9th Five Year Plan (Vol-1)
[ Vol1-Index ] - [ Vol2-Index ]
<< Back to Index

Implementation, Delivery Mechanism and Institutional Development
Introduction and Review || Strategy for the Ninth Plan || People's Participation || Monitoring and Evaluation - Methodological and Organisational  Issues

People’s Participation

5.32 The core element that emerges from the success stories is ‘people’s participation’. The people are expected to undertake initiatives of their own when they become conscientised and critically aware of their life situations and begin to perceive the options for changing that reality. This is the basic premise on which the facilitators worked. They first studied the local situation to assess the socio-economic profile of the people and their needs, the local resource base and its potential, existing social relations, the need for technological, financial and managerial inputs etc. and chalked out a strategy of sensitising the people for self development. They assisted the people to reflect upon, analyse and understand their socio-economic environment, the factors that constrain development and access to public services. In the process of animation, alternative possibilities of dealing with the constraints are explored and their feasibility examined, using the local knowledge (internal inputs) as well as knowledge from outside (external inputs). Once sensitised, the facilitators provided the people with the necessary support mechanism like technical skill, credit, extension and other services by linking the local groups with the providers. More often than not, such development actions of the people started on a small scale, but the initial successes gave them the necessary confidence to embark upon larger and more sophisticated actions.

5.33 The essential ingredients of people’s participation for self development, as revealed in the success stories, are: assessment of local resources and local level planning, sensitising people and building local organisations for collective actions and an umbrella support mechanism to facilitate people’s development actions. If these processes and mechanisms are to be multiplied on a wider scale, these will have to be institutionalised. The multiplication process requires a major political commitment by the State to provide the necessary political space and a policy framework for a sensitive support mechanism. This will call for, among other things, simplification of ground rules that would facilitate participation of grassroots level organisations in the development process, bringing about flexibility and dynamism among the providers of public services, and orienting the judicial system for speedy disposal of disputes and to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged.

5.34 It is common knowledge that delivery of services and upkeep of equipment suffer due to inadequate financial authority of the grassroots level functionaries and also due to the rigidities in the operational rules and audit systems. This often leads to helplessness and inaction on the part of the functionaries. In the case of voluntary organisations, for example, procedures require the filling up of a multiplicity of forms, adherence to complex accounting/ audit systems, and multi-level and repetitive examination of files. All these cause delay in the release of funds and affect their functioning. That such sub-optimal functioning of the delivery system has a very high ‘opportunity cost’ must be appreciated and reforms of outmoded rules and procedures must be undertaken in the context of decentralised planning and implementation. The Conference of the Chief Ministers held on 27 May, 1997 deliberated on the broad areas that need to be reformed for an effective and responsive government. What is now required is to identify specific institutional changes that need to be brought about and a plan of action for their implementation.

Panchayat Raj Institutions

5.35 The 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments have opened up new opportunities for decentralised management and people’s participation in the development process. While, in principle, the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) can be the effective bodies for local level planning and implementation, they may not be so in practice because of a number of constraints. First, all Panchayat members do not necessarily seek to achieve social goals and hence may not be sensitive to the needs of the people. Diversion and misuse of resources have been reported even where the PRIs are involved in the implementation of programmes. It has also been found that the Gram Pradhans who are mostly elected from the main village (71 to 92% in different districts of a State ) ignore the development of hamlets. Second, most of the members do not have the necessary background in planning and implementation of development programmes. Third, unless there is a functional link between the various tiers of the Panchayats in terms of administrative and financial control, the required coordination in planning and implementation may not come through. Fourth, the Panchayats need flexibilities in operational rules, authority and financial resources if they are to participate actively in planning and implementation of development programmes.

5.36 To ensure that the PRIs act in the most effective manner, the involvement of people and facilitators in planning, prioritisation and implementation of programmes and in monitoring of their activities is essential. To circumvent the problem of disparity in the allocation of available financial resources between the main village and the hamlets, there is, perhaps, a need for developing appropriate principles of allocation of resources at the micro level. The second constraint can be removed through training and retraining of the members of PRIs. While some States have already created institutions for the training of Panchayat members, others too need to follow. Experienced public administrators, managers of co-operatives and social activists/leaders should be involved in designing training courses and managing training centres. The States should evolve appropriate mechanisms to ensure harmonious working of different tiers of the PRIs. Perhaps, legislative actions would be required.

