Workshop on Integration of Participatory District Planning and DHDR

03 Sep 2008

Date: 3 September, 2008

Venue: New Delhi

Participatory planning, an important aspect of democratic decentralisation in India, is a pre-requisite to converging public resources at district level for human development. Article 243ZD of the Indian Constitution provides for the formation of a District Planning Committee so which is to consolidate the plans prepared by Panchayats and the Municipalities in the district and to devise a development plan for the district as a whole.

The Planning Commission has issued guidelines on district planning that emphasise the need for building a vision for the district. The Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) reiterates the objective of removal of regional imbalances through participatory planning processes at the grassroots level. The Plan also identifies District Human Development Reports (DHDRs), which assess and quantify development imbalance at the sub-district level, as useful tools for analyzing intra-district development imbalance and suggesting possible solutions. It further recommends that, during the 11th Plan period, all the districts in the country should be progressively covered for the preparation of DHDRs. Currently, 56 districts are preparing DHDRs as part of Planning Commission-UNDP Project “Strengthening State Plans for Human Development (SSPHD)”. Realising the significance of DHDRs, some States like West Bengal and Karnataka have started preparing DHDRs for the districts those have not been covered under SSPHD Project.

The Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), supported and implemented by Ministry of Panchayati Raj, aims at redressing regional imbalances in development. The BRGF is anchored in a participatory district plan and has provisions for additional funding for capacity building as well as untied funds for development schemes. For preparation of participatory plans, the guidelines issued by the Planning Commission apply. The BRGF guidelines mention that baseline surveys need to precede the planning exercise. The BRGF is currently operational in 250 backward districts. Technical Support Institutions (TSI) facilitate the conduct of baseline surveys and the preparation of district plans. In districts where DHDRs are prepared, the DHDRs themselves could be the baseline surveys necessary for preparation of District Plans. They could be excellent tools for situation analysis and the visioning exercise envisaged in the district planning guidelines.

With a view to ensure that district plans are formulated as integral parts of the States’ Plans for the 11th Five Year Plan, a Task-Force has been set up by the MLP Division of Planning Commission to prepare a Manual on Participatory District Planning. The Task Force will prepare draft process manual/guidelines for the District Perspective Plan and Annual Plans for use by District Planning Committees (DPCs) and other technical/professional support agencies. The 2 manual so devised would be a premium referral handbook on the district level planning process. Among others, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, NGOs and State Governments are part of the Task Force and are contributing to the preparation of the manual. The manual is expected to be completed by October 2008.

The Planning Commission has also separately announced the launch of a new scheme for the Strengthening of the Planning Process at the National, State and District levels. Under this scheme, provision of support in terms of physical and ICT infrastructure, as well as specialist human resources, at the district level is also envisaged. While this scheme would provide the ‘hardware’ for the district planning process, the DHDRs would be an important component of the ‘software’ of the process.

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