Daily Current Affairs – 27th October, 2016DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Reviving decentralisation in Indian planning
- For long, the Planning Commission, which was formed by an Executive order (thus could be easily abolished), formulated five year plans for India. It was considered virtually an executive arm of the Union government.
- In contrast to it, a District Planning Committee (DPC) stood neglected for which there is provision in Constitution of India under art 243ZD.
- DPC, a constitutional institution is mandated ‘to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole’ with a focus on resource endowments, environmental conservation, infrastructural development and spatial planning.
- Today, the rapid urbanisation has made difficult to make a sharp rural/urban differentiation at the district level and integrated planning has become a sine qua non (essential condition).
- The constitutional goal to create ‘institutions of self-government’ at the local level is tasked to ‘plan for development economic and social justice’.
- However, the operationalization and effectiveness of these constitutional goal depends on meaningful response of the Centre and the State governments to the institutional architecture implied in the 73rd and 74th
- Thus, India needs multi-level development and planning so as to cater to its diverse population.
Reviving the committees
- In most States, there does not exist decentralised governance with DPCs acting as the functional hub.
- The Devolution Report 2015 (Ministry of Panchayati Raj) says that several States have not constituted DPCs and thus there is no scope of preparing an integrated district plan.
- Although 12 States have reported that they had formulated integrated district development plans but most of them may not stand professional scrutiny and citizens’ approval.
- Now with the arrival of NITI Ayog, it has to be seen if it will try to revive District Planning Committees and institutionalise the preparation of district development plans.
- NITI Ayog has outlined its functional responsibilities where it proposed ‘to develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government’.
- This is possible only through a critical review of the functioning of the institutions of decentralised governance in every State.
- The sixth report (2007) of the Second Administrative Reform Commission (ARC) outlines in great detail ways to make the DPC a viable component in the process of decentralised planning. But, as the planning environment reveals- no one bothered to take care of this ARC recommendation.
- No Union ministry has made any scientific scrutiny nor reported to the nation about what happened to the constitutional mandate of decentralised planning and local democracy during the last 22 years.
- Most of the SDGs and the 169 targets related to them are best implemented only as part of decentralised governance.
- Also, Local governments (LGs) have a key role in delivering several public goods and social justice.
- The nodal agency for UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) in India is NITI Ayog. So, here the NITI Ayog may examine the possibilities of giving a new lease of life to local governments.
- India is a federation with extreme diversity in resource endowments, poverty incidence, development attainments and potential for growth and its regional disparities are widening.
- Thus, there is a need for social intervention else the economy which is committed to market-mediated growth can only accentuate divergence. This can become possible with decentralised planning.
- The Centre and the finance commission are expected to play a key role in ensuring spatial equity in Indian federation.
- But these institutions have failed in their responsibilities which is revealed in a recent study that covered 19 major States involving 96% of the population. Using criteria relating to infrastructure, social services, fiscal performance, justice etc., it was demonstrated that regional disparities have widened between 2001 and 2012.
- The prime rationale of cooperative federalism is to ensure spatial equity. Every citizen, irrespective of choice of residence, should have minimum public good and quality of life.
- Local government and decentralised planning are the avowed Indian mechanisms and strategy to ensure this.
- For a federal polity that is strongly committed to market-mediated resource allocation and economic growth, the architecture of a viable local governance is to be accepted as part of its national aspirations.
- Being indifferent to local governments on the grounds of inexperience or inefficiency is a way of ensuring centralisation which is certainly not the road to transforming the nation.