Brief notes on the benefits of District Committees (DPCs)

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Many states are still to fulfill their mandatory constitutional obligation to constitute District Committees (DPCs) in accordance with the procedure set out in Article 243 ZD of Part IXA of Constitution. As this amounts to a serious violation of Constitutional provisions, it is essential DPCs be duly constituted in every district.

Few states have demonstrated adequate awareness of the centrality accorded by the planning at the grassroots level. “The preparation of plans for economic development and justice” is the key functional obligation devolved on the panchayats/municipalities as “institution self-government” by Articles 243G and 243W respectively.

Such planning is required constitutionally to be undertaken at each level of the PRIs, include separately the village panchayat, the intermediate panchayat and the district panchayat. Similarly, n panchayats and municipalities are required to prepare their own plans.

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The “consolidation” of all separate plans – of the panchayats and the municipalities – is required to be undertaken by the set out in Article 243ZD.

The consolidated district plan is then to be forwarded to the state auth Consideration may be given to the convening of a general assembly of all panchayat/municipal representatives to endorse the plan consolidated by the DPC so as to strengthen the demo credentials of the DPC plan for integration into the state plan. Such detailed district planning account to the constitutional schema is being undertaken virtually nowhere.

A five-year road-map, with milestones, for effective participatory district planning in each state is thus an imperative need.

District plans are a vital input for effective state planning, even as state plans are a crucial input national-level planning. Therefore, the national goal should be to ensure that the Eleventh P commencing in 2007 is firmly anchored in district plans prepared by the DPCs according to constitutional mandate.

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The Planning Commission, for its part, must recognize that it can and must play a crucial role encouraging grassroots planning by insisting on the district plans component before sanctioning annual state plans.

The constitutional mandate stipulates that planning by the elected local bodies shall be subject such conditions as may be laid down by the state legislatures. States may please ensure that adequate legislative provision is made for effective district planning. Such legislative provision may pay attention to the requirements of “social justice” stipulated in the Constitution.

This is essential to en that the weaker sections, including women, are fully benefited by and not discriminated against in processes of grassroots planning.

Effective planning also requires that elected local bodies at every level have a fair idea of resources that will be available to them on an annual and five-year basis, as also a clear idea of resources they can raise and retain on their own. State governments need to ensure that this inform

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Is made available to each elected local body. The resources availability should also be clearly and tegorically provided for in state budgets.

The key to participatory planning lies in mobilizing the local community to articulate their priorities in an informed and intelligent manner so that grassroots planning moves from being the preparation of a wish-list into a feasible, responsible plan. To this end, the gram sabha, or better still, the ward/ neighbourhood sabha, is where the process must begin.

Planning at the gram sabha/ward sabha level should be preceded and accompanied by an awareness campaign mounted by activists drawn from the local community and civil society generally so that the community is conscientized about the significance of grassroots planning for their own welfare and development.

Moreover, professionally qualified and experienced elements of the local community (serving and retired) should be mobilized and co-opted into rationally assessing and explaining the alternatives to the people to facilitate informed choice by the local community.

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Each state may, in association with civil society representatives, make arrangements for launching such a people’s movement.

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