Solution Exchange Consolidated Reply: Methods for integrating, planning, implementation and monitoring at district level -Examples; Experiences

A consolidated reply of experiences and examples shared by various members of the Solution Exchange Water Community

Compiled by Tina Mathur, Research Associate; Nitya Jacob and Ranu Bhogal, Resource Persons and Ramya Gopalan and Warisha Yunus, Research Associates

Issue Date: 08 July 2008

Query:

From Suraj Kumar, UN Resident Coordinator's Office, New Delhi

Posted 03 June 2008

The United Nations is looking for a common set of tools or methodologies for upward integration of local plans to the district level, collaborative implementation of large programmes and their M&E.  This would be required for a programme that we are planning on convergence of government resources at the district level.

India is off target in many of the goals it has set for itself in the areas of employment, health, education, and nutrition.  The Planning Commission (with the concerned Ministries) allocates significant resources to the districts through the Centrally Sponsored Schemes.  These are aimed at helping accelerate results, amongst other areas, in employment and livelihoods, health, education, drinking water and sanitation.  While accurate figures are not available, it is known that a significant proportion of the funds are un-utilized.  It is also known that results are not commensurate with the resources utilized as intra and inter-sectoral convergence in planning and implementation is weak.

In the past there have been successful experiments that have not been replicable mainly because they depended on ‘special purpose vehicles’ in terms of creating new organizations outside government structure led by Chief Ministers and/ or heavily supported by external resources.  The Government of India and the United Nations now believe that effective and efficient use of government resources can produce results if the following three elements of convergence are met:

  • That the district plan is developed through a participatory process of needs assessment and a district vision (NOT a stapling together of departmental plans) and that local governments and district administration work together to prepare a budget based on the district plan
  • Intra and inter departmental coordination to make implementation more effective, ensuring budget allocations do not lapse, on the one hand, and on the other, achieve expected results
  • That quality of monitoring and evaluation, both of plan implementation and of results will feed back to improve the District Plan for the next cycle

In this context, I would request members to share with us:

1.       Tools and methodologies (including case studies and ICT based tools) which incorporate the following (singularly or in combination)

  • Participatory planning and upward aggregation of micro plans at district level such as in the case of natural resource management
  • Districts’ experience in effective implementation of flagship programmes such as NREGA, NRHM,ARWSP, TSC, SSA etc.
  • Experience of, and tools for large scale Monitoring and Evaluation of implementation

2.       Information on bottlenecks and hurdles (expected and experienced) in the same

Your inputs will aid in a more robust design of our programme.  All inputs from members will be gratefully acknowledged.

Responses were received, with thanks, from

1.    Satyajit Singh, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi

2.    Kris Dev, Lifeline to Business, Chennai

3.    Vikas Kanungo, The Society for Promotion of E-Governance, New Delhi

4.    Anil Prasad, Finance Department, Government of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (Response 1; Response 2)

5.    Vikas Dagur, National Rural Health Mission, Jaipur

6.    M. Moni, National Informatics Centre, New Delhi

7.    Abhishek Mendiratta, Consultant, New Delhi

8.    Manoj K. Teotia, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Chandigarh

9.    P.K Thampan, Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation, Kochi

10.  Puran Singh Yadav, Government of Haryana, Chandigarh (Response 1; Response 2)

11.  N. C Saxena, Former Secretary Planning Commission, New Delhi

12.  M. Neelakantan, Consultant and Former Dy. DG, NSSO, Thrissur

13.  Ashok Kumar Sinha, Karma Consultants, New Delhi

14.  Jasveen Jairath, SaciWaters, Hyderabad (Response 1; Response 2)

15.  Asoke Basak, NMIMS and Kelvani Vile Parle Trust, Mumbai

16.  Tarun Seem, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, New Delhi

17.  Harsh Singh, UNDP, New Delhi

18.  P.K Chaubey, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

19.  Ratnakar Gedam, Planning Commission, New Delhi

20.  Megha Phansalkar, Mumbai

21.  Lathamala, MYRADA, Bangalore

22.  Raj Ganguly, New Delhi

23.  Manju Panwar, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, New Delhi

24.  R.R Prasad, National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad

25.  Leena & Amitabh Singh, Debate, Bhopal

26.  Latha Bhaskar, Kerala

27.  Alok Srivastava, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal

28.  D.C Misra, National Informatics Centre (NIC), New Delhi

29.  Ajay S. Gangwar, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal

30.  A.J James, Pragmatix Research and Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd., Gurgaon

31.  S.T Chandrasekhar Babu, MFTOT ADBI, Secunderabad

32.  A.K Paikaray, Mahavir Yubak Sangh, Bhubaneswar

33.  Aruna Sharma, National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi

34.  Junaid Ahmed Usmani, Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi

35.  Amit Agrawal, Government of India , New Delhi

36.  Ashok Malhotra, UNDP, New Delhi

37.  Johnson Rhenius Jeyaseelan, WaterAid India , Bhopal

38.  Nishant Bhaskar, Tata Consultancy Services & Aptivate IT International Development, London

39.  Rajesh Kapoor, Cohesion Foundation Trust, Ahmedabad

40.  Toms K. Thomas, Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), Thrissur

41.  S.C Jain, Action for Food Production (AFPRO), New Delhi

42.  Chandan Sinha, Government of West Bengal , Kolkata

43.  H.P Shiva Shankar, State Administrative Training Institute, Mysore

44.  K. Gayithri, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore

45.  Subhransu Tripathy, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India , Gandhinagar

46.  Rajan Katoch, Government of Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi *

47.  Phil Crook, Singapore *

48.  Anant G. Nadkarni, Tata Council for Community Initiatives, Mumbai*

49.  Ruturaj Pattanaik, RCDC, Bhubaneswar

50.  Chandreyee Das, INSPIRATION, Kolkata

51.  Anjan Mitra, The Appropriate Alternative, Kolkata

52.  R.S Julaniya, Government of Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi

53.  Rohit Asthana & M.S Vani, Development Centre for Alternative Policies, New Delhi

54.  Rajendra Joshi, SAATH, Ahmedabad

55.  Ramakrishna Nallathiga, Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad

Summary of Responses

The query on integrated planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes highlighted the issue of convergence of resources at the District level, recognized by the Government of India and the United Nations as critical to produce results in national development goals. Members responded in large numbers to the query and shared their experiences on participatory planning, implementation of flagship programmes and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

Methodologies and tools of Participatory planning and upward aggregation of micro plans at district level

Respondents highlighted the anomalies in the existing practice of planning- that budgets are decided first and plans follow later. They felt that it is important to differentiate between planning and budgeting. Respondents also said that in the existing system funds are released in piecemeal manner through various Ministries, integration could start at Central level and sector wise funds could be earmarked and disbursed through a single window. The planning process itself could be improved to make it more participatory. To support this, members mentioned the system followed in Kerala , comprising Working Groups, whose deliberations are shared with Gram Sabha, making planning more participatory. This is an experience which other states could learn from, felt members.

Discussants also pointed out that the planning guidelines are often too many in number and very rigid in nature. A partly flexible set of guidelines on the lines of Kerala’s Tenth Plan guidelines would work better and aid participatory planning. Moreover, respondents stressed the importance of information availability and database to aid planning such as the DISNIC-PLAN developed by the National Informatics Centre. In addition respondents spoke about Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools such as PlanPlus to strengthen grassroots level planning by local bodies and mentioned various approaches that have been tried out to support participatory planning.

Districts’ experience in effective implementation of flagship programmes

Respondents shared experiences with implementation of National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Integrated Child Development Services in particular and other Centrally Sponsored Schemes in general. Members agreed that in most of the programmes, implementation is hampered by manpower shortage, expectation to carry out multiple activities, weak community involvement and a lack of capacity among implementers (panchayats and programme managers) (see IDHAP example). Implementation is also rendered ineffective due to lack of coordination between various departments and the existence of too many programmes that districts are expected to implement.

Experience of and tools for large scale Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of implementation

Members opined that different levels of government require different systems of M&E; a framework of M& E is required at the Central level. The focus could be on benchmarking and developing a benchmarking tool to evaluate programmes. Further, respondents felt it is important that midway corrections be made in programme implementation guidelines based on monitoring. Members also highlighted the importance of using ICT in M&E of programmes, and suggested online monitoring at the district level. Methods such as unique identification of beneficiaries, community based reward and punishment and e-Administration to integrate programmes are also useful tools, felt members.

Respondents opined that M&E is useful when it is continuous and feeds into programmes as they progress. The lack of follow up on M&E for improving programmes is a big gap that needs to the addressed. In addition, evaluation, said members, should preferably be carried out by independent agencies.

Among M& E tools, members mentioned District Information and Planning System (DIPS) and shared information on approaches to Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) and Programme Performance Budgeting.

Information on bottlenecks and hurdles (expected and experienced) in planning, implementation and monitoring

Members shared their experiences of bottlenecks in programme planning and implementation and agreed that the process is hampered as facilitators of local planning lack basic information about the programme to be implemented and of the availability of resources at various levels. Further the support of departments is often lacking and participatory processes are mechanical because of which effective grassroots level planning and implementation is not possible.

Moreover, respondents felt that states have little discretionary funds to allocate to districts, rigid guidelines are prescribed for planning and implementation, there is little consultation with districts in designing programmes and planning generally remains vertical. The lack of capacity in district bodies (See Karnataka experience) and poor leadership are significant hurdles in effective programme delivery, felt respondents. Members opined that resources at district level are still not under one umbrella and one authority and accountability is diffused as control over funds and approvals does not rest at district despite the 73rdAmendment. This hampers effective planning, implementation and monitoring. Discussants mentioned local infighting and panchayat level politics and low linkage between line departments and community organizations as additional bottlenecks.

Suggestions on methodology for integrated planning, implementation and monitoring

Members recognized the need for leveraging resources, either Central or State for the integration exercise envisaged. They felt that initiatives like the Backward Regions Grants Fund (BRGF) could provide this leverage. BRGF not only holds great potential to improve capacity at all levels but provides an opportunity to streamline planning since districts would be planning according to prescribed guidelines that make it mandatory for consolidation of plans to take place at the district level. The intervention of convergence, felt discussants could therefore be attempted in the BRGF districts. Members also mentioned the approach of Results Based Management in aiding the process. They felt that focus on outcomes rather than outputs could help integration. An outcome budget approach could be used, establishing a relationship between Financial Budget and Outcome Budget, for aggregating resources and targets horizontically and vertically. 

