NEW DELHI: It has been argued that elected representatives of Panchayat Raj institutions are largely unaware of the political and economic dimensions of development issues and lack planning and managerial skills.
Prime Minister Modi’s Government has changed this mindset by ensuring the involvement of the last man on the line.
Block is an important unit of microlevel planning. These development blocks were created to supervise the implementation of development plans under the Community Development Programme initiated during the First Five Year Plan.
Each district was divided into a number of blocks and each block comprised about 100 villages, with a population of about 60,000. It was thought that with this size of population and extent of area, it may be easier to understand local situations, potentials and problems. It was also felt that this would facilitate people’s involvement and participation in plan formulation and implementation.
Participation of people
The programme visualised mobilisation of local resources, participation of the people in the decision-making and implementation of the development schemes. Hence, a new unit of planning was created at block level under the leadership of a Block Development Officer and a team of various specialists and village-level workers (officers).
The general supervision of the blocks was made by the Block Samitis under the chairmanship of the Block Pramukh and elected representatives. Although the Community Development Programme failed, block continued to become an important unit of microlevel planning below the district The main objective of this planning was to absorb local labour surpluses and greater involvement of people in the formulation and implementation of development plans.
Hence, by the end of 1983, adopt system of block-level planning integrated into national system. The relevance of block-level planning is based on the viable areal and population-size, more of to the regional and local problems, easier identification of target groups, optimum utilisation of regional/local resources, and greater participation of people in plan formulation and implementation. The entire strategy of such planning is based on employment planning, growth centre planning and credit planning.
It is an action-oriented planning pertaining to the development of agriculture, irrigation (mainly minor irrigation), soil conservation, animal husbandry, pisciculture, forestry, minor processing of agricultural products, small and cottage industries, creation of local-level infrastructure, and development of social services like water supply, health, education, shelter, sanitation, local transport, and welfare plan.
Block planning and district planning are closely interlinked and are to be seen as steps in the process of decentralised planning. The plan of the block has to be integrated on the one hand with the plans of district and the state and, on the other, with the plans of sub-units comprising clusters of villages within the block.
While certain types of development schemes, like power generation and major irrigation projects, need to be planned at the state or national level, a number of others can be better matched with local needs and integrated at the block level. Horizontal and vertical linkages are crucial for the success of the block planning exercise.