5.37 The objectives sought to be realised through the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution would remain unfulfilled without devolution of adequate financial resources to the PRIs. Their financial needs can be effectively met in two ways, viz; (a) through quantification of the awards of the State Finance Commission for the PRIs in line with the awards of the Central Finance Commission for the States, and (b) by empowering the PRIs to raise resources locally. Though, in some cases the Panchayats have received resources for specific purposes, the process of devolution of resources needs to be institutionalised to realise the full potential of the PRIs in decentralised planning and implementation. The issue of devolution of resources and authority to the PRIs is complex and calls for systemic changes through legislative actions. The State of Kerala has made the pioneering move to formally devolve 40 per cent of development funds in favour of PRIs. But there too, despite a high degree of literacy and political awareness, the process was not entirely free from its share of problems and difficulties. There is, therefore, a need for a more informed debate and mobilisation of the people around the relevant issues so as to fully operationalise the various provisions of the 73rd/74th Constitutional amendments.

5.38 For effective functioning of the grassroots level institutions of some north eastern States, the Central Tribal Belt and other scheduled areas, another issue that needs to be squarely addressed is the conflict between the PRIs and the local bodies like tribal panchyats and hill councils. Sometimes, the power and jurisdiction of these bodies are a matter of dispute and this affects the development of such areas. Perhaps, it would be necessary to give recognition to informal bodies like tribal panchayats, and to delineate the functions and responsibilities of various agencies where more than one development agency is involved.

5.39 With these reforms, the PRIs can be an effective instrument for large-scale development interventions at the grassroots level. Since the development actions have to come from the people and since they do not have the necessary financial, technical, managerial inputs and market information, it is essential that access to such inputs be facilitated. To be effective, the local organisations must acquire legitimacy of their standing, particularly in the eyes of the officials and support institutions. An important element in the acquisition of legitimacy is the extent to which the agency officials meet their genuine demands. The PRIs can play an important role in this regard. They can facilitate such linkages between the people and the organisations which provide these inputs. The existing support mechanisms like credit institutions and extension services are not sensitive enough to the needs of the people. Training of the staff of these organisations needs to be organised to bring about the necessary behavioural changes. Some rules and procedures need drastic simplification so as to facilitate people’s initiative and action.

5.40 Sustenance of this process and its eventual take-over by the people would also need further institutional reforms to ensure: information exchange, conflict resolutions, joint action, strategic planning and public awareness/education. In a large number of areas, legal and legislative actions would be required to facilitate free flow of development related information, resolution of conflicts arising out of denial of information, contractor disputes and other non-compliances, the use of local resources/raw materials by locals, removal of excessive bureaucratic control over co-operatives, growth of grassroots level organisations for strategic planning etc. The primary objective of such reforms should be to frame simple rules, laws, incentives and disincentives to guide individuals and groups to act for self-development on the one hand and to reduce the transaction costs of such actions on the other.

Strategy for Ninth Plan

5.41 The following steps are required to be taken during the Ninth Plan for improving the performance of poverty alleviation and social sector programmes.

(i) Inadequate resource allocation, relative to actual need, results in unsatisfactory outcome. The argument of efficiency of resource use should not be taken as a justification for reduction in social expenditure, the imperative of reduction in fiscal deficit notwithstanding. The declining trends in social sector expenditure, particularly at the State level needs to be reversed. There is need for a realistic assessment of the investment and the time required to meet the goals of universal access to basic public services, such as primary education, primary health care, child nutrition and safe drinking water. The Planning Commission has already taken up the exercise of assessing the gaps in basic minimum services (BMS) in different States and the allocation of resources for such services has been stepped up. However, the approach still remains "incremental" in nature without a time- frame. The findings of a High Level Commission relating to the assessment of gaps in basic services and resource requirement for the North Eastern Region tend to suggest that allocation of resources needs to be substantially stepped up for the realisation of the goal of universal access to BMS. However, the issue of allocation of resources to programmes in social sectors is linked with the broader issue of the choice of the development strategy. The need for adequate resource allocation to these programmes will be appreciated if the social policy- making is internalised in the planning process through an explicit recognition of the social objectives in the Plan formulation and evaluation. When the redistributive and welfare issues are placed alongside the economic growth objectives, there will be more clarity on the complementarity and trade - off between objectives, and this will certainly generate more informed debate, influence the choice of development strategies and consequently, resource allocation to social priority needs.

Equally important is regularity in the flow of allocated funds to priority sector projects. This will have to be streamlined in order to achieve the intended targets. The Central Ministries may have to resort to release of CSS funds directly to the grassroots level Departmental CEOs to ensure adequate flow of funds to schemes like BMS, though it may amount to a departure from the basic philosophy of encouraging a greater degree of initiative and autonomy to the State Governments in development planning and implementation. However, some degree of such trade-off becomes inevitable in order to minimise the diversion of funds meant for the priority sector projects, on the one hand, and to energise the PRIs, on the other.