Additionally, discussants gave the following suggestions:

  • Benchmarking and baseline surveys at village level are useful in measuring performance
  • Many reforms such as human resource related reforms and procurement protocols need to be included in district plans as do softer issues such as health and education
  • ICT tools could provide critical support to integration
  • Respondents emphasized that broader governance reforms are required as the base for successful integrated planning, implementation and monitoring. These could include changing the attitudes of grassroots workers, setting standards of service delivery (See Service Delivery Policy of Kerala) and performance measurement. Institutional strengthening is also a critical pre-requisite, especially strengthening the District Planning Committees. Members felt that it is equally important that there be a vision and strategic roadmap for planning.
  • Members shared further information on the methodology that may be used in this exercise which may be seen below.

Comparative Experiences

Kerala

Development Strategy by Working Groups 

Kerala follows the practice of creating working groups comprising 10-15 members to visualize panchayat level development strategy. The vision is placed before Gram Sabhas for discussion and finalization. The proposals are then passed on to Block panchayats and upward to the DPC. This method has demonstrated a participatory process. But this could be further refined as felt needs of people are not reflected in planning through this method.

Flexibility in planning to Local Self Governments (LSGs) results in better outcomes 

The existence of suitable guidelines for effective micro planning is critical. However, the guidelines must allow for sufficient flexibility for local governments to incorporate their felt needs into the plans. Kerala Government issued detailed guidelines to LSGs during the 10th Plan period but left the LSGs with freedom for action within their framework of responsibilities, resulting in a better planning methodology.  

Many States

Planning process in context of NREGA 

The provisions under NREGA provide for a central role to Gram Panchayats in planning of works and other activities, planning at Block level and monitoring and supervision is the responsibility of Intermediate Panchayats and supervisory role for District Panchayat. However, integrated planning is not happening for NREGA and is resulting in irregularities in implementation of the programme

Integrated District Health Action Plans (IDHAP) under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) 

IDHAP under NRHM are supposed to articulate locally sensitive issues for action under NRHM. Experience of this has been varied, and true integration has been difficult given the limited capacities at various levels. The experience has shown that provision of flexible funds may not always be the answer, what is required is comprehensive capacity building for integrated planning.

Karnataka

Limited capacities hinder participatory planning 

In Karnataka Gram Panchayats (GP) where plans are being prepared for the Eleventh Five Year Plan, it has been found that the capacities of GPs are low and time given for plan preparation is too little. The information available on budget availability is restricted to the officials at the ZP level. These have become hurdles in effective participatory planning.

Andhra Pradesh

Monitoring under one umbrella experimented 

In 2002, the attempt to bring all departmental schemes under one umbrella was made in Andhra Pradesh. All schemes were to be monitored by Project Director DRDA. However, the effort was given up as it was felt that the system of monitoring by departmental heads who are in turn accountable to the District Collector was more appropriate. The experience could provide insights into convergence efforts elsewhere.

West Bengal

GIS is a useful tool for local level planning 

Under a project supported by UNDP and Department of Science and Technology, GIS based decision support tools were developed to facilitate management, monitoring and evaluation of centrally sponsored schemes. In Bankura district sectoral issues were addressed and preparation of district plan was done based on these tools with good results. The experience is a pointer to the usefulness of GIS in integrated planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes. 

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

District Planning Exercise indicates requirements for integration 

A district planning exercise was undertaken in few districts in Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh The process comprised constituting thematic groups on sectoral lines, finalizing a vision for sectors, assisting local bodies in planning, integrating activities and budgets and local planning with sector status and district vision. The exercise highlighted hurdles like lack of database and that clear guidelines are needed for Centre for departments to participate in planning. 

Gujarat

Community Resource Centre for Convergence, Ahmedabad 

The ward based Community Resource Centres connect service providers like government, NGOs and private sector with service users- the urban poor. They facilitate micro-planning and monitor service delivery in existing schemes. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation uses these centres to monitor sanitation and public health. The Centres are examples of effective convergence between schemes and agencies for better service delivery.

Related Resources 

Recommended Documentation

DISNIC-PLAN: IT for Micro Level Planning 

Report; National Informatics Centre; New Delhi ; October 2005.

Available at http://disnic.nic.in/DISNIC-PLAN-Village-Proforma-final1.pdf (PDF; Size:1 MB)

Report on village information requirements; outlines the role of DISNIC PLAN in convergent planning

Methods for integrating Planning, Implementation and Monitoring at District level

Note; by M. Neelakantan; Unpublished; June 2008

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060801.pdf (PDF; Size: 30 KB)

Detailed note on integrated planning, implementing, monitoring including tools for convergence, strategies, bottlenecks in planning and resource utilization

Modified Guidelines for the Preparation of the Annual Plans for the 10th Five Year Plan by Local Governments

Government Order; Planning and Economic Affairs Department, Government of Kerala; Thiruvananthapuram; 31 March, 2004

Available at http://www.keralaplanningboard.org/html/gopb.pdf (PDF; Size: 180 KB)

Modified guidelines on decentralized planning by local governments for implementation of Tenth Five Year Plan; provide for flexibility to local bodies in the process

Convergence in Planning for Targeting Development Investment: A Note 

Note; by Chandan Sinha; Unpublished; June 2008

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060807.pdf (PDF; Size: 35 KB)

Provides essentials of convergent planning, emphasizes importance of public data analysis, speaks of informed consultation for convergent action by district government

Broad Framework for Preparation of District Health Action Plans

Guidelines; National Rural Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; New Delhi

Available at http://mohfw.nic.in/NRHM/Documents/Distt_health_action_plan.pdf (PDF; Size: 879 KB)

Outlines the broad framework for the preparation of Integrated District Health Action Plan (IDHAP) under NRHM

District Health Action Plans

Plan documents; National Rural Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India; New Delhi

Available at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM/DHAP/DHAP.htm

Provides details of District Health Action Plans prepared under NRHM in states like Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir among others

Annual Project Implementation Plans under NRHM

Project Implementation Plans; National Rural Health Mission, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India ; New Delhi

Available at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM.htm

Detailed programme implementation plans prepared by states; provide insights into district visions and integration into district plans

District Information and Planning System

Paper; Megha Phansalkar; Mumbai

Available at http://www.gisdevelopment.net/application/urban/overview/urbano0030pf.htm

Describes the potential of District Information and Planning System (DIPS) in aiding district planning

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) 

Booklet; WaterAid India ; Bhopal

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060805.pdf (PDF; Size: 138 KB)

Explains in detail the steps, process, methods for institutionalizing PME in projects and presents formats for documentation of the process

Methods for Integrating Planning, Implementation and Monitoring at District Level – Cohesion’s Approach 

Paper; Cohesion Foundation Trust; Ahmedabad

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060806.pdf (PDF; Size: 51 KB)

Describes Cohesion Trust’s approach and methodology for Community Led Planning for planning at Village, Block and District levels

Program Performance Budgeting: Concepts and Methodology 

Presentation; by Dr K.Gayithri, Institute for Social and Economic Change; Bangalore ; 18 June, 2008.

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060808.pdf (PDF; Size: 75 KB)

Gives overview of performance budgeting, concept of indicators, outputs and outcomes and data collection methods for the process

Planning at the Grassroots Level- An Action Programme for the Eleventh Five Year Plan 

Guidelines; Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India ; New Delhi ; March 2006

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060810.pdf (PDF; Size: 527 KB)

Detailed guidelines for integrated local level planning, for planning for the Eleventh Five Year Plan

Strengthening Decentralized District Development Planning System in Madhya Pradesh 

Note; by Manoj Jhalani; Unpublished

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060816.doc (MS-Word; Size: 141 KB)

Outlines the key initiatives towards strengthening the planning system at the district level in the context of Madhya Pradesh

District Human Development Reports- Malda and Bankura

Report; Development and Planning Department, Government of West Bengal ; Kolkata; April 2007

Available at http://wbplan.gov.in/htm/HumanDev/DHDR.htm

Present the data related to human development indicators such as health, education, standard of living, gender and vulnerability in Bankura and Malda

Support to District Planning-State of play and future imperatives

Presentation; Suraj Kumar; June 2008

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060817.ppt  (PPT; Size: 48 KB)

Presents the challenges in effective district planning and outlines the imperatives for convergence at the districts

Decentralized Planning for Backward Regions - Opportunities and Challenges

Presentation; Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India; New Delhi ; October 2007

Available at http://www.brgf.gov.in/presentations/FinalPresentation1-Participativedistrictplanning-opportunitiesandchallenges.ppt (PPT; Size: 1.1 MB)

Discusses the essential ingredients in district planning and pre-requisites for effective district planning in the context of Backward Regions Grant Fund

Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme Guidelines

Guidelines; Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India; New Delhi ; 15 January 2007

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060809.pdf (PDF; Size: 536 KB)

Outlines the planning process for BRGF and guidelines for its operationalization; the details are a useful approach to integrated planning

Backward Regions Grant Fund District Plans

Plans; Various State Governments

Available at http://www.brgf.gov.in

Practical demonstration of the integrated planning approach followed by BRGF districts in line with the guidelines issued by the Planning Commission

Decentralised Governance through GIS                     

Paper; by Jacob George and V. Madhava Rao; NIRD Guwahati and Hyderabad

Available at http://www.isprs.org/istanbul2004/comm7/papers/105.pdf (PDF; Size: 49 KB)

Describes an Action Research Project taken up at Panchayat level to create an interactive Geographical Information System for participatory planning and monitoring in Tamil Nadu

A People Centred Service Delivery Policy for Kerala

Policy document; Modernizing Government Programme, Government of Kerala; Thiruvananthapuram; 20 September 2004

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res030608012.pdf (PDF; Size: 77 KB)

Describes principles of service delivery, standard setting, working towards outcomes in government and useful pointers towards effective monitoring and evaluation

Public Service Delivery: A Possible Framework from a Results-Based Management Perspective

Note; by B. Muralidharan for Government of Kerala; Unpublished; 2004

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res030608013.pdf  (PDF; Size: 21 KB)

Gives important linkages between policy, strategy, planning, implementation and accountability for service delivery; demonstrates criticality of the RBMS approach

Rapid Poverty Reduction and Local Area Development for the Eleventh Five Year Plan

Report; Planning Commission, Government of India ; New Delhi

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res030608015.pdf  (PDF; Size: 484 KB)

Discusses integrated planning and development and strategies for the Eleventh Five Year Plan in context of poverty reduction programmes

Sixth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, ‘Local Governance an Inspiring Journey into the Future’

Report; Second Administrative Reforms Commission; Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; New Delhi; October 2007

Available at http://arc.gov.in/6-1.pdf (PDF; Size: 11.32 MB);http://arc.gov.in/6-2.pdf (PDF; Size: 15.79 MB); http://arc.gov.in/6-3.pdf (PDF; Size: 2 MB)

