The important feature of planning in India is that it operates in a democratic framework, through a federal system, involving concurrent planning at the national and state level.
The federal nature of India’s Constitution demands planning at least at two levels i.e. Union and States (economic and social planning being in the Concurrent list). However, in view of mixed economy resulting from a pluralistic socio-economic environment and the large size of some states, planning in India has to be viewed in terms of activities at different area and agency levels extending well beyond union and state framework.
National Level Planning
The Planning Commission is the technical body for facilitating the planning process in India. It was set up by the Government in March 1950. Its chief function is to make an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel and investigate the possibilities of augmenting these resources that are found to be deficient in relation to the nation’s requirements.
The Planning Commission performs its role as an advisory body functioning at the highest policy level without further being involved in the responsibilities of day-to-day administration. The prime minister is the Chairman of Planning Commission. Within the general organization of planning commission, the Programme Evaluation Organization (PEO) has functioned since 1952 as an ancillary agency. It undertakes evaluation studies to assess the impact of selected Plan and programmes in order to provide feedback to the planners and implementing agencies.
National Development Council
Under the constitution, the subject of economic and social planning is in the concurrent list as this is a subject in which the Centre as well as the states are interested and have to work in unison. The coordination of policies between the two integrating structures of the federal set-up is brought about through a process of mutual consultation. The system of consultation in the formulation of policies on the basis of overall national requirements is the central point of planning in the country. The National Development Council is the highest policy making body which provides the opportunity for plans to be formulated and implemented throughout the country as a unified development effort.
State Level Planning
As in the centre, so also in the states, a number of organizations and departments are involved in the planning process. Let us now consider these:
1-State Planning Department
On account of diversity in administrative organization in different States and Union Territories of the country, it is not possible to have a single uniform pattern for the planning machinery at that level. However, a broad understanding of the position as it prevails in a large number of states is given in this section.
In each state, there is a planning department, which is responsible for the preparation of the Five Year Plans, Annual plans, monitoring of the plans and generally the evaluation of programmes through its evaluation wing. Essentially the Planning Department is responsible for coordinating the development effort in the state.
2-Department of Economics and Statistics, Manpower and Evaluation
In most states, within the administrative umbrella of the State Planning Department, there are departments of Economics and Statistics, Manpower and Evaluation. The Department of Economics and Statistics provides technical personnel at the state and lower levels for planning and monitoring of programmes. The Manpower department assesses the requirements and need for manpower in the coming years and enables the planning process to incorporate action plans for meeting the overall manpower requirements for plan implementation.
The Evaluation Department as the name suggests, is entrusted with task of conducting evaluation studies of the various programmes being undertaken on concurrent or ex post facto basis. Such studies provide feedback to the government for enabling corrective action to be taken in regard to plan scheme
District Level Planning
Requirement of district planning arises from the need to supplement the national and state plans with a more detailed examination of potentials at the mid-unit of administration i.e. the district. Such planning would help in investment decisions geared to the needs of each district. District planning, therefore, would involve striking a balance amongst specific needs of the people of the district, growth potentials of the area and budgetary allocation available.
The organizational framework at the district level should offer an integration of the political, district, administrative and local institutions for determining the programme of development for the district and the manner in which it can be implemented. Besides, its aim should be to bring all administrative operations at the district level under effective coordination and control of single agency and clearly lay down a programme of work for the participating agencies (Panchayti Raj Institutions).
At the district level most of the heads of departments are represented by officials termed as District level Officers. For example, there are Executive Engineers for PWD, Irrigation, Public Health, and Engineering Department etc. These officials are part of the planning process at district level. In the context of major poverty alleviation programmes, viz., IRDP, NREP & RLEGP, in 1980 the District Rural Development Agencies were set up to plan, implement and monitor such programmes
Block Level Planning
The community development block is one of the levels at which the task of planning is undertaken in the country. In fact, it is the lowest administrative level at which such an exercise is undertaken in India. Block planning essentially means planning for the development of block within a specified time frame. Whereas for a national plan the needs of various sectors will be taken into account at a micro level, block planning essentially goes through the planning exercise at the local level. Needless to say, even small changes in living conditions, as a result of the plan, are readily visible at such a level. This encourages popular participation. Such public participation makes the block planning exercise more broad based and therefore, very vit