Five Stages of Multi-Level Planning in India

The concept of multi-level regional planning may be defined as 'planning for a variety of regions which together form a system and subordinate systems'. In multi-level planning, the various levels of planning provide bases for higher level planning. Similarly, the higher level regional plans provide the basic framework for the lower level plans. In such plans, there is direct participation of the people in the planning process. In multi-level planning, every region/unit constitutes a system and hence, the planning process becomes more effective. In India following five stages of multi-level planning have been recognized. These include.

National Level Planning

At national level, Planning Commission is the nodal agency responsible for the countries planning. The Prime Minister is the Chairman of this Commission. It not only prepares Plans for the country but also coordinates the sectored development works of different ministries of the central government, states and union territories. The functions of the planning commission are supervised through the National Development Council.

The Planning Commission has been granted constitutional status through 52nd Amendment of the Constitution. No big plan can be executed without its prior approval by the Planning Commission. The Commission formulates three types of plans.

  •         Perspective plans for 15-25 years
  •         Five year plans
  •         Annual plans within the framework of five year plan.

The planning commission is headed by Prime Minister of India, it has full time members who assist the Prime Minister in planning and provide advice and guidance for formulation of five year plan. The full time members consists of Deputy Chairman and includes experts from various fields like economics, industry, science and general administration. It also includes ministers from relevant portfolios like Finance, Agriculture, Home Ministry, Health, Chemicals and Fertilizers, Information Technology, Law, HRD and Minister of State for Planning.

Organization Structure & Functions

It has 11 main departments and 20 sub ordinate departments and that makes 31 divisions for which the planning commission concentrates on planning. It has two main divisions of function. They are General Planning Divisions and Programme Administration Divisions. The main function of the commission is planning. The other functions includes economic survey, human resources and capital assessment in the country. It also concerns with removing any factor impeding the growth of the country.

Planning Commission

The Planning Commission is the technical body for facilitating the planning process in our country. It was set up by the Government in March, 1950. Its functions are

  • To make an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel and investigate the possibilities of augmenting such of these resources as are found to be deficient in relation to the nation’s requirements
  • To formulate a plan for the most effective and balanced utilization of the country’s resources
  • To determine priorities, define the stages in which the plan should be carried out and propose the allocation of resources for the due completion of each stage
  • To indicate the factors which tend to retard economic development and determine the conditions which, in view of the current social and political situation, should be created for the successful execution of the plan
  • To determine the nature of the machinery, which will be necessary for securing the successful implementation of each stage of the plan in all its aspects
  • To appraise, from time to time, the progress achieved in the execution of each stage of the plan and recommend the adjustments of policy and measures that such appraisal may show to be necessary
  • To make such interim or ancillary recommendations as appear to be appropriate either for facilitating the discharge of the duties assigned to it or, on a consideration of prevailing economic conditions, current policies, measures and development programmes or on an examination of such specific problems as may be referred to it for advice by the central and state governments.

Planning Commission renamed as ‘NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog’ in 1st January,2015,which is a policy think of the Government of India, established with the aim to achieve sustainable development goals and to enhance cooperative federalism by fostering the involvement of state governments of India in the economic policy-making process using a bottom-up approach. Its initiatives include "15 year road map", "7-year vision, strategy and action plan", AMRUT, Digital India, Atal Innovation Mission, Medical Education Reform, Agriculture reforms (Model Land Leasing Law, Reforms of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act, Agricultural Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index for ranking states), Indices Measuring State’s Performance in Health, Education and Water Management, Task Forces on Agriculture and Elimination of Poverty. Its functions are