Examines issues related to rural and urban local governance, part 1 pertains to general issues, part 2 focuses on rural governance and part 3 pertains to urban local governance

Sleeping on our own mats- An Introductory Guide to Community Based Monitoring and Evaluation

Report; World Bank, Africa Region; October 2002

Available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060814.pdf   (PDF; Size: 2 MB)

Overview of Action Research in 18 African villages to develop locally relevant M&E system to help communities sustain results of their community development projects

Constitution of District Level Implementation and Monitoring Committee on “Artificial Recharge of Ground Water through Dugwells”

Order; Government of Andhra Pradesh; New Delhi; 10 March 2008

Available at http://www.rd.ap.gov.in/APWALTA/GOMSNo_82_10.03.08.pdf (PDF; Size: 24 KB)

Ministry of Water Resources, GoI approved the said Scheme and requested the State Government to constitute a District Level Implementation and Monitoring Committee

Rural Decentralization and Participatory Planning for Poverty Reduction

Project Brief; Planning Commission and UNDP; New Delhi

Available at http://rdprd.gov.in/PDF/Rural%20Decentralisation%20Brief-7.3.pdf (PDF; Size: 109 KB)

Emphasizes need for a conscious and vigorous initiative for strengthening of the PRI’s and supports an empowerment strategy for people's participation in decision making

Evaluation of Caribbean Experiences in Participatory Planning and Management of Marine and Coastal Resources

Executive Summary; by Tighe Geoghegan, Yves Renard, Nicole Brown and Vijay Krishnarayan; Canari; 1999

Available at http://www.canari.org/259marine.pdf (PDF; Size: 14 KB)

Provides case studies and draws lessons from recent experiences from the Caribbean in participatory and collaborative management of coastal and marine resources

Integrating Stakeholders in Participatory Natural Resource Management: Ecotourism

Project Of El Limon Waterfall, Dominican Republic

Technical Report; by Patricia Lamelas; Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI); Publisher; 2001

Available at http://www.canari.org/limon.pdf (PDF;  Size: 103 KB )

Analyses 6 case studies to identify common themes and concepts related to stakeholder approaches, developing selected principles and skills relevant to the Caribbean context

Orientation for Panchayats on Participatory Water Resource Management Programme

Workshop Report; NGO Co-ordination and Resource Centre (NCRC); Nagapattinam

Available at http://www.ncrc.in/Others/SembanarKoilBlock.pdf (PDF Size: 558 KB)

Reports on orientation of Panchayats, Ward Members and Clerks of Nagapattinam on Participatory Water Resource Management project, implemented through WUAs

Participatory Processes for Integrated Watershed Management

Field Document; by Prem N. Sharma; FAO; Kathmandu, Nepal; June 1997

Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/X5269E/X5269E00.htm

Contributes to sustainable use and management of water and other natural resources by enhancing skills and capabilities to plan, implement, evaluate, and monitor PWM

Recommended Contacts and Experts  

Ms. Sameena Makhija, National Informatics Centre, New Delhi 

Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (GoI), Electronics Niketan, 6 CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi-110003; sameena@nic.inhttp://home.nic.in/

Project Director in NIC having detailed information on DISNIC-PLAN, a central sector programme providing dataset on resource information for villages for integrated planning

Recommended Organizations and Programmes

National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) 

Department of Information Technology, New Delhi, Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Government of India, Electronics Niketan, 6 CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi- 110003; Tel: 011-24363104, 24301268; http://www.mit.gov.in/default.aspx?id=827

Promotes single window delivery system for better service delivery, ensuring efficiency, transparency and reliability of services at affordable cost

National Informatics Centre, New Delhi 

Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (GoI), Electronics Niketan, 6 CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi-110003; Fax: 011-24362628; http://home.nic.in/ ; Contact Ms. Sameena Mukhija; sameena@nic.in

Provides a network backbone and e-Governance support to Central Government, State Governments, UT Administrations, Districts and other Government bodies

Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), Ministry of Panchayati Raj, New Delhi 

Ministry of Panchayati Raj, 7, Krishi Bhavan, New Delhi ; http://www.brgf.gov.in/

Scheme for balanced regional development; comprises a capacity building component and support to local bodies for planning, implementing, monitoring programmes 

MYRADA, Bangalore

No.2, Service Road, Domlur Layout, Bangalore- 560071, Karnataka; Tel: 080-25352028, 25353166; Fax: 080-25350982.myrada@vsnl.comhttp://www.myrada.org/index.html

Manages rural development programmes in three south Indian states; is involved in participatory planning at the gram panchayat level in four districts of Karnataka

The Byrraju Foundation, Hyderabad 

Satyam Enclave, 2-74, Jeedimetla Village, Hyderabad- 500055, Andhra Pradesh; Tel: 040-23191725, 23193881; Fax: 040-23191726. mail@byrrajufoundation.orghttp://www.byrrajufoundation.org

Works in 198 villages in 6 districts in Andhra Pradesh to facilitate development in health, sanitation and education; has developed district visioning guidelines for planning

Department of Drinking Water Supply, Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi 

9th Floor Paryavaran Bhavan, CGO Complex, Lodi Road, New Delhi- 110003; Tel: 011-24361043; Fax: 011-24364133. jstm@water.nic.inhttp://www.ddws.nic.in/

Key department implementing and monitoring the flagship Total Sanitation Campaign; using online monitoring with data generation capacity at district, state and central levels

Water Households and Rural Livelihoods Project- WHIRL 

http://www.nri.org/projects/WSS-IWRM/reports.htm

Provides a framework for integrating community based approaches and GIS- based planning in water supply

WaterAid India , Bhopal 

Gate No 1, First Floor, Nursery School Building, C-3, Nelson Mandela Marg
Vasant Kunj, New Delhi – 110070; Tel: 011-46084400; Fax: 011- 46084411; wai@wateraid.orghttp://www.wateraid.org/india/default.asp

Works to overcome poverty by enabling poor gain access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; provides good examples of participatory monitoring tools

Recommended Portals and Information Bases

District Informatics Programme-DISNIC, National Informatics Centre, New Delhi  http://disnic.nic.in/dataset.htm; Contact Ms. Sameena Makhija; Project Director;

sameena@nic.in

Provides information on DISNIC PLAN, an informatics tool for development planning and responsive administration that provides village resource data for convergent planning

Recommended Tools and Technologies

DISNIC-PLAN: IT for Micro Level Planning 

Software; Owned by National Informatics Centre, New Delhi. Permission Required.

Available at http://disnic.gov.in; Contact Ms. Sameena Makhija; Project Director; Tel: 01124362790; sameena@nic.in

A central sector programme for implementing RSVY, provides a dataset of resources for every village which could provide an information blueprint for integrated planning

District Information and Planning System-DIPS 

Computer package; Micro Technologies Pvt Ltd., Mumbai. Permission Required.

Available at http://www.micromict.net/jidnyasa/dips.html Contact Tel: 022-7688091; enquiry@microtechnologies.net

GIS based tool for resource planning at village, block and district level with people’s participation in plan formulation and implementation

Quantified Participatory Assessment (QPA)

Assessment tool; Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services, Gurgaon, India and IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre Delft, Netherlands. Permission Required

Details available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060802.pdf  (PDF; Size: 333 KB)

Contact Mr. A.J James; ajjames@pragmatix.co.in

A participatory monitoring and evaluation tool that collects and converts qualitative information into numbers for project management

Quantified Information System (QIS)

Quantitative assessment tool; Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services, Gurgaon, India and IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre Delft, Netherlands. Permission Required

Details available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060804.pdf (PDF; Size: 362 KB)

Contact Mr. A.J James; ajjames@pragmatix.co.in

A flexible tool to capture and manage qualitative information that can link assessment and action for project management and communities

Qualitative Information Appraisal (QIA)

Qualitative assessment tool; Pragmatix Research & Advisory Services, Gurgaon, India and IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre Delft, Netherlands. Permission Required

Details available at http://www.solutionexchange-un.net.in/decn/cr/res03060803.pdf (PDF; Size: 191 KB)

Contact Mr. A.J James; ajjames@pragmatix.co.in

Methodology to capture qualitative information rapidly and cheaply, and to target effective corrective and progressive action at both community and project level

Plan Plus 

Software; National Informatics Centre, New Delhi . Permission Required

Available at http://panchayat.gov.in/planplus

Contact Mr. D.C Misra; dcmisra@nic.in  

Open source software to assist demand-based, convergent planning rather than scheme based on line of Planning Commission guidelines; incorporates options for local variations

Responses in Full 

Satyajit Singh, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi

I am very glad to see this initiative.

On the issue of monitoring, while a lot of material already exists, much of this is supply-driven. There is a purpose in this for at least the basic parameters are listed, however there may be a need to develop and empower local institutions so that the monitoring parameters have some relevance locally. In any case there is a need to collate these in one place and write about them to facilitate its dissemination.

It needs to be emphasized that monitoring need not only have an efficiency objective for public allocations, rather equity and opportunity should be prioritized. There may be a need to break down monitoring, capacity, and allocation of incentives at different levels of government. At the state and national level the focus should be on benchmarking that is linked to a capacity vehicle so that the relative capacity gaps at the local level can be identified and plugged - a benchmarking tool that is linked to networks will facilitate cross-learning at the local level and across sectors, and will automatically throw up best-practices and innovative tools of governance. At the local level the focus should be on building blocks for micro M&E that is determined by locally defined outputs and outcomes. If these can be implemented successfully at the local government level then there would be no argument to shy away from this process at the state and national level where there are required more such tools and indeed where the efficiency criteria has a greater role to play. The task in hand would be to build a framework to facilitate this process rather than focus on identifying existing tools and methods on the ground. This framework that would catalyze partnerships that are demand based, hence linked to core public deliverables.

Kris Dev, Life Line to Business, Chennai

We have developed and supported the implementation of a customized e-Platform of our e-Administration tool for e-Governance for the Industrial Guidance Bureau, Government of Puducherry. It helps to integrate in a single platform, the licensing activities of various Municipalities and Panchayats in Puducherry and the various functional Departments responsible for rendering various services in the State. We had supported the Government of Bihar in establishing a Proof of Concept for the Rural Development Department for the successful implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

A single e-Administration e-Platform would be required to integrate the various welfare activities from the state to the district to the block to the panchayat level. The e-Platform should integrate the entire vertical and horizontal hierarchy of government from the state level to the last panchayat level on the one hand and the citizens on the other hand for G2C communication and monitoring.

The welfare schemes should be proposed, implemented and monitored bottom-up. Every citizen of the community should have the right and freedom to propose welfare activities for their community and all the welfare schemes aggregated and the total funds equitably distributed among the communities for proper utilization.

