Academic journal article Political Economy Journal of India

Grassroot Planning with Local Volunteers

Academic journal article Political Economy Journal of India

Grassroot Planning with Local Volunteers

Article excerpt

Grassroot planning or decentralized planning appears to be more an issue of debate than implementation in post independence era in India. The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India bears the roots of grassroot planning in India. Planning Commission, Government of India has also been emphasizing on the subject right from the era of planned economic development in India. Planning at the Grass root level, (2006) Report of Expert Group, Planning Commission laid foundation in this direction but the desired results have not taken place. 73rd and 74th Constitution amendments have been landmark legislations in this context. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act passed in 2005 gave the responsibility of planning and implementation of works to Panchayati Raj Institutions. Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), another ambitious programme of Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India entrusted the responsibility of preparation of plans at local level with a few pilot districts in each state with a view to developing the capacity of local self governance institutions in grassroot planning. Much water has flown down the Ganges till date but the expected paradigm shift is yet to be seen.

Decentralized Planning has remained a core concern for governments at different times. The First Five year Plan (1951-56) paved the way to break up the planning exercise into national, state, district and local community levels through community development blocks. The Second Five year Plan (1956-61) stressed constitution of District Development Councils for drawing up of village plans and popular participation in planning through the process of democratic decentralization. Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (1957) recommended setting up Village, block, District Panchayat institutions for local governance. Later Administrative Reforms Commission (1969) recommended that resources be given and local variations be accommodated for purposeful plan of the areas. It was Planning Commission (1969) which came up with the guidelines that detailed the concept of the district plan and methodology of drawing up such a plan in the framework of annual plans, medium-term plans and perspective plans. With the change of central govt. at national level for the first time after independence, Ashok Mehta Committee (1978) recommended to revive Panchayati Raj Institutions for greater developmental role at grass root level. Prof. M.L. Dantwala (1978) advocated Block-level planning to form link between village and district-level planning. Reserve Bank of India (1983-84) added another dimension with the suggestion to strengthen district plan/District Credit Plan. Hanumantha Rao Committee (1984) added a new chapter of decentralization of functions, powers and finances; and setting up of district planning bodies and district planning cells. G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985) argued for administrative arrangements for rural development with the focus on District Panchayat to manage all development programmes. Gram Sabha at Panchayat level has been recommended to approve the plans for social and economic development by Dalip Singh Bhuria Committee (1994). Report of Expert Group, (2006) Planning Commission suggested a practicable action programme for local level planning in the Eleventh Plan. It has also suggested in detail the manner in which national programmes of importance in education, health, employment, poverty alleviation, housing and rural infrastructure could achieve their objectives better if centrality is given to Panchayats in working out details and in implementation with the ultimate objective is to make integrated local level planning for area development a reality by the end of the Eleventh Five Year Plan. Substantial progress has been achieved in this regard in the states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnatka and Kerala yet others have to learn from their experiences to emulate the lessons to establish a practical regime of decentralized planning and governance. …

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