  •  To evolve a shared vision of national development priorities sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States in the light of national objectives.
  • To foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong states make a strong nation.
  • To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.
  • To ensure, on areas that are specifically referred to it, that the interests of national security are incorporated in economic strategy and policy.
  • To pay special attention to the sections of our society that may be at risk of not benefiting adequately from economic progress.
  • To design strategic and long term policy and programme frameworks and initiatives, and monitor their progress and their efficacy. The lessons learnt through monitoring and feedback will be used for making innovative improvements, including necessary mid-course corrections.
  • To provide advice and encourage partnerships between key stakeholders and national and international like-minded Think tanks, as well as educational and policy research institutions.
  • To create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.
  • To offer a platform for resolution of inter sectoral and inter departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda.
  • To maintain a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, be a repository of research on good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development as well as help their dissemination to stake-holders.
  • To actively monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes and initiatives, including the identification of the needed resources so as to strengthen the probability of success and scope of delivery.
  • To focus on technology up gradation and capacity building for implementation of programmes and initiatives.
  • To undertake other activities as may be necessary in order to further the execution of the national development agenda, and the objectives mentioned above.

State Level Planning

At state level the mechanism of the planning is almost same of the national level. The state Planning Board acts like national planning com­mission and coordinates the development plans of different ministries and the districts. It also has the responsibility of the formulation, implementation and monitoring of state plan. It is in constant touch with Planning Commission regarding the formulation of plans and allocation of resources.

Under the federal set up of the country states enjoy autonomy in certain state subjects and play pivotal role in the implementation of planning programmes. It is at state level that all sorts of economic and social data are available and development plans could be formulated keeping regional interests and demands in mind. Hence, there is a need for more rigorous exercise of planning at state level. Those states which are conscious of their responsibility and are showing interest in plan formulation and implementation are displaying better performance in development programmes.

The Executive head of a state is the Governor, who is appointed by the President of India on the advice of the Prime Minister of India. As in the case of the Centre, the Governor does not directly exercise the powers that are vested in him. They are exercised through the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister. The advice of the Council of Ministers is binding on the Governor. The Council of Ministers works through the secretariat that is headed by a secretary. The main functions of the secretariat relate to assisting the ministers in policy making and in discharging their legislative responsibilities, co-ordination of policies and programmes, supervision and control of expenditure, efficient running of administration, etc. The Council of Ministers has a number of departments functioning under it which can be broadly classified into three categories:

1.   Development departments (having the departments of agriculture and animal husbandry, rural development, public works and industries)

2.      Social welfare departments (having the departments of education, health and social welfare)

3.      Coordinating departments (having home, revenue, finance and planning departments)

The Central Government has the power to legislate on the subjects given in the Union List while the State governments have powers to legislate on the subjects given in the State List. As far as subjects contained in the Concurrent List are concerned, both central and state governments have powers to legislate on them, but in case of conflict, the central law prevails. Organised activities such as industries, minerals, railways and telecommunications come under the Centre's responsibilities, while agriculture, collection of land revenue, irrigation, power, public health, education, local self-government, and several other important subjects come under the control of states.

District Level Planning

The concept of the district-level planning is based on the principle of local level planning. It also assumes that success of the planning needs greater mobilization and utilization of local resources. Below the state, district occupies a pivotal position in planning because of its location and administrative advantages.

Not only it has sufficient administrative and technical expertise and good source of data and information to carry out plan programmes but has well-knit system to involve people’s participation and make the gains of planning to reach to the grass root level. The district board consists of elected representatives who can play significant role in the process of planning. Hence, there is a sizeable group of scholars who consider district as an ideal and viable unit of micro level planning.

District Planning is the process of preparing an integrated plan for the local government sector in a district taking into account the resources  (natural, human and financial) available and covering the sectoral activities and schemes assigned to the district level and below and those implemented through local governments in a state. District is the most suitable administrative unit for decentralized planning below the state level as it possesses the required heterogeneity and is small enough to undertake people in planning and implementation and to improve productivity; district planning is an important tool. Its contents  will be as follows.