Unique identification of beneficiaries should be ensured using multi purpose biometric smart card cum debit card and projects should be selected based on the number of votes polled for each project by local citizens to ensure the long term sustainable growth of the community.

The projects should be uniquely identified and implemented by the local community and monitored by members of other local communities and the best practices of other communities integrated into the local implementation.

Community based reward for good performance and punishment for bad performance should be built into the scheme. Every single deserving beneficiary of the community should be included without fail; not a single non deserving community member should be included for extraneous considerations. Leakages in the system should be plugged fully to derive 100% benefit from the welfare schemes to truly alleviate poverty.

We are ready to support any initiative of the UN Resident Coordinator's Office.

Vikas Kanungo, The Society for Promotion of E-Governance, New Delhi

The integration of local plans to district level is a very important but equally challenging task as various programs run at the village level, Panchayat level and district level are run by different central ministries, local departments and state governments. The integration of all the programs through a single initiative will require efforts and administration level (back office), delivery level (Front end delivery mechanisms) and policy level (integration of various programs and local, state and central level). I would like to suggest the following measures:

Administrative Level

Government of India has ambitious programs like National e-Governance Plan, Bharat Nirman and Panchayati Raj Ministry’s programs which impact the services at the rural and district level. Some of the key projects that are important in this context are:

  • e-District - A mission Mode Project under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) coordinated for planning by DIT, Government of India and implemented by the line departments at district level
  • PRI – A mission Mode Project under NeGP coordinated by DIT , Ministry of Panchayati Raj and local institutions
  • JnNURM (Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) – A project under Bharat Nirman and coordinated by Ministry of Urban Development with focus on provisioning infrastructure and services at the district level
  • PDS – A mission mode project under NeGP and coordinated by the line ministries at the state level to improving Public Distribution systems. 
  • NREGA – A project under Bharat Nirman aimed at providing livelihood opportunities to the disadvantaged people (BPL) at rural level.

The proposed integration initiative by UN and Planning Commission may look at coordinated planning mechanisms for all the projects mentioned above based upon the similarities in deliverables. The tool kit may contain mechanisms for coordinating the deliverables for all the projects through a joint panel.

Delivery Mechanisms

The delivery of benefits under various projects is currently planned through various mechanisms as per the priorities and resources available with various departments. A single window delivery mechanisms may be worked out through the Common Service Centers (CSCs) planned under National e-Governance Plan. The integration of SCAs (Agencies responsible for setting up CSCs at state level) may be of benefit.

Additionally, availability of mobile devices (the penetration is highest compared to any other ICT tools) has opened the opportunities for provisioning of information and services at the rural level. The potential of the medium in largely un-realized in the context of information and service delivery. UN may like to explore the potential of mobiles as the front end service delivery tool through pilot projects and inviting research in the area. There are increasing examples across the world on innovative use of mobile and voice based (IVR) service delivery mechanisms. The models may be studies for suitability in Indian rural areas.

International Best Practices

There are various models of coordinated delivery of services deployed in various parts of the world. One of the key models to study will be that of Euro Cities. A model based upon the common service requirements is being developed which is then replicated in any cities that want to join the network. This provides an incentive to the cities for joining as they get a test system as well as hand holding for deploying the same.

The subject is complex and requires thorough research as there are many other projects of GOI that target rural areas and require coordination at district level as well as the models of delivery for joined up governance of the projects.

I hope this helps. We would be happy to provide any assistance for the project. Wishing you all the success.

Anil Prasad, Finance Department, Government of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (response 1)

I would like to discuss this issue based on the third question that is “Experience of, and tools for large scale Monitoring and Evaluation of implementation".

The conventional view about Monitoring sees it as a business after the implementation has begun and Evaluation as a post-mortem kind of thing after the business is over. But both these shall not help successful implementation of plans. Then when should M&E start? M&E should start from the very beginning of the planning process (inception stage), continue throughout the implementation and end after completion of the implementation, which is what modern management reiterates.

Another thing we should take particular care is selection of M&E tools. M&E is a fast developing and hence fast changing sector also. It has a wide range of tools. Therefore it is practically impossible to have predefined tool sets for a large period of time. It necessitates through awareness about M&E among planners and implementers to select appropriate tools.

When we assess the progress of implementations, doubts begin to popup about the awareness about M&E in the implementer level. Awareness about M&E should definitely reach the implementer and in ideal case it should go below the beneficiary and stakeholder level.

When we look at M&E in the decentralized planning perspective, we find that general awareness of M&E among the public is very much required for decentralized planning, since it is a people's planning. Only then the M&E will start from the inception stage of the decentralized planning process. The very literature of the plan document itself should be receptive to the M&E tools.

Another point that we should take particular care of is that the M&E for the lower level planning should be able to communicate to the state level planning. In another way, lower level M&Es together should make the state level M&E in a modular fashion. This will avoid unnecessary repetition of data collection exercise etc at the cost of implementation time. It also implies that the lower level planning together shall constitute the state level planning.

Vikas Dagur, National Rural Health Mission, Jaipur

Integrated planning from grassroot level led by the people for themselves is an excellent concept of participatory approaches and I am happy to see that such approaches are now being adopted at all levels. Major concern of all policy makers have now started initiated planning process from the basic level and community/beneficiaries are involved in each and every step of the program.

The strategies of participatory approaches are visible in various centrally sponsored mega programs implemented in various states of the country. NRHM, NREGA are recent examples of integrated planning and monitoring approach addressing interests of rural community.

I would like to suggest few points in this context based on field experiences:

1.      Planning: Planning process is generally organized by group of professionals, who visit the area and conduct some survey to analyze the situation based on personal interviews or FGD's. Current approach focuses on involvement of community in the identification of activities and key components of community development for them, by them. NRHM is using such approach on large scale where every district is assigned to submit its annual plan, which will in turn come from village level. Following hurdles/gaps are identified in the integrated planning that are applicable to all community based programs:

  • Facilitation: Facilitators/agency appointed to work out the planning process along with community lack basic information and poor capacities to facilitate the process with involvement of community. Biased selections of the agencies or individuals
  • Lack of support: Concerned departments/officials do not provide their complete support. Need for integrated has been realized at upper ladder but district and block level is still not prepared or ready to accept it
  • Participation: Participatory exercises are taken as a process that has to be completed as per norms, so samples are selected on the basis of suitability of initiators. During the process discussions end up soon after satisfying the participation by providing good treatment and community members involved also take it as a part of their duty to be accomplished for records. People raising queries on various aspects are generally avoided by officials so as to minimize clash and successfully complete one aspect of planning. The situation is same at all levels i.e. village, block and district
  • Weak capacities: Planning process is initiated with community groups by disseminating the initial concept. Community members having weak capacities are not able to contribute by forecasting long term outcomes of the activities. They are able to see immediate responses of the program and thus include such things. Goal and objectives are not made clear, even sometimes not understood by the facilitator himself/herself
  • Lack of information: Authorities are not able to provide exact or near to exact information on various indicator of program. Situation analysis results are found different from the records
  • Political Influence: Political influence of leaders, block and district level PRI members prioritizing their interests have also affected planning for entire community
  • Poor Leadership:  District officials leading the program are also not sensitized and aware of the process completely so as to inculcate it in the system for further approval by subordinates. DM sometimes pushes such programs and other officials take it as a mandatory activity to be furnished
  • Compilation: Data collected from field is compiled in pre-designed formats and copying of formats is done for most of the activities
  • Lack of Basic Work:  Village, block level committees are still not functional after considerable period of the program so as to participate and evaluate the programs

2.     Implementation: Program implementation is affected due to several gaps in the system and capacities of the implementing authorities

  • Shortage of manpower
  • Excessive workload of program activities
  • Too may activities implemented simultaneously at one time
  • Weak community involvement in implementation process. Personal interests of the authorities, not to disclose key points of the scheme, poor IEC.

3.      Monitoring & Evaluation: M&E component of the program also lacks local representations, due to fear of identification of gaps.

Follow-up activities are not taken up properly so as to improve the strategy

4.     Lack of model programs and demonstration models to motivate the team members

Programs are also performing well and creating good examples of participatory planning, but here I have tried to highlight points to be considered consciously to remove above mentioned gaps. Few hurdles can not be removed completely but could be minimized only so that program gets affected minimally.

M. Moni, National Informatics Centre, New Delhi

Realizing the need for databases for micro level planning, the Planning Commission has desired that NIC should revisit their DISNIC Programme launched  during 1980s with the establishment of NICNET in every districts of the country, NIC has launched the “DISNIC-PLAN : IT for Micro Level Planning” as a Central Sector Scheme for implementation in RSVY District in every State (http://disnic.gov.in).

As per the UN’s need for integration and upward aggregation of the micro level plans, the UN can refer to the DISNIC-PLAN dataset published in the website https://disnic.gov.in/datast.htm . This dataset will give an  information blueprint for villages, all the resources available in each village and the details of the various schemes running at micro level and scheme wise beneficiaries’ details, etc.

These details when aggregated at block and district level will be useful for need assessment, planning for various schemes, allocation of resources, funds and effective monitoring and evaluation at various spatial units.

I suggest that the UN can join with the NIC in this national venture. Financial Bid has been opened for the Pilot District Jhajjar(Haryana), Technical Bid has been opened for the State of Goa and Gajapati District (Orissa), Tender documents (Technical and Financial bid) have been received for Gulbarga District (Karnataka), Tender document to be issued for the Ri-Bhoi District (Meghalaya), EOIs have been published for Wayanad District (Kerala), North Sikkim District, North Lakhimpur District (Assam) and Rai Bareilly District (UP).

The Road Map is to get the Pilot projects implemented in 28 RSVY Districts (one per each State) before rolling out for the entire country. Government of Maharashtra has shown its interest to roll out for the entire State and now the Government of Karnataka.

Further details may be had from Mrs. Sameena Makhija (sameena@nic.in).

Abhishek Mendiratta, Consultant, New Delhi

With respect to the monitoring aspects of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), previously the Mission monitored the progress of implementation in the various districts manually. This method was time consuming and heavily reliant on the person dealing with data. These bottlenecks could be ironed out by the use of a computer based information system. The present web based technology enables easy data access and retrieval from any location on the globe, over the Internet. The present software has been developed with these goals.

The project needs monitoring on the physical (Households Latrines, School Toilets, Balwadi Toilets, Women Sanitation Complex, SLWM, RSM); financial aspects (Funds released by Mission, States and Beneficiaries, monitoring of Utilization of released fund) and the findings of the baseline survey data (APL, BPL & Anganwadi toilets, Schools toilets and water facility Status). The data inputs / updates made through the software gets automatically reflected in the reports generated by the system, which can be easily retrieved by anyone having access to the Net.

