NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
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Dr. Sadanand Gupta Indian Planning: Myth or Reality
By Sea and Coast | 20/08/2018

Perhaps, India is among few countries in the world where planning started as early as it got independence. We had formulated twelve five-year plans, executed, and monitored by the . Planning Commission (1951-2014) and the National Institution for Transforming India. (NITI) Aayog (2015-2017). Every planning period was to achieve major objectives as enumerated in the mission and vision document of the plan. First, two/three planning period was to achieve self sufficiency on food grain production; thereby, major focus area was agriculture sector, fertilizer, creation of sources of irrigation (e.g., canals, dams, hydroelectricity, etc.), heavy industrialization to expand the base of production function of the economy, rural development for gainful employment generation as there was limited scope of employment in industrial and service sector during the period.

During fourth to eighth five-year plans again focus was rural development, poverty eradication, development and strengthening of agriculture sector and infrastructure, service sector and industrial hubs as centres of growth. Rapid GDP growth was recorded during the five to eight five-year plan period.

Nine to twelve five years plans, major thrust was social sector growth and development, social inclusion, service sector growth, inclusive development, environmental and energy, etc.

Our planning and vision documents are so lucrative and holistic that it seems that during a five-year plan, everything could be achieved and a society of equitable social structure may be created. Although no one can negate that economic development is the outcome of the above planning periods, economic development could not connect and collaborate with the social development due to its complex social structure, orthodox mental setup and deep-rooted traditions.

When our vision was so distinct and clear, a crucial question arises: why we could not yield the desired result. Was it methodologically unsound, hypothetical, adhoc, incorrect, unclear, lack of perspective, irrational insights or something else which prevented to achieve objectives enumerated in the planning documents? If not, then why we could not achieve notional and national objectives of the vision document. These are significant questions which every citizen should query, quest and enumerate  in his/her mind.

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘means (methodology-Sadhan) are more important than result (outcome-Sadhya)’. If we analyze our freedom struggle movement, we will find on several occasions that due to our wrong strategies/methodology, independence could not be achieved on time.  Likewise, planning has two approaches top-down and bottom-up; these two approaches have already been executed and implemented. Despite several attempts to achieve the desired results during different planning periods at grass root level, there is mismatch in the outcome. This mismatch is due to the faulty perception at both levels (plan formulation level as well as implementation level). People, experts, institution, agencies, who were and are engaged in the formulation of objectives, perhaps, are weak in perceiving the ground reality. Again, the cause of weak perception is due to non-apprehension or mis-apprehension of ground situation as well as unclear methodology to implement a plan, objective in mission. This could be explained through an example:

To deal the problem of a fire accident what we need to know-- possibilities of a fire in different localities, information dissemination on time to the exact authority, people’s cooperation in handling the problem in multifarious ways, extending immediate help to the affected person and premise, saving precious items, cordon off if it is a residential area, water supply from nearby residences to water extinguishers, roadside people should offer space to a fire extinguisher,  those who are operating and maintaining the vehicle should check filling of water, fuel and mobility conditions, etc. Sometimes it happens that vehicles (required infrastructure) do exits but there is no posting of a driver (unavailability of operator).  Most important factor is that stationing of a fire vehicle should be placed at the centre of proximate locations.  Feasibility, availability, safety and security of critical resources should be ensured by state machinery on priority basis.

Enumeration of the above facts contains three parts, pre, during and post planning, but the most important point is integration of pre and during planning which simply means whether enough resources/methodology is available to deal with a simple or complex problem. Second part of it is on time implementation of resources. If both elements are integrated and applied together, then the desired outcome is assured.  However, in the entire plan formulation, maximum focus/weightage is given to objectives, rather to the fact it should first start with, specifying that by applying such methodology/instrumentalities, these objectives shall be achieved.  

