Local Level Planning

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Local Level Planning planning at grassroots level. The process appears to be a synonym for bottom-up approach beginning at the level of grassroots. In more specific terms, local level planning is a process of development from below which considers development to be based on optimum utilisation of each local area's natural, human and institutional resources with the primary objectives of improving the socio-economic conditions of the people of that area. The development activities based on this premise must be taken as an integral process of widening opportunities for individuals, social groups, and geographically organised communities at the small and intermediate scale, and mobilising the full range of their capabilities and resources for the common benefit in social, economic and political terms.

Justification for local level planning stems from the realisation that conventional top-down approach to development planning has widened the gap between 'aspiration' and 'achievement'. Participation of the local people in such approach in identifying their own problems and determining their practices is institutionally constrained. In Bangladesh, over the last two decades, top-down planning process has been widely practiced with a limited devolution of planning responsibilities to local government institutions. The significance of local level planning lies in the fact that local institutions as self-sustained organic units under the scheme of devolution of power are capable of tapping dormant local resources both human and natural. Apart from the participation of rural people, NGO representatives and officials of various 'extension' agencies in planning exercises is a potent way of going deep into the objective conditions of life, level of living, shortage of basic amenities, technological issues. Another point of advantage of local level planning is the preparation of plans after thorough study of the public demands, situation, sentiments and resources of the locality.

Local level planning requires 'functional community organisation' to ensure popular participation both in formulation and implementation of planning processes. As an institution for the preparation of local level planning the whole community is organised into various functional groups, such as women group, youth group, small/landless farmer group, religious group, cultural organisations and occupational groups like fishermen, weavers, small traders, barbers, rickshaw pullers etc. As a matter of fact, functional community organisation at the local level calls for establishing a close relation between the village and the central administration through a three tier local government, union, thana/upazila and district.

At present, the forefront of public policy regarding democratic participation is local level planning. It is intended to institutionalise participatory planning at the village, union, thana and district levels. Local representatives elected on the basis of adult franchise are empowered to gratify the interest of their local electors and to appear as potential influentials to instill a sense of actions and direction. They are supposed to enable the people to come to know whether programme components of development plans are desirable and implementable through the involvement of the target population.

The experience of the bangladesh academy for rural development (BARD), located in Comilla, on local level planning is of particular importance. Since its inception as a promotional institution of rural development, Bard has been trying to evolve appropriate programme measures of participatory rural development with emphasis on cooperative, decentralised rural administration, modern technologies, credit operation and self-development projects. The Bard with its rich experience of experimentation with a series of rural development models appears to play a pioneering role in bringing out a desirable transformation in peasant communities. Nowadays, the contribution of BARD to ruralisation of development takes a new dimension and significance. The activities undertaken by Bard in recent phase of its experimentation touch upon comprehensive village development with emphasis on participatory local level planning.

All the spatially structured units have been organised for the purpose of planning under participatory framework of action. In that framework the village is the smallest unit of organisation, and as such the key element in local level planning as a manifestation of planning at the grassroots. Local level planning at this point, purports to harness mobilisation of village talents organising common people for participatory action. It is a sort of micro-planning with community involvement with the purpose of enabling the villagers to identify specific problems, think about their solution and mobilise resources, money, materials and manpower for execution.

Thana/Upazila takes an intermediary position and as such functions as a seat of backward-forward linkage in the whole gamut of local level planning. The union parishad prepares its blue print of socio-economic development including important programmes and projects for consolidation into what is called' Thana Development Plan (TDP), which seems comparatively much effective and functional. In effect TDP is designed to function as a planning unit with the expert and well trained resource persons and professionals, and is expected to take prompt action for allocation of fund and arrangement of service delivery. District occupies a central position in development administration. It is a link between the central government and all its field units at the local points. [Md Shairul Mashreque]