Thus, the use of software for monitoring has benefitted the campaign by providing a centralized database for monitoring, speedy information flow to and from districts, speedy decision making and elimination of human error in the process.

Anil Prasad, Finance Department, Government of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (response 2)

What Dr. Moni has proposed is a very pertinent matter. One major and common weakness of the development/reform activities as seen over a period of time, in governmental as well as NGO sectors, is their failure in effectively coordinating/communicating with similar initiatives that are going on and use past experiences and existing resources. This problem necessitates ‘reinvention of the wheel again and again’ at the cost of valuable resources and time. Therefore an effective movement for replication of best practices, revision/remix/reuse of existing resources, over and above coordinating various initiatives of same interests is very much required. This will make various initiatives complementary/supplementary to each other and in turn will produce miracles in the implementation of developmental activities. 

I am confident that UNDP’s Solution Exchange forum can provide invaluable support in this respect.

Manoj Kumar Teotia, CRRID, Chandigarh

The local government institutions will have to take lead in evolving micro plans  the human settlement as a whole (ULBs in urban and PRIs in Rural areas) for promoting participatory planning. NGOs and civil society groups will also come forward after the process is initiated by LSGIs. The constitution of ward committees and community based organizations will be crucial for the same. This gives community the legal identities and powers for preparing community plans. PLA (Participatory Learnign and Actions)  Techniques  can also play important role in sensitizing community for thinking and planning for themselves. The process of preparation of strong data base at neighborhood level may help the community to think about certain issues, initiatives and outcomes.

So far lack of adequate participation of local communities has been a major hurdle but NREGA type of initiatives seems to have catalyzed the poor to take benefit of the scheme. On the similar pattern other initiatives could be chalked out. Some studies indicate that fulfillment of economic interests is crucial for ensuring involvement of the poor communities in development and planning projects/ programmes.

P.K. Thampan, Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation, Kochi

In the decentralized planning now being followed in Kerala, and possibly in other states as well, the panchayat level development strategy is visualized first by working groups attached to each panchayat. Such groups number around a dozen with 10-15 members each. This vision or ideas is placed before the gram sabhas for discussion and formulation of proposals. After this process, the finalized proposals are discussed and approved by the panchayat committee and, subsequently, converted into projects by the concerned working group in accordance with the government norms in force and passed on to block panchayat for finalization by the block level technical committees before integration of local plans and upward transmission to the DPC.

The limitation of the above practice is that what is placed for discussion in the gram sabhas does not reflect the views, aspirations and felt needs of the local people as expressed by them. Rather it is something identified by another agency and placed before the people. As a result, the initiative of the people to identify local problems and suggest lines of action for addressing them gets obscured. Over a period of time the people start losing interest in attending the gram sabha meetings and whenever they do their interest and role are confined to identifying beneficiaries for receiving doles. This has to be changed and a system evolved for giving the people at the grassroots level the primary role in identifying local needs and proposing action plan. The panchayat level planning has to commence based on these proposals of the people.

To make peoples planning at the lowest level purposeful participatory approach has to be promoted in which the people are given full freedom to express their views and suggestions without being hindered by the members of the working groups and representatives of line departments. To facilitate this, the discussion shall be on the basis of a semi-structured questionnaire prepared by the working groups. The local development needs as expressed by the participants and their observations and suggestions are to be recorded to serve as the basic document for developing panchayat level plans by the working groups/panchayat committee at later stages. When related programmes are taken up for execution the people will regard them as their own and participate wholeheartedly at different stages of implementation.

In the upward integration of local plans the panchayat level formulations have to pass through the Block panchayat to the district level. The necessity or otherwise of an intermediary arrangement has to be considered as a separate issue. It is definitely essential to have a district vision for development. This visualization, however, shall be the result of a series of participatory studies rather than the theoretical postulations of experts and pseudo experts devoid of practical vision. The district vision has to be made known to the village panchayats so that the essentials could be imbibed in the panchayat level plans.

When the panchayat level plan proposals are considered by the DPC those which do not adhere to the norms and guidelines stipulated by the government often fail to get approval. This happens despite the fact that some of the norms and stipulations are not relevant to the local situations at least in some panchayats. To avoid this DPC shall have the freedom to apply flexibility in the norms and stipulations in accordance with the physical situations prevailing in the concerned panchayats.

In each district line departments are functioning with dual control. This impedes the purposeful planning and execution of development projects. What is needed is unitary control of all development departments under the leadership of the elected president of the district panchayat who shall be regarded as the direct representative of the people and government at district level. The district collector shall be made the executive secretary to the district panchayat under the administrative control of the district panchayat president.

Monitoring and evaluation shall be concurrent not only to assess progress and identify drawbacks by the end of each activity but to introduce changes and improvements in the on-going programme for making them more effective, purposeful and people-friendly. The responsibility for monitoring and evaluation shall, however, shall be assigned to organizations that are not in any way associated with the implementing agency. 

Puran Singh Yadav, Government of Haryana, Chandigarh (response 1)

This is open secret that funds allocated under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes are not only remaining unutilized for a longer period  though the utilization certificates have been submitted but the results are also not commensurate with the spending. The leakage of funds is another issue. It is better late than never. The realization on the part of Government is timely. Under the given system of programme based funds releases by the central government, the situation will turn from bad to worse.

Before we go into the further details, let us examine the present system of planning and implementation of centrally sponsored schemes at the district level. Under the existing system, integrated planning and implementation appears to be distant reality till the funds are released in piecemeal manner as at present. For example, funds under NREGA, NRHM, AWRSP, TSC, SSA, JNURRM, Bharat Nirman, ICDS, MDM etc or any other programme are released through different Central Ministries / departments to different agencies in the district which are nodal agencies for implementation of these programmes. The funds are released on the basis of pre-decided criteria fixed either by Government of India, Planning Commission, State Government or Districts authorities. Integration and convergence is difficult to take place in this manner. On one hand, the funds are released to separate agencies at the district level, on the other hand convergence and integration is talked about, there after, which rarely takes place. Integrated / decentralized planning has, therefore, become a ‘misnomer’. When, there is absolute lack of coordination at the central and state level, can it then be expected at the district level?

Therefore, the Coordination and Integration should start from the Central level first. All the Ministries should pool their funds /resources. These funds should be kept in a single account to be named ‘Single Window Account’. Releases to the districts should be on the basis of the District Plans submitted by the districts.  For example; funds earmarked under all the flagship programmes of GoI should be pooled at one place and released to the districts that too to a Single agency like District Collector or any other designated authority / cell at the district level. All the programme implementing agencies should receive the funds through the district Cell so created / designated for this purpose. If this arrangement is not possible, a separate ‘district budget’ should be provided in the Annual Plans of the country. Funds should flow from the ‘district budget’ to all the districts for implementing all the flagship programmes. Convergence / integration is possible only in this manner. States should also make such provision in the budget and funds flow should be to the districts as for the Centre. Under this procedure of integration of plans, sector wise % funds should be earmarked in view of the priority of the particular sector. For example:

NRHM 

10%

Education including SSA & Mid Day Meal Scheme 

10%

Poverty Alleviation (Self- Employment Schemes)

06%

NREGA (Employment Generation) & Hariyali 

10%

Bharat Nirman (including Indira Awas  Yojana)

15%

AWRSP

05%

TSC

05%

JNUURM

05%

Social Welfare (NSAP) 

10%

Upliftment of Weaker Sections

10%

Youth Development 

10%

Others

04%

 

 


Separate budget allocation for the programmes from the Central level cannot help convergence and integration as there is absolute lack of coordination among the various departments at the district level. The departments concerned are implementing their programmes in ‘water tight’ compartments. 
Monitoring and evaluation of funds utilization will become easy in this manner. The monitoring of utilization of funds will be done at single level in the district by the designated funds releasing authority. One agency will then be responsible for monitoring utilization. Alternatively, online system of monitoring system should be introduced at the district level. Such software needs to be developed at the Central level. Presently, the Department of Drinking Water Supply, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India has developed GP wise online monitoring system. The GP wise out comes can be monitored through this system. Perhaps Ministry of Rural Development, GoI has also introduced such a monitoring system under NREGA.

At present, the concept of integrated district plan is missing today despite euphoria generated all-round. The sectoral plans are prepared in watertight compartments separately for each sector. For example district plans under NREGA, NRHM, AWRSP, TSC, and SSA etc are prepared separately and approved separately without integration and convergence with other sectors. Integration and convergence are talked about afterwards. Hence, no convergence takes place. Convergence and integration remains an empty talk. I have seen that exceptions apart, the so called village plans are nothing but the aggregation of few village needs spelt out by the Sarpanch separately for all programmes as per the directions received from the i) Block Development & Panchayat Officer in case of NREGA, ii)directions received from the from Medical Officer in case of  NRHM, iii)direction received from Executive Engineer in case of  AWRSP, iv) directions received from the district implementing authorities in case of  TSC, and v) directions received from the District Education officer in case of  SSA. Sarpanch/ Gram Pradhan are asked to prepare of formal Gram Sabha resolution listing the demands that too separately under all the schemes. There is no participation /involvement of villagers. The villagers are not are not aware of about what is happening in the village. There are multiple reasons behind this situation:

  • Lack of Spirit/ sensitization among the implementers: majority of them are not sensitized towards the needs of the villages and particularly the poor. They have ‘mind set’ problems. Majority of the officers are not inclined to go, sit and work with people in rural areas. They have become ‘white collar babus’. They are officers and not facilitators. 
  • Lack of capacity among the programme Managers: Almost all the flagship programmes are based on participatory ‘bottom up’ approach. The programme managers are not aware of such approach. They do not want to come out of Top down approach they have been following for over five decades. They do not want the villagers to be partners of the programmes from the earlier ‘mai bap’ approach. There is need to deploy officers, who can act as facilitators and prove to be the leaders of the positive mindset.
  • Too many programmes/ lack of time: With the increasing number of programmes, the manpower to handle them remains the same. Rather it is dwindling slowly.
  • Lack of Training: Though there is provision of training to sensitize the officers before launching of the programme. Very few of them are sent for training. Despite having so many training institutions and funds available for training and capacity building, it happens least. Moreover, the training institutions have also not come to the level of the present requirement. They base their trainings on obsolete / old methodology. Trainings have become pastime formality rather then delivering worth while.
  • Low capacity of Panchayats: Despite lapse of more than 15 years of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, Panchayats have not been allowed to develop their capacity to prepare village plans. Neither the States have made any sincere effort to develop their capacity. Exceptions apart, the present decentralized planning is in name. It is ‘centralized decentralization’. Everything is decided at the top. District Planning Committees are either not constituted or if constituted are not functional. There is need of strong team to assist the DPC in integration/ convergence of district plan.   

