The grassroots planning process in Odisha continues to be adversely impacted by lack of adequate technical manpower, funds and knowledge about functions of the constitutionally-mandated district planning committees (DPCs) by various government departments, an independent assessment report has said
“The DPCs lacks adequate technical capacity to facilitate the planning process in the district. Although the district planning and monitoring unit, or DPMU, has been formed to provide technical support to the DPC to consolidate the plans of the local bodies, the unit does not have expertise and adequate staff to facilitate the planning process at the districts,” a report has said The report compiled by PRIA, an NGO, has stated that even mandated annual meeting of DPCs are not held each year, thus defeating the very purpose of the planning process. “The DPC members are not aware that the committee has the power to monitor the implementation of various development programmes at the district level,” the report has stated.
This is despite the fact that Odisha was the first state in the country to form DPCs in all its 30 districts back in 2003, a decade after the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, which empowered panchayats and urban location bodies, were passed.
Under the 74th constitutional amendment Act, which inserted Article 243 (ZD), mandates the constitution of DPCs in every district for consolidating the plans prepared by the panchayats and municipalities in the district, and preparing a draft development plan for the district as a whole. The worrisome aspect, the study finds out, is that officials from various line department such as water, sanitation, housing, rural development etc. don’t have much understanding on the roles and responsibilities, powers and functions of DPC. “Most of the the officials only attend the meeting of DPCs and hardly get any opportunity to participate in the discussion process,” the study has pointed out.
The comprehensive report on the Odisha DPCs also said that while formulating plans for implementation of flagship programmes like National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojana (RKVY), the approval of the committee is not made mandatory.
“The district officials prepare plans under RKVY in consultation with their block-level officials. People’s participation in RKVY is missing,” an official with the Panchayati Raj and coordination department said. However, the plans prepared in consultation with gram panchayats for the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), is approved by each DPC.
Meanwhile, according to the assessment of the state government, following the 14th central finance commission and fourth state finance commission’s recommendations, funds to the tune of R16,555 crore would flow to Panchayati Raj institutions during 2015–20. This is an increase of 102% compared to previous commissions allocations.
“The enhanced transfer to the PRIs has opened the avenue for decentralised planning and it needs capacity building at the village level for formulation and execution of plans,” P K Biswal, additional secretary, Odisha Panchayati Raj and coordination department, told FE.
The Integrated District Planning Manual, published by the Planning Commission in 2008, had stated that the roles performed by DPCs are often markedly different from what is constitutionally expected of them. “One of the key stated reasons behind DPCs not being able to prepare draft development plans for the district is that they are not adequately equipped to lead the process of district planning,” the manual had stated.
(Travel for this report was sponsored by the Government of India-UNDP Media Fellowships on Decentralised Planning, 2015)