The first process of ‘decentralized envisioning’ involves determining the main priorities and identifying ways to ensure the participatory process involving all stakeholders. ‘Decentralized planning’ recommends developing a participatory process at the district level, namely human development, infrastructure development, and productive sector development, in the next 10/15 years. Health, education, women and child welfare, and social justice should be the major concerns in the ‘human development’ goal. ‘Infrastructure development vision’ would involve achieving targets in developing rural infrastructure, as aimed in the Government of India’s ‘Bharat Nirman’ project in partnership with state governments and panchayati Raj institutions. Vision for the ‘productive sector development’ is designed to determine the

National Rural Health Mission. in addition to certain proposals. The report. Total Sanitation Campaign. Integrated Child Development Services. this functional devolution has not matched with fiscal devolution. Activity mapping should be tied with a well structured process of devolution of funds. National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. and Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission – other central programmes such as the Bharat Nirman project should assign a clear and precise role to Panchayats for planning and implementing rural infrastructure. the report recommends that functioning of panchayats be clearly demarcated through activity mapping. As a result. The process would require state governments to undertake analyzing annual budgets with an objective of steering funds to Panchayats in compliance with the functions devolved to them. These funds should be effectively channelized so that they can be allotted to the panchayats without delays and diversions. the report recommends that besides several flagship programmes such as. Panchayats are burdened with a number of service delivery functions without adequate financial independence.’ These committees would be responsible for preparation of the vision documents. The report accepts that implementation of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act in 1996 has been weak and ineffective. Drinking Water Mission. and absence of a consistent approach to institutional mechanism for implementation of decentralization. Furthermore. Therefore. In this context. training planners. A large number of parallel bodies set up under various schemes to undertake similar tasks as Panchayats should be brought under Panchayats in order to assist them. wherever available. effective and transparent functioning of panchayats at lower levels. the report suggests that all CSS falling in the domain of states and local governments may be referred to by a common terminology. on the basis of Activity Mapping. the . acknowledges several shortcomings in the design and implementation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) such as. maintaining databases. Therefore. SarvaShiksha Abhigyan. The report recommends setting up District Planning Committees (DPCs) in all states for assistance with planning at the intermediate Panchayat level. It also suggests that an information system should be set up at the state level to ensure smooth. and advocate specific state-rela ted provisions and guidelines. the presence of a large number of schemes (around 230). Mid Day Meal Scheme. These DPCs would support achieving the third aspect of decentralized planning namely ‘consolidation and integration. and defining the levels of development within the Plan period. Further. it makes recommendations for its effective implementation in the Eleventh fiv e year Plan.potential of the districts in terms of their natural and human resources. The report recommends that each state should maintain a database of bank accounts of all village Panchayats. It also recommends that scheme guidelines should specify clear lines of administrative approval and sanction. funds could be directly transferred to them through the core banking system. and monitoring internal performance. Each Central Ministry dealing with the core functioning of Panchayats should issue a clear statement that all department functionaries at the grass root level are brought under the control of Panchayats. As a result. However. It suggests that the Ministry of Panchayati Raj should immediately finalize and issue guidelines for implementation of the PESA Act. The report also advocates citizen surveys so that each citizen gets an opportunity to voice his/her needs. Article 243G of the Indian Constitution aims at empowering local governments to function as self governments for preparation and implementation of plans for economic development under their jurisdiction. evaluating outcomes . given their resource constraints.

report proposes that the Government of India should issue specific enforcement directions in accordance with its powers. . if any state refrains from implementing the provisions of PESA.

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