(ii) The quality of spending public money is as important as availability of resources. Two issues assume importance in this context. The first relates to poor conception, planning and implementation of development programmes and the second to the inability of the system of governance to resist populist pressures for hand-outs/subsidies to vested interest groups or to indulge in token gestures for political gain. While, for improvement in planning and implementation, the lessons learnt from successful interventions must be put to practice, there is a need for building adequate administrative capacity in public bureaucracies and also for changing the ways in which they have traditionally functioned. This can be done through capacity-building programmes to induce behavioural changes and to enhance appropriate skills needed in a more decentralised and participative development process. The issue of responsible management of public finances is more complex and a solution has to be found in the frame-work of co-operative federalism. The use of incentives/disincentives in the resource allocation principle of the Centre is likely to go against those very States which need more resources for development. While the State Governments need to be persuaded by the Finance Commission, Planning Commission and National Development Council to mobilise adequate resources, earmarking of funds for priority areas and improvement in public administration are also necessary.

(iii) Accountability of the Ministries and administrators is the first principle of democratic governance and the freedom of access to reliable information is the pre-requisite to operationalising accountability. Two steps are urgently required to ensure transparency and accountability. The first is to reform the data collection system to ensure generation of reliable and disaggregated data base by strengthening the agencies responsible for data collection. In particular, the grassroots level agencies which provide primary data need to be strengthened to ensure quality and reliability of the data. At present, even the land use statistics are not uptodate. One State Government has recently planned to bring 3 million hectares of under-utilised land under cultivation. But, an independent research revealed that the actual underutilised land is much less than 3 million hectares. The Lekhpals have not updated the land statistics for about ten years. It is expensive to have an elaborate official system at the grassroots level for generation of the required data base that would reflect the ground reality. Grassroots level non-official agencies and community organisations including educational institutions (high schools) may be geared to complement the official monitoring effort. The second is the analysis and dissemination of the reliable data, so generated, to the policy makers, planners and managers for improving the quality of planning and decision - making on the one hand, and to the media and general public for initiating an informed debate and ensuring transparency in public administration on the other. Since the majority of the rural population are illiterate and not well informed about the development interventions of the Government, it may be necessary to organise widespread multi-media publicity campaigns in the rural areas of the type attempted by the Department of Field Publicity, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 471 villages of Andhra Pradesh in 1995. Enactment of the Right to Information Act and making the findings of evaluation studies accessible to the public and media are also required to bring about accountability and transparency in development administration. However, more innovative ways of dissemination of development-related information at the grassroots level need to be designed. One effective mode could be to develop reading materials in simple local languages giving information on the development programmes, local government functionaries, the rules and procedures for accessing benefits of government programmes, activities and performance of PRIs etc. for the neo-literates of non-formal education systems and for inclusion in the school curricula at middle/secondary levels. The use of these reading materials is likely to attract the neo-literates to join the post literacy campaigns and make the middle/secondary level students aware of their immediate environment.

Accountability could also be brought about through involvement of local groups/ panchayats in the implementation of programmes. Thus, if the local people are involved in planning, implementation and management of programmes and if the government functionaries are made accountable to the local bodies like the Panchayats or Village Committees, the delivery systems of development programmes are likely to improve. One way of making this operational is to release the salaries of staff of schools and health centres through the PRIs and to deliver benefits under beneficiary-oriented programmes through the local bodies like co-operatives and self-help groups.

(iv) Decentralisation of development planning and administration has the virtue of permitting development strategies and programmes to be customised to the needs of diverse groups of people. Centrally planned strategies tend to be uniform and monolithic and fail to take into account the differences in the characteristics of various population groups. Our socio-economic diversity, ecological variety and cultural heterogeneity point to the inescapability of decentralised decision making. Decentralisation of development planning and people’s participation strengthen the sense of community ownership, the absence of which frequently leads to the failure of many well - conceived programmes. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments have opened up the opportunity of local self-governance. The Gram Sabhas will have to play a leading role in identification of local needs, mobilisation of local resources including human resources, identification of target group beneficiaries and monitoring of implementation of local projects. They should also take up the responsibility of maintaining the community assets like hand pumps etc. In this context, the novel and fruitful experiment of the Kerala Government to organise development planning at the grassroots level through massive campaign of ‘plan literacy’ and mass mobilisation at the Gram Sabha Level needs special mention. Extensive training of personnel at the grass-root level formed a crucial component of the Kerala experiment. Effective decentralisation will, however, critically depend on operationalising the provisions of the Constitution in letter and spirit, not only through holding Panchayat election, but also through devolution of financial powers and capacity building. This is the onerous responsibility of the State Governments. Most of the States have conducted these elections, though only a few of them have initiated new and creative ways of involving the local communities in planning from below by creating District Planning Committees and through capacity building of the elected members. As early as in June 1982, the Planning Commission addressed the States urging them to take steps towards four important aspects of a decentralised district level planning set-up. These were:

  1. effective functional decentralisation,
  2. effective financial decentralisation,
  3. establishment of appropriate planning mechanism at district level and
  4. formulation of appropriate budgeting and reappropriation procedures.