People’s Participation and Perception

Another significant element of planning is people's participation and perception. Interpretation and understanding of planning documents/constitution/acts/ laws/rules/government orders, etc. vary from case to case as well as person to person. Indians are argumentative and understanding of facts is subjective to get the maximum benefit of the law and act. There is no normative admiration (standardization) given by the people of India to any law of land. The biggest ever hindrance of development is people’s temperament and rigidity in the development processes. People’s participation is perhaps missing in the concepts of planning formulation and implementation. 73rd and 74th Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution is major landmark to ensure much awaited formats of planning. These amendments are significant in understanding the notion of bottom-up approach by empowering local bodies and gram panchayats. Fund, function and functionaries are within the purview of these local self-governance bodies. These local self governments have been given power through enactment of law to enumerate specific objective with regard to need of the location, site and area. However, it is proven fact that these local self governments are centres of political interference as well as bias. Layering of power structure was to strengthen and ensure the outcome at the grass-root levels. Experiences represent/indicate that the elected representatives are not able to fulfil the aspirations of people due to political affiliation. Elected representatives associate themselves for a few segments of residents rather than take a decision in totality. Maximum weightage is assigned to economic development with no substantial orientation towards achieving goals of social development. Limitations of goal to re-strengthen and re-building of infrastructure like roads, nalas, lighting, water supply, etc. although these are essential physical infrastructures to ensure quality of life. Larger social goals like gainful employment generation, health, recreational places, old age home, parks and other areas, are given lesser importance in the functioning of these governing institutions.          

            Fractured motive is the main reason behind not achieving targets. Individualism, self-centred approach, irrational behaviour and lack of national priorities are some other causes for concern. There is lack of perspective/feeling as well as concern for others in resolving the problems.

            Unnecessary and false complaints are presented before competent authorities. There is no direct law to punish those who contently misuse laws. Incomplete facts are unfolded while lodging complaints. Forged complaints reduce the efficiency of a system. Therefore, stringent, effective and immediate action module should be evolved by the government. In case of proven repeated forged complaints by a complainer, heavy fine should be imposed to ensure individual accountability.

            It has been found that miscreants are required to attach or tag them with some organization, union or institution to act like pressure group. These miscreants have neither the worth nor ability to contribute but have significance value due to their voting right and influencing other voters at the local level on different grounds (caste, class, creed, region, religion, etc.). Miscreants mostly visit an office/administrative place in group to justify that they are correct and their demand is justified. People of India read the constitution as a whole but try to remember parts which are relevant to them. People remember fundamental rights all the time whereas they forget fundamental duties and other provisions which ensure the duty of a citizen.  

Preventive versus Curative Planning

Concepts and approaches of inclusive planning always suggest that it is in favour of governance as well as implementation that preventive notions of planning should be given utmost priorities. Preventive planning is most suited because it is less complicated and cost effective form of planning. Therefore, to avoid the complexities and unanticipated elements in the curative planning, an expert always suggests for preventive planning. The difference can profoundly be stated by mentioning an example; a flood planning and management is much easier as compared to during and post flood management. Prior planning of flood management incorporates factors like identification of river course, river valley, maximum flood level (MFL); meandering of the river, total affected population, centre of rescue-relief-rehabilitation, etc. Planning on each aspect is much easier in advance; reason being that during floods focus is shifted to rescue-relief work and maximum focus on protecting human lives and minimizing losses.  

Restraining and containing factors during and post management is the weakest mode and means of problem culmination. It is thus always justified to prefer preventive form of planning because it is convenient, best suited, as per need, holistic in dimension, cost effective and, above all, thoughtfully well planned. 

A better planning must be based on sound principles of sustainable development; economically viable, socially desirable, environmentally preferable, inclusive in nature, practical in approach rather than theoretical, integrated and balanced approach. Development processes and programmes must be all inclusive and ably fulfil the requirement of every individual on the sound principle of sustainability. A truly development scheme benefits both planning processes and those who are getting benefit out of the plan. In fact, such kinds of planning generate multiplier effect as well as define forward and backward linkages within the region. The very notion of development according to the author “must be designed on available resources” for quality and utility in conjunction with “Made in India” and “Served from India”.

            Administration and administrative machinery can succeed only when parallel departments/institutions realize people's problems as well as their responsibilities. Neither people of India own their partake nor few departments/institutions are sensitive enough to render their services. India is a country where a person argues for no reason in pretext/pretence that India is a democratic country. Democracy doesn't mean exclusion of people’s participation and stands for criticism. In fact our countrymen are not realising their role and function in form of fundamental duties thereby administrative machineries are bound to spend a significant part of the time in sensitizing them for ODF (open defecation free), not to use polybag and many more such unreasonable things.  Isn’t it our fundamental concern that Nation is ours and responsibility lies on every one of us? Unless every one of us will not take  the responsibility, accountability and make sure that this much of contribution will be mine, it would be dishonest to blame the system as well as those who are contributing and engaged in the production function of the national economy. We need strict law to ensure people's duties at every sphere as well stringent punishment for violation of laws.

Let us all Dream for Nation, Stand for Nation and Unite for Nation. Rest will be achieved automatically.