(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Plans and Priorities: Process of Plan Formulation at State Levels (Paper -2)

(Online Course) Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams

Topic: Plans and Priorities: Process of Plan Formulation at State Levels

The State plans account for about one half of the total outlay of the Government under the Five Year Plans. But the states do not have separate Planning Departments. The Department keeps in touch with the Planning Commission, various Ministers and Departments of the State Government for the preparation of the development plans for the whole state and for coordinating their developmental programmes while formulating the plans. The guidelines of the Planning Commission are usually followed by the Planning departments which are presented before the council of Ministers of the State.

The ARC recommended the setting up of State Planning Boards for the formulation of Five Year Plans and evaluation of the Plan performance. These Planning Boards “should have their own Secretariats to help them in the adequate discharge of these functions. The State Plans largely consist of investment in the field of agriculture, irrigation, power and social services. The Plan formulation wing of the State Planning Board should, therefore, generally complies three sectional units-one for development of agriculture and allied areas including irrigation; the second to deal with power and also with industry and transport to the extent to which each state is concerned with these two latter subjects; and the third for social services. In addition, it would be necessary to have a strong evaluation unit. This should be the normal organisational pattern of the State Planning Boards.”
Almost all the State Governments have now set up State Planning Boards. The position of the Board and its effectiveness in the Planning process varies from State to State. The Boards of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, etc. are effective while others are not so effective. Sikkim perhaps is the only State where the apex body has not been set up. In most of the States, Chief Minister is the chairman of the Board. In Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu there are non-official Chairmen nominated by the Government.

In Maharasthra, Gujarat, Rajasthan. U.P., Bihar, Nagaland, Minister of Planning is either Vice-Chairman or Deputy Chairman. In Haryana, a public man is nominated as Chairman while. H.P., Tripura, Meghalaya, an M.L.A. is nominated as full time Deputy Chairman with the status of a Minister. In the remaining states, either some officer or a prominent non-official is made the Deputy Chairman.

The number of members on the Planning Board varies widely from State to State. For example, in Assam there are only two members while in U.P., 24 members. Most of the members are part timers, a very few Boards have full time members.

The Secretary of the Planning Department usually works as the Secretary of the Planning Board. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, there is whole time member-Secretary. In some States, Joint Secretary, Special Secretary or Deputy Secretary Planning is made the Secretary of the Planning Board.

The Functions of the Planning Board

The ARC prescribed the following functions:

(i) To make an assessment of the State resources and formulate plans for the most effective and balanced utilisation of these resources.
(ii) To determine plan priorities of the State within the framework of the priorities of the National Plan;
(iii) To assist the district authorities in formulating their development plans within the spheres in which such planning is considered to be useful and feasible and to coordinate these plans with the State plans.
(iv) To identify factors which tend to retard the economic and social development of the State and determine the set of conditions for successful execution of the plans; and
(v) To review the progress of implementation of the Plan programmes and recommend such adjustments in policies and measures as the review may indicate.

Planning Machinery

There is no study on the Planning machinery in the States and very little is known about the existing planning in the State. The usual pattern appears to be to have the planning Secretary at the top with Special Secretary. Deputy Secretaries. Under Secretaries, etc. to help him. In some states, a few experts are also associated while some states are also using eminent persons from outside the Government to help them in the planning process. The problems in formulation of State Plans include inadequate consultation with the State Governments in formulation of plans, detailed scrutiny of plan schemes by the Planning Commission and earmarking of outlays which leaves little discretion with the State Governments to decide their own priorities.

The States, by and large, have not taken planning seriously, also differ from State to State. The Collector, Assistant Development Commissioner. Chief development Officer or ADM or District Development Officer have often been nominated member-Secretaries. In some States, the District Planning Officer happens to be member-Secretary.

Evaluation of District Planning

The shortcomings generally noticed in the district plans are: (i) that the objective of the district plans are not formulated according to the national objectives: (ii) Lack of detailed data on resources. Demography, position of infrastructure, etc.: (iii) Lack of analytical machinery to analyse existing programmes and suggest modification: (iv) Lack of integration of resources of centre. State, Local bodies, credit institutions and voluntary agencies, (v) in preparation of Employment Programmes manpower planning is not kept in mind, (vi) Planning organisation is very weak in almost all the States and full time qualified staff is hardly available.
The reasons for the slow progress of district planning in India are many. Important among them are:

(i) Monitoring of progress of scheme at district level and lower level is not done on the quality or impact of the scheme but only on amount spent on the programme.
(ii) The role of planning is not given sufficient attention by bureaucrats and politicians. They consider Implementation more important than planning any effort concerning planning wasteful.
(iii) Centrally sponsored schemes carrying subsidies are taken by the States for getting subsidy money regardless of their suitability to the area.
(iv) Planning reduces the scope of discretion and arbitrary action, therefore, local level authorities avoid it as far as possible to exercise discretionary powers.
(v) State governments do not want to delegate adequate powers to lower levels.
(vi) The planners are used to centralised planning. Therefore, they have a natural bias towards centralization because it gives them power and authority.