Now, let us discuss the participatory planning at the district level. The Planning should start from the grassroots. Benchmark survey should be conducted in all the Gram Panchayats/ villages through expert agencies with involvement of the people from all sections or through the application of participatory tools/ Participatory Rural Appraisal Exercises (PRAE) in all the villages. Village/ District Development plans should be prepared in this manner after approval by the competent authority i.e., Gram Sabha/ Zila Parishad. Such plan would incorporate all the requirements / needs pertaining to the entire above sectors. For example how many people are willing to do manual work under NREGA, what is the labour demand, what are the works to be taken up along with impact analysis on the district economy? The district plan should also incorporate the all above sectors like health (NRHM) Water Supply(  AWRSP) ,Sanitation ( TSC) and Education (SSA)  etc. These plans should be aggregated at the block level and finally at the district level.

If the participatory village planning and integrated district plan is to be made a reality, the planning mechanism has to be strong. Under ‘DISNIC Plan’ NIC prepared formats for village planning. Panchayat wise data should be collected in these formats and a permanent village data base should be created first for foundation of realistic need based village plan for further aggregation at the block level and consolidation at the district level. A dedicated team of local resource persons needs to be developed to facilitate the villagers in data collection to prepare village plans on the basis of the data collected through these formats. It should be done on a campaign basis. Besides, the village community particularly the poor have lost faith in the system. They have realized the difference of what is said and what is done. They do not believe in talks. They want results. Dedicated community motivators need to be deployed in all the villages of the country that can bring a qualitative change in the whole scenario. They can enhance community participation in planning and implementation.   

Monitoring and evaluation has been discussed above. The ICT has made it easier to monitor the programmes sitting at the central, state and district level. In order to match the online performance with the field performance, periodic unannounced field visits can work wonders in improving the quality of spending and achieving commensurate results.

N.C Saxena, Former Secretary, Planning Commission, New Delhi

In the Indian system of planning, budgets are decided first, plans follow later. For instance, the cycle of the XI Five Year Plan started on the 1st April 2007, two annual budgets have been prepared since then but the XI Plan document is still to be given a final shape. This is not unique to the XI Plan, it is a recurring practice. The IX Plan document was put for approval before the National Development Council only in February 1999, though the Plan period began in April 1997. The situation is worse at the state level, where a Plan document is prepared only for submission to the Planning Commission; it is at best an aggregation of sectoral budgets.

The net result is that as budgets and schemes are sectoral in nature, cross-sectoral and non-monetary issues have generally received a low priority. The mid-term Appraisal of the IX Plan had observed:

'Policies and budgetary provisions, despite the rhetoric, have not been integrated so far. They sometimes run on parallel tracks. On lesser-known reason for this isolation is that development and planning in India are associated with spending of money. That Planning = Expenditure = Development is the mindset behind such beliefs. Changes in policy or laws are not seen as an integral part of the development process because these have no direct financial implications. The Indian planner, unfortunately, has still to understand the difference between planning and budgeting.'

District Planning

The other implication of scheme orientation is that the concept of district planning has remained a non-starter, despite several efforts since the V Plan period to operationalise it. The fact that states have little discretionary funds to allocate to the districts,and most plan funds to the districts originate from the central Ministries have further worsened prospects for decentralised multi-sectoral planning emerging out of the felt needs of the local bodies and the people.

Thus district planning from below has been undermined by different streams of funding with their origins in the central Ministries. As States have to prepare their annual plans within the framework prescribed by the Government of India, they have no option but to prepare sectoral budgets and submit it to GOI Ministries for funding. They, in turn, often prescribe rigid guidelines, which leave little scope for flexibility to the districts in preparation of their annual plans. Substantial funds are also retained at the State level and schemes are formulated by sectoral departments without much consultation with the Districts. The increase in the number of Ministries, departments and parastatals at the Centre and in the States, and the vertical planning, preparation of programmes and methods of funding, stands in the way of decentralized planning becoming a reality.

The situation did not change even after the 74th Amendment, which (Article 243ZD of the Constitution) provided that every State shall constitute at the district level a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by the Panchayats and the Municipalities in the district and to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole. For years such a Committee was not constituted (even now only 18 States have constituted District Planning Committees in accordance with Article 243ZD), it met infrequently, had little budget to offer to the panchayats and municipalities, who in any case were hardly asked to prepare or submit any plans.

The fact that district bodies have poor capacity to prepare decentralized plans is also relevant. Even when some central schemes such as JNNURM and NRHM insist on district plans, it is seen that Municipalities and districts in poorer states lack the capacity to prepare such plans, and thus lose out on central assistance. If even sectoral plans are not easily forthcoming from these districts, it is idle to expect the local bodies to prepare multi-sectoral plans.

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has recently taken some new initiatives to revive the concept of district plans as envisaged under Article 243ZD. In order to support the Ministry's objective of strengthening decentralised plans, the Planning Commission has in April 2008 set up a Task Force for preparation of a Manual on District Plans. The Group would also suggest institutional and other forms of professional support including capacity building to enable the DPCs to consolidate the plans of various tiers of Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban local bodies.

My field visits to several integrated districts show that though the village plans have in many cases helped in achieving progress on social indicators, preparation of district response plans has not evoked much participation from the district authorities. They have informally called it a 'futile exercise' due to lack of clear directions from above as to how these plans would be funded. Untied funds in a district are not sufficient to meet the aspirations that emanate from the village plans. Moreover the institutional arrangements for linking village plans with untied funds are weak. The only way out is to link the components of the flagship schemes with the village demands. Therefore until such time that government itself owns up the process of preparing district plans, greater thought needs to be given towards integrating village plans with the flagship schemes for which sufficient outlays are available at the district level.

New initiatives

However, there would be a shift in policies and orientation once the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Panchayati Raj insist on and monitor the preparation of district plans based on plans submitted by the local bodies and panchayats. Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF) can be used to improve the capacity of sub-district units to prepare plans, as creation of capacity for effective planning at district and lower level is a key-pre-requisite to participative planning.  Hence there is a specific component in the BRGF programme for the capacity building of Panchayati Raj Institutions. Each Panchayat or Municipality within the backward district concerned will be the unit for planning under BRGF. Plans prepared by each Panchayat or Municipality will be consolidated into the District Plan by the District Planning Committee, constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Such plans should follow a comprehensive macro approach cutting across sectors and meeting inter sectoral requirements.

State Planning Boards should ensure that the district plans are integrated with the State plans that are prepared by them. It should be made mandatory for the States to prepare their development plans only after consolidating the plans of the local bodies. The National Planning Commission has to take the initiative in institutionalising this process.

At the same time it should be remembered that many problems leading to poor delivery are beyond the capacity of districts and panchayats to set them right. Changing the attitude and behaviour of the grassroots workers and making them more effective would require initiating many governance reforms in the field of recruitment, oversight, control over them by the panchayats, linking devolution with performance, accreditation of service providing agencies, and improving outcome monitoring. Panchayats alone cannot take these steps. States and the Centre would have to initiate these reforms in order to take full benefit of the process of decentralised people oriented planning.

M. Neelakantan, Consultant and former Dy. DG, NSSO, Thrissur

My views and comments on the topic are summarized below. (A detailed note may be seen here).

It is about two decades that decentralized planning process has been in operation in the country. While it has not been possible for all States to achieve uniform level of progress, it is gratifying to note that all States are sensitized over the importance of this innovative approach to Planning for removal of poverty and ensure all round socio economic development of the people at large. Obviously, a lot more needs to be done to achieve this objective. In this context, there is unanimous view that government resources should be utilized most efficiently by the three tier Panchayati Raj Institutions for maximum benefit of the people. In this context, District Planning assumes great significance and all efforts should be made for convergence of Government resources at District level for Planning and Implementation of various programmes. It goes without saying that there has to be appropriate methods for integrating initiatives on Planning, Implementation and Monitoring of flagship and other programmes.

Tools and methodologies for effective utilization and convergence of Government resources

Participatory Planning- pre-requisites and strategies for implementation

a) Participatory Planning is an important aspect of decentralized planning. For successful Participatory Planning, there may be several pre-requisites. Eg. Motivating of not only staff engaged in PRIs and people’s representatives but people at large through deliberations in Gram Sabha Meetings and other fora, Training of PRI representatives in methods and procedures of District and local Planning and implementation, importance of qualitative monitoring and evaluation of programmes through independent agencies, Resource Mapping at Village level, providing adequate staff and equipments for handling multi tasks at PRIs and their Training etc. One should not expect immediate results as it would be necessary to give adequate time for absorbing the new ideas and get them operationalise.

While preparing micro plans at the local level, it is necessary to lay down suitable guidelines. In this context, the experience of Kerala is worth mentioning. Government of Kerala issued detailed guidelines to LSGs during 10th Plan for preparation and implementation of local level plans but at the same time giving lot of freedom for action within the framework of responsibilities transferred to them and accountability.

Strategies for effective implementation of flagship and other programmes

Effective implementation of flagship programmes like NREGP and other poverty alleviation and other programmes for upliftment of masses would be the cornerstone of effective implementation of decentralization. Several areas of concern in this have already been identified based on concurrent evaluations on, the process and impact evaluations, by independent agencies, research studies and critical reviews by scholars, and also by audit of the CA& AG of India. These include lacunae in identification of beneficiaries leading to extending benefits to ineligible people and leaving eligible beneficiaries, leakages and corruption, harassment of poor people, faulty delivery system, lack of follow ups, non- utilization of funds within the time allotted, use of contractors where it is not allowed, mis-utilisation of funds, construction of low quality assets, lack of maintenance of the assets, and a host of such other shortcomings in the implementation of the programmes. All these result in non-realization of the noble objectives of the programmes and therefore waste of valuable resources. In many instances, it has been observed that programmes are run on a very routine way by staff who are not at all motivated and sensitized on the importance of the programmes. This could be partly due to lack of a proper capacity building programme for the implementation staff as also due to lack of infrastructure facilities at ground level.

It is therefore urgently necessary to tackle these problems on a time bound manner based on a blue print for action. Recent initiatives like introduction of Projects like Unique Identification Code (UID) for all residents in the country, establishment of about one lakh Common Service Centres (CSC) to facilitate E-Governance, etc would be of great help to remove lacunae in identification of beneficiaries and improve  delivery system on ground level, in particular.

