Decentralisation of the planning process has acquired
considerable significance with the passage of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts.
Decentralisation through the
involvement of local level representative institutions in the formulation of plans for development as well as their implementation is being advocated in the interest of efficient utilisation of resources and for ensuring more equitable sharing of benefit from development.
Decentralisation of the planning process is basically an
exercise in multi-level planning. Although multi-level planning and the problems connected with it have only recently been subjected to serious examination in India, the idea of decentralisation as such is not new to Indian planning. Since 1950-51, when the Planning Commission was established and the first five year plan was launched, the importance of carrying the planning process to lower levels such as the state, district, block, village, etc. has been emphasised. The reasons for the stress on decentralisation are various. In the first place, the Indian planners emphasised decentralised for the obvious reasons that in a democratic framework, unless planning is carried to lower levels, that is to say subnational levels, the process will not be effective. Secondly, the planners also realised that the participation of the people in the planning process is essential if the process is to succeed and the participation of the people can be achieved only if planning is carried to the lower sub-national levels. It must also be remarked in this context that at least in the earlier years of planning, the influence of Gandhian thought was fairly pronounced, although this should not be taken to mean that Indian planning has much philosophical contact with Gandhian thought. The point is that the Indian plans attempted to adopt some Gandhian techniques, of which
decentralised planning was just one.
Arguments for Decentralisation :
A number of sound arguments can be listed to support
decentralisation of planning process. First of all the practical impossibility of a single planning agency being able to make all the detailed decisions 1
which are required at different territorial and sectoral levels of the planning process. One crucial problem here consists of the flow of information and data from lower levels in the hierarchy to the Central Planning Agency. Planning requires not only the formulation of a broad policy framework but also detailed decisions. Detailed decision-making depends for its success almost exclusively on the availability of information and data which is more readily available at the appropriate level for which the decisions are being made.
Secondly, one of the crucial elements in the planning
process is the presence of an information system. Without an information system there are bound to be innumerable problems of co-ordination, both at the state and national levels. The presence of an information system will also indicate the peculiar needs of certain areas in the country. When we realise that certain areas have special problems, we will be in a position to think of solutions which will answer the problem. In the absence of information and data, there is a tendency to adopt uniform solutions which are applied all over the country without respect to local variations and local needs and local problems. In the given situation it is necessary to base policies on a thorough examination of the local situations - something which can be accomplished only when we have access to local knowledge and information.
Thirdly, it is now realised that no planning process could
hope to succeed purely on bureaucratic lines. It is essential to associate the people with the planning process at all levels. Even though there are problems never the less there is very little doubt that the planning process must be sustained by the fullest possible participation...