The slow progress of district planning led to the government of India to give serious thought to improve district planning. Therefore, district planning for the first time in the history of planning, have been given constitutional position, by creating a District Planning Committee, through the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.

Tension Areas in Centre-State Planning Relations

It has been brought out in the preceding pages that scholars such as Ashok Chanda and K. Santhanam have expressed the view that the planning system in India has reduced the operational autonomy of the states. This changes the shape of India’s federalism which seems to tilt towards the Centre at the cost of the states. From time to time, a number of state governments, mostly of the opposition parties, have been complaining about the dominance of the Central government, through the National Development Council and the Planning Commission, both of which have been termed as ‘super-cabinets’ from time to time. The specific grievances of the states, in regard to the planning process, are as follows:

1. The Planning Commission examines in details, not only the total size of the state plan but, even the sectoral plans, including individual schemes.
2. The Central assistance is more in the form of loans than of grants. And, while allocating grants, the needs of the weaker states are not given due weight age.
3. The ‘tied’ grants, through earmarking of resources by the Planning Commission, reduce the autonomy of the states and flexibility in using these resources in accordance with their priorities.

Although the complaints of the states appear to be genuine, from their viewpoint, the Planning Commission may not be deliberately obstructive in its approach. Even the Sarkaria Commission observed that “the alleged overbearing approach of the Planning Commission, in the process of formulation, scrutiny and finalization of state plans, is more apparent than real.” The Planning Commission has to adopt a broad national perspective and synthesize a host of competing demands of various sectors and states. It often argues that only the important sectors are earmarked and states have sufficient freedom to use the earmarked resources of these sectors for their schemes and projects as per their distinctive priorities and needs.

The need remains of an in-depth analysis of Centre-state planning relations in the wider context of the structure and values of Indian planning.

Issue Areas and Suggestions

The main issue-areas concerning the state planning system may be summed up, through an instrumental perspective, as follows:

1. The process of plan-formulation lacks vigour. Hence, detailed exercises of needs-assessment and resource-appraisal need to be undertaken before a plan is formulated.
2. Data-base should be made more scientific.
3. There is a need to involve educational institutions, research organizations, NGOs etc. in the formulation and evaluation of plans.
4. The plan-calendar should be followed carefully.
5. Planning cells should be re-activated in all governmental organizations at the levels of the secretariat, directorates, regions, divisions and districts.
6. Integration between five year plans and annual plans needs to be tighter.
7. Likewise, the sectoral plan should have a greater fit with the district plans on the one hand and, the overall state plan, on the other.
8. Resources of the states need greater mobilization.
9. The state planning departments and the state planning boards should perform their distinctive roles, but with a closer collaboration between them. The state planning boards should be made more competent bodies. This will increase the states’ bargaining power vis-a-vis the Planning Commission.
10. The implementation of an annual plan should start immediately after the commencement of a financial year. The Finance Department and the functional departments should work in collaboration to make this possible. Further, there should be greater delegation of powers at the various levels. Once a detailed financial examination has taken place for a scheme or project before its inclusion in the plan, the same exercise should not be repeated by the Finance Department during the implementation phase.
11. Inter-agency coordination should be effected continually through the planning and development coordination committees.
12. People’s participation should have an increased role in plan formulation and implementation.
13. Evaluation of planning should be undertaken every quarter at the district and departmental levels and by the state planning departments and the state planning boards.

Against this backdrop, we move to an analysis of the status of district planning and its administration.

The Rationale

The rationale for selecting a district as a unit for sub-state level planning has been well-accepted in policy circles. When compared to other contenders of the locus of regional planning, the district enjoys a vantage position. The major arguments extended in this regard may be summed up as follows:

1. A district is relatively closer to the local population than is any other middle level regional spatial unit.
2. A district is large enough to serve as a viable planning unit.
3. Because of historical reasons, it has a “settled pattern of administration with a high degree of internal consistency and well-established administrative relationships.”
4. The organization of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), and delimitation of parliamentary and legislative constituencies have also been broadly centred round the district boundaries.
5. Most information relating to revenue, land records, irrigation works, development loaning, housing, roads, electrification, social services etc., is organized on a district to district basis. In fact, the district is the “ultimate reducible unit” for which data-collecting machineries have been developed.
6. Most departments and agencies of the state governments have their regional offices located at the district level. District planning can become a useful instrument for coordination, consistency and rational spatial planning.
7. Because of the well-entrenched administrative system at the district level, district planning facilitates a clearer evaluation of the impact of the development efforts and initiatives, on the people and the institutions of that area. In fact, some planning infrastructure, however inadequate, already exists at the district level. At the sub-district level, on the other hand, a viable skill-base for planning is scarce.
8. Local pressure groups cannot be kept within reasonable limits except at the district level.
9. People’s awareness of the administrative process in a district is high because of their long-time association with the district administration. Citizens’ loyalty and sense of belongingness to their district have strong roots.
Thus, district planning has the capacity to integrate regional needs and resources, and yet, allow for diversity of foci and priorities at the local level.

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