Information on bottlenecks and hurdles which stand in the way for effective Plan Implementation and utilization of Govt. resources

Perhaps, the most serious bottleneck in effective formulation of Plans at District level and below is lack of reliable and timely database in respect of key productive and other sectors. Due to this, generally, recourse is made to available administrative by product statistics, which is not validated and also suffering from timeliness. This is a very serious limitation and concerted efforts are not made to tackle this problem. Neither the Statistical nor Planning Departments are adequately staffed with professionals nor are they given enough modern equipment like computers for processing of data collected.  Resource mapping is also not done periodically. So, plan formulation may be faulty due to non availability of latest information on the subject particularly on productive sectors of the economy. If there is an effective Nodal Agency, one could expect at least validation of administrative by-product statistics before they are used in local level planning process. When even this does not happen, one could imagine the degree of effectiveness of the plans formulated. Therefore, this aspect needs urgent attention in all States.

Need to evolve a suitable scheme for qualitative Monitoring and Evaluation System at District level

Monitoring of programmes could be by Line Department as also by outside agencies to ensure objectivity. Detailed guidelines and manuals should be issued for timely monitoring of the flagship and other programmes by Senior Officers from not only the concerned line Department but also from other line departments who have a stake in the programmes. Besides, a Panel of Experts could be drawn from outside who have experience in the relevant field for close monitoring of the schemes while they are implemented. Reputed NGOs could also be entrusted this work. But what is important is to carry out midway corrections in the guidelines on implementation of programmes if such corrections are warranted based on the suggestions of the monitoring agencies/ Experts.

In conclusion, it may be pointed out that an effective Decentralised Planning strategy should aim at convincing the people at large that Government is sensitive and responsive to their needs.

Ashok Kumar Sinha, Karma Consultants, New Delhi

We are realizing that planning is really difficult processes in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes, if we go through the guideline and structure of the REGS, it has been clearly spell out that planning process is not adequately followed in REGS. And this defaulter planning system invites irregularities in implementation of REGS. Provision of Planning under REGS is:

  • The Gram Panchayat has a role in planning of works, registering households, issuing job cards, allocating employment, executing 50 per cent of the works, and monitoring the implementation of the Scheme at the village level
  • The Intermediate Panchayat will be responsible for planning at the Block level, and for monitoring and supervision
  • District Panchayats will be responsible for finalizing the District Plans and for monitoring and supervising the Employment Guarantee Scheme in the District

But when we observe at grassroots level, the planning process is hardly being followed by associated stakeholders. Real Gram Sabha and Planning Exercise is still a dream for all of us. There are no organic links specially in planning processes in REGS.

We as development practitioners always mobilize the village community for preparing micro plans and integrated plans. But it is not being properly legitimized due to local infighting   and panchayat level politics. Still participation of poor, marginalized, dalits and women in the planning processes are challenging factors. And when the planning system requires technical aspects, then it creates another set of problems. There is a need to focus on strengthening of planning mechanism under NREGS.

I am representing Karma Consultants, which is working as Resource Organization in the state of Bihar and assisting the Management Consultants (MC) in coordinating and organizing the NREGS campaign in PACS Interim Phase supported by DFID , UK . And in this NREGA Campaign, we are planning to organize Gram Sabha and assess the planning exercise also – that is to what extent planning exercise is being adhered in the Gram Sabha for NREGS.

Puran Singh Yadav, Government of Haryana, Chandigarh (response 2)

I beg to differ on some of the points having experience of 25 years at the grassroots as a part of implementation team, planning and  implementing various poverty alleviation and social sector programmes ,  as a trainer for different programmes involving various sections of the people and having  widely travelled to see the implementation of programmes in the field..

There are few terms which we use frequently like capacity building, transparency, good governance, people's participation etc..What capacity? Whose capacity? Who will build capacity? Recently launched BRGF is mentioned as one of the programme for capacity building of PRIs. What are plans of capacity building in BRGF districts? Who are the capacity builders? Our capacity building institutions are sick. They offer obsolete tools of capacity building, which hardly help the PRIs. The trainers need total overhauling of the training methods. Secondly, what is the relevance of capacity building of PRIs when commensurate responsibilities are not transferred to them. Those who prepare capacity building plans, themselves are not interested in their capacity building. If we want integrated district plan to become reality, we will have to change the mind set of the people right from Planning Commission to the Gram Sachiv / Village worker. We will have to make our minds. We have to be facilitator and not the officers. Because, it is this class which is knowingly and unknowingly creating hurdles in the smooth transfer of power to the people. Millions are spent in the name of capacity building. But results are not commensurate with the spending.

Still there is time. Let us pause and look. Let us think about improving the standards of our capacity building institutions and strengthen not only the PRIs but also the bureaucracy for the good of all as we are all tax payers.

Jasveen Jairath, SaciWaters, Hyderabad (response 1)

To add to Shri Saxena’s message, whenever programmes are sought to be effectively implemented, for example NREGS, the agencies instrumental in pushing for honest grounding are persecuted, reports of criminal assault on them have also com in. Any political challenge to appropriation/monopolization of resources at grassroots is met with violent reaction from vested interests, what has the government done to neutralize this? If we can push for recognizing this problem, we can further pressurize for incapacitating local mafias; that include participation of agents among poorest people also out of desperation. This is a common problem with all top down interventions.

Asoke Basak, NMIMS and Kelvani Vile Parle Trust, Mumbai

The initiative by UNDP to develop programmes of convergence of government resources at the district level is extremely timely and welcome.

Based on the background of the issue and my own experience, I would like to highlight the following aspects for consideration:

Convergence of public resources at the district level is hampered by, interalia, the following factors:

  • Resources at the district level are still not under one umbrella and under one authority.  To the extent feasible, as much of resources as possible should be brought under one Authority.    There is still a lot of scope to do so, as the Panchayati Raj strengthening still leaves a lot of gaps.  Convergence through co-ordination should be only in respect of such resources which are broadly outside the Government's direct control.
  • There should be empowerment in the real sense of the district level authority [Panchayati Raj institution?] in terms of financial, administrative and legal powers.  It is well known that there is duplication of authority and overlapping of responsibilities at the district level, resulting in inefficient deployment of resources.  The duplication should be totally avoided in respect of social sectors.
  • The extent of strengthening public accountability concomitantly go with the above measures.  Presently, accountability is defused and can be pushed upwards or downwards quite easily.
  • Lack of planning expertise at the district level:  If District plan should not be a stapling of departmental plans, expertise need to be developed to prepare the plans taking into account the resource endowments of the district and its need which are required to be properly integrated and prioritized into implementable programmes.   Perspective plans must be prepared and updated periodically by following scientific methodology and the various sectors [social sector] could prepare integrated plans for their sector within the frame work of the perspective plan.
  • Empowerment by implication involves adequate control over the funds and powers to give approvals.  The situation in this regard at the district level is very unsatisfactory. Delays and dilution of accountability takes place because of the fact that control over the funds and giving of approvals in many cases do not rest at the district level in spite of 73rd amendment of the Constitution.
  • Besides bringing in professionalism and expertise for ensuring quality monitoring and evaluation of implementation, establishing the system of accountability at different levels will to a large extent improve the quality of implementation and ensure the desired convergence and co-ordination.

Periodic independent evaluation of programmes at the district level will ensure better implementation.

I fully agree about the three elements which can result in effective convergence. But the real issue is, how to achieve the desired levels of effectiveness in respect of each of these elements.  I have indicated the problems we often face in the districts and the possible remedies.  While working out solutions, models could be developed on pilot basis, at least for the identified social sectors and thereafter lessons could be drawn for replication.  Human Development sectors deserve a different approach for being effective.

Tarun Seem, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, New Delhi

Preparation of the Integrated District Health Action Plan (IDHAP) is one of the core strategies under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The tool kit for preparation of the IDHAP is available at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM/Guidlines_index.htm. Many districts have shared their plans with GoI and the same are available at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM/DHAP/DHAP.htm. The district plans are expected to articulate locally sensitive issues for necessary action under NRHM. In many plans, this articulation takes the shape of huge wish lists. In many others the supporting arguments are either very weak or in some cases completely missing. In some plans the spark of decentralised planning is indeed visible. The eventual goal of village plans collating into block plans collating into district plans collating into state Programme Implementation Plans however appears a tough call, given the capacity at respective levels. The answer may not lie (only) in loading flexible funds at the district levels (although it may accelerate the process). In fact in some situations (doing only) this may amount to demonstrating lack of leadership. True decentralisation requires capacity building followed by empowerment leading to local action. The IDHAP tool kit under NRHM seeks to do this. How far it is succeeding is for time to tell.

The observation that planning is often equated with budgeting is indeed the real irony of the process. Many initiatives in the development journey are zero budget activities. Many health sector reforms are really no/low  budget reforms concerning HR policies, procurement protocols, MIS reporting, compliance of HR to the terms of employment, follow up to adverse incidents etc. The District plans completely miss this agenda in many cases. In fact so do some State Plans too. The Annual PIP under NRHM is a detailed document prepared by the states. Many of the PIPs appear to only address the budgetary issues. The PIPs are available at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM.htm .However the results of capacity building are quickly evident as is clear from the better quality PIPs under NRHM for FY 2008-09. Many of the state PIPs for 08-09 are self contained vision documents drawing from the District level plan papers. Hopefully the process shall be further refined over the coming years.

Integrated planning would do magic when it happens. Till then the planning process of NRHM may be a good enough stop gap life boat. It will not cross the oceans but it will keep you afloat.

Harsh Singh, UNDP, New Delhi

The main concern in Suraj’s query appears to be the social sectors, and accordingly the focus is on convergence between the activities of the public players. However, I feel that the objective of convergent planning should be to promote public-private community partnerships, and the mechanisms should aim at this broader inclusive process.

P K Chaubey, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

I am in total agreement with Dr. Saxena. But I would like to further add why are there so many centrally sponsored schemes. Why not pass on these schemes to local bodies through States and why not empower local bodies to collect their revenue by passing some of the tax bases.

Ratnakar Gedam, Planning Commission, New Delhi

Two contradictory views are emerging. First is about the inevitable role of central Planning Commission in resources allocation including that for flagship centrally sponsored schemes and second is that decentralized planning is more valuable than central planning. Not clear but could be called as third view of integrating two models of information flow namely integrating top-down planning with down-top flow of information. Indeed information asymmetry leads to planning failure. What is practised at central level differs at state level.