However, no significant progress has been made in this direction so far. Operationalisation of the Planning Commission’s guidelines for effective decentralisation of the planning process calls for systemic changes. One important change required is to link the Finance Commission’s awards to States with the State-level Finance Commissions’ awards to districts. Since this requires political will and legislative actions, the need for generating informed debate and socio-political mobilisation for effective programme implementation gets reinforced. In a limited way, the Planning Commission has made an attempt to address the problem of devolution of financial powers by recommending direct release of the funds for the Centrally Sponsored Programmes to the PRIs, and by asking the States to indicate the PRI component in their annual plans. However, more fundamental changes are required and the Centre and the States must jointly address the relevant issues.

(v) Democratic decentralisation in planning and implementation with people’s participation will, to a large extent, help overcome the problems posed by the vertical operation of multiplicity of development programmes and inefficiency in resource use. Pooling of resources allocated by the Centre and States to programmes in education, health, social welfare and poverty alleviation at the local level will facilitate convergence and inter-programme synergy. Though democratic decentralisation provides the necessary framework for better use of resources, there is no one-to-one correspondence between them. It needs to be supplemented by social mobilisation of the people and meaningful partnership of the Government, voluntary organisations, self-help groups and other actors in civil society. Communication and trust need to be promoted between the grassroots level functionaries and the communities for better community -Government partnership.

During the Ninth Plan an enabling environment for this partnership is proposed to be created through capacity building in public administration and institutional reforms to bring in transparency and effectiveness in the implementation and operation of development programmes. The important areas that warrant reforms relate to: simplification of rules and procedures that would encourage local initiatives; recognition of groups and cooperatives and their formal involvement in the delivery of services under government programmes; devolution of financial powers to the PRIs and amendment of laws so as to enable the local bodies to have control over resources meant for local use, like the village commons’ water resources, fodder, minor forest produce, quarries, etc; data collection systems at district or State level; dissemination of and access to reliable information/ data. Expert bodies consisting of efficient administrators, academicians, social activists and representatives of grassroots level development organisations should be constituted to go into the issues deliberated upon at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on 27th May, 1997, and to identify the specific rules / procedures / laws that need reform to facilitate people’s initiative and action. The role of the government implementing agencies in this new environment must change from direct involvement in the implementation/ delivery of services to that of a provider of support services to improve access to the external inputs and knowledge which the grassroots organisations need for the development of the people. The government agencies should also undertake monitoring and evaluation of various programmes, and dissemination of the best practices. It may, however, be mentioned that institutional reforms in areas where legislative actions and constitutional amendments are required, need sustained effort by a large section of the people. This has been the experience in the past. In one State, the sustained struggle by the people under two organisations has made the Government grant access to development related information to all concerned.

(vi) Monitoring of programmes must be made purposeful. Professional help should be sought to identify the indicators to be monitored so as to ensure that the monitored data actually reflect the performance of the programmes and become useful to the managers in taking the necessary corrective actions. In keeping with the decentralisation of the planning process, there is need for building the evaluation capacity at the State level. The existing evaluation organisations suffer from many weaknesses. Adequate resources will need to be allocated for strengthening the capacity of these organisations both at the Centre and the States. There is also a need for strengthening the evaluation training institutes in the country to impart training not only to the evaluation professionals at various levels but also to the planners and programme administrators to enable them to appreciate the utility of evaluation studies in the programme management cycle and hence, adequate resource allocation for monitoring and evaluation.

(vii) Apart from bringing about an improvement in planning and implementation, the Ninth Plan strategy would place emphasis on measures like shelving or reorienting such schemes whose delivery costs are abnormally high, reducing the number of schemes and building in sustainability of outputs/services as a necessary component of programme formulations. Alternative delivery mechanisms need to be evaluated and the least cost and most cost-effective alternatives should be adopted.

[ Vol1-Index ] - [ Vol2-Index ]
^^ Top
<< Back to Index