In India despite a long history of planning & development initiatives, planning has not been as fruitful as was expected of it. The failures in planning manifests in ever increasing disparities, problems of rural poverty, declining & stagnating agri and problems related to unemployment.
One of the major limitations of planning has been its centralized character where most of the national objectives don’t reflect the concerns of local areas and also because of which most resource rich regions of India continue to underuse their resources and depend on ‘central transfers’ to sustain their economy and address their problems.
As a consequence decentralization, autonomy now have become major policy objectives & multilevel planning has its relevance in this context.
Multi level planning opposed to centralized planning is an exercise where local institutions are actively involved not only at the implementation level but MLP is a more integrative effort that seeks to involve all hierarchies of administrative, geographical, political and regional levels in planning process. It seeks to involve active participation of the lower hierarchical levels in information generation, data collection, policy suggestion, plan implementation & monitoring of all developmental activities.
MLP therefore is a bottom up approach and includes grassroots participation, not just for effective implementation but also for efficient implementation.
MLP therefore is synonymous to balanced regional planning because all regions have a scope to be accounted for in the larger planning exercise and because it reflects local conditions, such planning preserves the local identity and tries to develop the region according to it’s strength & potential. It discourages uniform generalised solutions to all regions irrespective of their relevance.
Historical background of MLP: The 1st and 2nd FYP gave the concept of community development where planning scope was expanded from mere law & order maintenance towards welfare & development oriented objectives.
In 1960s formal lower level organisations were acknowledged because in 1957 Balwant Rai Mehta committee recommended 3-tier Panchayati Raj for decentralisation & effective democracy. The 3-tier of Panchayati raj includes- Village Panchayat at lowest level, Panchayat Samiti at block/intermediate level and Jila Parishad at district level.
In 1967, ARC suggested:
• That district planning should be related to local area planning
• Every plan must indicate resource availability at the local level
• Districts should have authority to decide sectorial financial outlay.
In 1978, Dantewala working group suggested block level planning while Ashok Mehta Committee recommended strengthening of planning at Jila Parishad level by placing district level officers under DRDA (District Rural Development Agency). Today DRDA is at the lowest level in plan implementation.
In 1982, Hanumantha Rao Committee suggested principle of sharing of resources for administrative and financial independence.
In 1985, Sarkaria Commission suggested setting up of state finance commission to transfer resources to districts.
In 1992, 73rd amendment act implemented most of the above suggestions and PRIs attained constitutional status as was envisaged under DPSP.
Advantages of Multi Level Planning:
• Financial integration because of responsibility sharing.
• Productivity improvement because of appropriate resource allocation, equitable sharing of resources & benefits, grassroots involvement that ensures less leakages and corruption.
• Better efficiency because of transparency and accountability.
• It takes care of regional disparities.
• Popular participation increases a sense of mainstream and thus act as bulwark against anti-nationalist forces.
• Indian physiography has varying soil topography and agroclimatic conditions even within a region. MLP grants flexibility to take care of such variations.
• The main limitation is financial autonomy. Without effective financial autonomy successful MPL is not possible.
• Some of the prerequisites for effective MLP are:
1. PRIs themselves must be mature and should be functional in spirit i.e. local institutions must be democratic.
2. Local levels must have access to resources, technology & expertise to plan effectively and to implement the plan. In India, rural poverty, agri backwardness, low literacy levels and the continuance of informal feudal practices severely compromise the working & effectiveness of local institutions.
• It makes the planning process very cumbersome, time taking and leads to duplication of work.
• Sometimes planning at local level is hijacked by dominating class, hence vulnerable section remain continue to be vulnerable.
Features in short:
Decentralized planning, involves all hierarchical levels, example of bottom up approach, grassroot participation, accountability in planning and implementation stage, part of practical democracy in India.
Some appreciation please!