  •           Agriculture and allied sectors
  •           Availability and development of water sources
  •           Industries – especially traditional, small industries including food processing
  •           Infrastructure including power
  •           Drinking water and sanitation
  •           Literacy, school education
  •           Health and medical facilities
  •           Poverty reduction and basic needs
  •          Gender and children
  •          Social justice – SC / ST, Persons with disability

It is also argued that gram panchayat and development block are too small to act as the smallest unit of planning. Also there is complete lack of administrative framework and data collec­tion system at these two levels. Hence, there would be a number of difficulties in the formulation and execution of plans at village and block levels.

Although the importance of district level planning was realized during the times of community development plans but the real breakthrough came with the Third Five Year Plan (1961-1966) in which emphasis was laid on the district -level planning to remove inter district and intra district disparities and make optimum utilization of natural and human resources at district level.

Its formulation and implementation are looked after by the District Planning Officer (DPO) or the District Magistrate. Despite this elaborate system, the task of preparing a reasonably sound district plan has not made much headway in the states due to following constraints.

  • Some lurking reluctance on the part of Governments and their sartorial heads to devolve sufficient authority (administrative and financial) to the planning bodies at the district level.
  • Lack of effective co-ordination at the district level between various agencies involved in the planning exercises.
  • Institutionalized arrangements, for seeking consultation with various participants in the planning process, were either not well established or not sufficiently encouraged and developed.
  •  Lack of trained staff, both in terms of number as well as quality. The inadequacy of training was a serious constraint.
  • Lack of appropriate and reduced methodologies for planning, in tandem with the capabilities available at the local level. In this context, the non-availability of trained planning personnel posed a serious problem.
  • Planning without a clear and full understanding of the realities of resource constraints.
  • The database presented its own problems. Although a surfeit of data is available at the local level from numerous sources, appropriate methodologies for selecting the “critical minimum information” for local planning from this mass of data and using the same for some simple analysis for decision making, without going into highly sophisticated techniques, had not emerged,
  • Lack of people’s participation in planning.

Block Level Planning

Block is an important unit of micro level planning. These development blocks were created to supervise the implementation of development plans under the Community Development Programme initiated during the first five year plan. Each district was divided into a number of blocks and each block comprised about 100 villages, with a population of about 60,000.

The programme visualized mobilization of local resources, participation of the people in the decision making and implementation of the development schemes. Hence, a new unit of planning was created at block level under the leadership of a block development officer and a team of various specialists and village level workers (officers).The Fifth Five Year Plan) (1978-1983) opted for area planning with a preferment for block level planning for achieving employment objectives and emphasis on rural development.

The main objective of this planning was to absorb local labour surpluses and greater involvement of people in the formulation and implementation of development plans. Hence, by the end of 1983 adopt system of block level planning integrated into national system was available

It is an action oriented planning pertaining to the development of agriculture, irrigation (mainly minor irrigation), soil conservation, animal husbandry, pisciculture, forestry, minor processing of agricultural products, small and cottage industries, creation of local level infrastructure, and development of social services like water supply, health, education, shelter, sanitation, local transport, and welfare plans. The entire process of block level planning passes through seven stages. These include

  •         Identification phase
  •         Resource inventory phase
  •         Plan formulation phase
  •        Employment plan phase
  •         Areal or layout plan phase
  •         Credit plan phase
  •         Integration and implementation phase

The main objectives of such planning include, creation of skill to promote self-employment and self-reliance, improvement in pro­ductivity and optimum utilization of local resources. Thus the main focus of such planning is the identifi­cation of target group, introduction of development plans to generate employment, popularization of minimum need programmes and implementation of special programmes for weaker section of the society.

Objectives of Block Level Planning

The objectives of block planning should, to the extent possible, be in harmony with national planning goals. The following are the key objectives of block level planning.