One may incline to accept the fact that centralized planning is dead. Planning is luxury. It suppresses market mechanism and promotes intervention in the form of injecting tax payers' money which in turn helps corruption to grow commensurately at all levels.  Plans are like implementing political manifestos of ruling party (like waiver of loans to farmer, free electricity to farmers, packages to states, enunciation of construction of dams, roads, setting up public sector companies for employment generation etc.). They are supposed to be coterminous with ruling party. Outgoing party cannot approve the five years’ plan on behalf of incoming government or Prime Minister who heads cabinet. Planning is like a social engineering which intends to create a society based on blue print. Planning pre-supposes the availability of foolproof information. The accuracy of information and magnitude of the problem determines the accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness of solution. But at the national level one hardly gets all information. One could see the fact that despite huge resources spent on collection of data, census, survey etc. one hardly get accurate information such as  percentage of population suffering from  hunger, starvation, malnutrition, HIV, water born disease, literacy ratios, drop out ratios, rural electrification and availability of electricity, breast cancer, etc. Most of CSS are based on pre-conceived notion that all information are available, available data are accurate and perfect, but problem exist because of lack of resources due to market failure to allocate resources.

Absence of discretion is pre-requisite for good governance that is based on rule of law. But planning presupposes absence of rule of law and discretion is key to resources allocation. The magnitude of resources allocation is likely to be higher to those states which are in ruling coalition as compared with opposed to central ruling political party. Because, in the absence of any law, discretion of resources allocator prevails regardless of needs of people at grass root level in different states. As far as formulas for devolution of funds (like constitutional or statutory mandate) are concerned those could be anybody’s guess as a mock exercise in the absence of accuracy of data of population, per capita income etc.

US has no planning commission nor did they have at any time in the past. Even developed nations like UK , France , Germany , etc. though small but rich enough for centuries had no reliance on planning mechanism. It is said that if you want to be rich like US then follow the policies of US. In other words, transplant the legal system of the country you wish to be. One cannot be rooted to neither socialist nor capitalist system as is found in so called mixed economies like India . Moreover India which pretends to be socialistic has turned into capitalist where few world’s richest person live and draw income per month over 45 crore (e.g. Mukesh Ambani, alone is equivalent to 45 lakh Indians with Rs. 12000 per capita annual income) despite the fact millions of people go hungry daily. Feel good factor prevails in several NRI as well socially blind Indian who looks at prosperity of richest Indians and feel as if they have become richer. Indian economic system is capable of both producing poorest of poor and richest among rich, and has little concern in reality for urgent eradicating hunger. For example, Vinoba Bhave’s movement for “Bhoodan” has been wasteful if one looks at SEZ growth and government acquiring land for SEZ by depriving land to the tiller. It is reversal of land reform process, nationalization, cooperative movement etc. Had Vinoba Bhave been alive he would have perhaps felt ashamed of what he did for empowerment of poor by persuading zamindars to part away excess land so that it could be distributed to landless poor. SEZ growth is reversal of bhoodan movement. 

Chinese proverb says, “in a well governed capitalism one should be ashamed of starvation and hunger, and in socialism one should be ashamed of accumulation wealth in the hands of few”. Even India ’s Constitution under Article 38 it directs state policy to be based on principle that concentration of wealth in the hands of few is detrimental to nation and such concentration must be avoided. In Nepal , King has to leave palace merely for political reasons but in India capitalist are growing disproportionate without being called as Kings despite the facts that their wealth exceeds than wealth of several Kings or even UK ’s Queen. In mixed economy like India both coexist for the fact its economic, social and political ideals are rooted to neither capitalism nor socialism. No Indian capitalist need advise of Indian planners but today planning is doing what Indian capitalists and MNCs want and not what is needed for social upliftment. Twelve centrally sponsored schemes pre-suppose that social development is like black box syndrome where you put money from one end and social development will emerge from another end. Indeed when corruption is at its peak there would be little social development even if whole of money is spent. Integrating district planning with central planning would facilitate fuelling the corruption as it would mean coalition of bureaucracy.

Megha Phansalkar, Mumbai

As part of my Doctorate in District Resource Planning and Management, I have developed an ICT application with GIS interface. The application has been updated with latest technology and provides a ready to use tool for district planning, implementation and monitoring. The brief information is as below:

District Information and Planning System (DIPS): The potential of computer model for strengthening the district planning process has been turned into reality by DIPS (District Information and Planning System). It incorporates various tools and methodologies required to be undertaken done by the district agencies / departments / research scholars. DIPS have three tier planning levels viz. village/ block and district. The package can be used for any district of the country. DIPS capture data from various sources, analyses and provide concrete tools for decision making in term of district resource planning in an efficient and simple manner. The output is in textual, graphical and map formats. A paper on the same was published in the GIS development available at

http://www.gisdevelopment.net/application/urban/overview/urbano0030pf.htm

The application provides planning and management tools for district / block and village level planning for varied sectors (Agriculture, Education, Health, Finance, Animal husbandry, land etc).  It can also be used by institutions to teach district planning and implementation.

Lathamala, MYRADA, Bangalore

I agree that until the budget at district level is pooled, no coordination is possible.  MYRADA is involved in participatory planning from GP level in four districts of Karnataka. It is being prepared for 11th five year plan.  We are finding it too difficult to bring effectiveness in the process, because the capacity of GP is too low and time given is also too short. Except a few officers in ZP, no one knows budget availability for each sector. It is impossible to bring all departments together. Mind set of officers about participation of people is another hurdle. But still there is some hope, ZP officials are open for grama sabha planning. We hope that things will slowly change.

Village planning is important, at the same time prioritization of activities (at grama sabha) is very crucial for planning.

Raj Ganguly, New Delhi 

It is very encouraging that we all are discussing this very important topic. The points raised by have surely provided insights and have underlined the need to have a very serious introspection to the entire planning process, beyond the issues of decentralization alone. On one hand it is quite natural to believe that "centralized planning is dead", however it is difficult to accept the view that "Planning is luxury." For a large democratic country like ours with great diversity of resources, and remoteness, planning assumes greater significance to inch forward towards sustainable development and slowly reduce intra-regional disparity. The plan of a large country like ours surely comes with a large budget with possible repercussions on market forces and it may tempt to accept that "Planning….suppresses market mechanism". But we should be cautious against such sentiments, as in India 's socio-economic situation the frame work of planning assumes critical role to bridge the gap of intra-regional growth disparity. Planning is important for bringing in growth opportunities to all the nooks and corners of our vast country, which can seldom happen if left alone to market forces.

Also, the situation of our country is very different than US and it will be a folly if we believe in only copying the 'successful models'. I believe we need to bring in fresh thinking - creative and innovative, management strategies and utilize tools like ICT, to plug in the gaps and set a new system rolling. It is interesting to note that "in the Indian system of planning, budgets are decided first, plans follow later." We need to accept the practical difficulties in the entire planning process. In last 60 years we have blindly followed the concept of 'Five Years Plans' backed by annual plans. Why we cannot think of "Three Year Plans". The elected Government is for 5 years and for all practical purpose we cannot expect it to deliver a plan stretched to 5 years. And importantly in this fast changing economy, a shorter plan budget will be more realistic and achievable.

We also need to ask whether we have any strategic road map to which the plans are set. Should we not have a visioning exercise in the lines of Rajiv Gandhi's 21st century mission, Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam Azad's Vision 2020, for our plans? The budgetary allocations to different sectors generally undermine the fact that except for some incremental obligations there are no fixed priorities or growth agenda. Are we looking at only 'economic planning' or geared towards 'development planning'? What are the national/state priorities and sectoral goals? Are these properly integrated with UN's MDG's?

Creation of Ministry of North East, Ministry of Renewable Energy etc., reflects positive vision of the government, but these initiatives if agreed as national priorities are seldom backed by matching plan allocations.

Yes there are challenges in the plan implementation, as underlined by Dr. Saxena, "Problems leading to poor delivery are beyond the capacity of districts and panchayats to set them right" and Mr. Gedam that "….information asymmetry leads to planning failure." But we need to effectively utilize the ICT tools to bring in transparency, efficient delivery at local government level and allowing more civil society collaborations.

Planning is critical for putting our limited resources to effective use and envisions a development road map for our country. However, the challenge is to make it inclusive, sustainable and realistically tuned to local priorities. Process re-engineering towards decentralization and improving the delivery mechanism by making it participative in nature can all be steered well, using the available IT/ICT tools and infrastructure, only when it is oriented to strategically set goals and development priorities.

Manju Panwar, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, New Delhi

It is a well known fact that the success of  any programme  largely depends on the effective delivery system and efficient implementation at the grassroots level so that the benefit of the programmes reach to the unreached population. In order to ensure this, it is very important that five strategies should be implemented in full spirits which are as follows:

  1. Awareness generation
  2. People’s Participation
  3. Transparency
  4. Accountability
  5. Strict Vigilance and monitoring

But the moot question is that how far the above mentioned strategies are practiced in real sense. Keeping this in view, I am sharing some of my experiences based on the study that I conducted in Haryana titled “Impact Assessment of Rural Development Programmes in Haryana”.  The main objective of this study was to evaluate the performance of the schemes at the field level, to identify the deficiencies in course of implementation and recommendations for effective implementation of rural development programmes.

Deficiencies encountered

  • Lack of Communication There is a complete communication failure between benefit agencies and the target population. Programme details like criteria for assistance, who to contact, how to make effective use of financial assistance is simply not known to the beneficiaries.
  • No linkage: Under SGSY, it was found that there was no linkage between the line departments and SHGs. Because of which SHGs were helpless to  start any  income generation activities even after getting substantial subsidy and bank loan. 
  • Devolution of powers: No effective powers have been devolved to PRIs. There is total control of district and block officials over rural development programmes. It was observed in the field that when asked about the rural development programmes, Block Development Panchayat officers look upon the officials of DRDA and say that they are the ones who are sitting on the top decide the budget for every scheme.  Same with the case of Sarpanch who say that nothing is in their hands and they just do the works directed by B.D.P.O and other officials. The B.D.P.Os blame PRI functionaries as incompetent; the PRI functionaries blame the BDO and officials of State government for not transferring the power to their level. Both groups lack managerial skills, vision and compassion.
  • Shortage of trained staff: Panchayati Raj officials are poorly trained. Even the BDOs are short of trained and   do not have the motivated staff. 
  • Non-functioning of Gram Sabha: The PRIs are not playing a vital role in the rural development process. Gram Sabha meetings are not held regularly and not well attended by people. Villagers do not show any interest in attending the GS meetings. The officials implement the programmes and the PRIs are generally being bypassed. It has been seen that process of planning, implementation and monitoring are carried out by government officials.
  • Shortage of critical skills: For effective implementation of the programmes and schemes related to rural development, it is very important that each block office should have four types of skill which are as follows: Business advisory and development skills, Training need assessment and training skills, Rural engineering skills and General administrative skills. But it is unfortunate that only handful of blocks have this kind of skill.

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