  • Increase in employment and income, particularly of the poor, through optimal growth in the area and through public employment programmes
  • Distribution of gains from development in a manner that they reach the weaker sections, i.e. marginal farmers, agricultural labourers etc.
  •  Building social and economic infrastructure in the area
  •  Increasing the availability and accessibility of social services through minimum need and other programmes and extending the reach of the public distribution system
  •  Building institutions/organizations to protect the interests of the poor and the vulnerable in the area
  •   Upgrading technology, increasing productivity and contributing to skill formation
  •   Optimum utilization of the development potentials of the region
  •   Solution to the problems of unemployment
  •    Self-reliance
  •   Removal of socio economic disparities
The following activities are planned at the block level.
  •          Agriculture and allied activities
  •          Minor irrigation
  •          Soil conservation and water management
  •          Animal husbandry and poultry
  •          Fisheries
  •          Forestry
  •          Processing of agricultural produce
  •          Organizing input supply, credit, and marketing
  •          Cottage and small industries
  •          Local infrastructure
  •          Social services
  •          Drinking water supply
  •          Health and nutrition
  •          Education
  •          Housing
  •          Sanitation
  •          Local transport
  •          Welfare programme
  •          Training of local youth and updating of skills of local population

Panchayat Level Planning

The Panchayat Raj System involves a three tier structure: village level, block level and district level. The first tier at village level is commonly known as Gram Panchayat (village assembly), the second tier at block level as Panchayat Samiti and the third tier at district level as Zila Parishad.

According to the provisions of the Panchayats Act 1996 the election to the village Panchyat is held at an interval of 5 years. Through the Constitution Amendment Act 1992 the Panchayat (also called Gram Sabha) has been authorized to look after the preparation and implementation of plans for economic development and social justice. The respective state has been given discretionary powers to prescribe powers and functions to the Gram Sabha to act as an institution of self-government.

It has also been advised to constitute a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by the Panchyats and Municipalities and prepare an integrated development plan for the district as a whole. It has also been directed to constitute a State Finance Commission (SFC) to review every five years, the financial position of Panchayats and to make recommendations about the principle governing the distribution of revenues between the state and the Panchyats, and determination of the grants in aid to the Panchayats from the consolidated funds of the state.

The implementation of the plan at the Panchayat level is the responsibility of the Village Development Officer (VDO) and the secretary and is supervised by the Gram Sabha. Under the existing provisions, funds for the Gram Sabha (Village Panchayat) are directly being allocated from the centre to execute rural development programmes like Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) and Jawahar Rozgar Yojna (JRY) etc.

The Panchayat has also been entrusted with the responsibility for the promotion of agriculture, rural industries, provision of medical relief, maternity, women and child welfare, maintaining common grazing grounds, village roads, tanks, wells, sanita­tion and execution of other socio-economic programmes. In some places, they are also authorized to supervise primary education and collect land revenue. Presently, Gram Panchayats are involved in the identification of beneficiaries in antipoverty programmes. There are about 2.20 lakh Gram Panchayats, 5,300 Panchayat Samitis and 400 Zila Parishads in the country.

It has been found that elected representatives of Panchayat Raj Institutions are largely unaware of the political and economic dimensions of development issues and lack planning and managerial skills.

Multi-level Planning opposed to centralized planning is an exercise where local institutions are actively involved not only at the implementation level but MLP is a more integrative effort that seeks to involve all hierarchies of administrative, geographical, political and regional levels in planning process. It seeks to involve active participation of the lower hierarchical levels in information generation, data collection, policy suggestion, plan implementation & monitoring of all developmental activities.

A planning process can be either single level or multi-level. In the single level planning, the formulation of plans and decision making are done at the national level; the process is centralized and the lower territorial levels come into the picture only at the implementation stage. On the other hand, in the multi-level planning process, the national territory is divided into small territorial units, their number depending upon the size of the country, the administrative, the geographical and cultural settings. The Panchayat has also been entrusted with the responsibility for the following.

·         Promotion of agriculture

·         Rural industries

·         Provision of medical facilities

·         Maternity, women and child welfare

·         Maintaining common grazing grounds, village roads, tanks, wells

·         Sanitation

·         Execution of other socio-economic development programmes

  • Anti-poverty programmes


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