Urban Governance: JNNURM, District planning committees

Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM)

JNNURM has been a path breaking scheme, which extended the scope of government sponsored development initiatives to urban areas in addition to rural areas. JNNURM can be termed as a direct outcome of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, which ensures urban sector reforms to strengthen municipal governance. The objective of JNNURM is to improve the quality of life and infrastructure in the cities. After the completion of its first phase in 2012 the scheme has been further extended for two years till 2014. Now the plans are on to launch the second 10-year phase of JNNURM. JNNURM-II would not only focus on the current cities but also the smaller cities with population five lakhs and above.

Successes of JNNURM

  1. Its uniqueness lies in linking federal grants to reform governance. It has helped raise awareness and concern about problems of urban growth and management. Urban matters are now more widely talked about than ever before
  2. It has helped in the expansion of sewage collection, treatment and sanitation to enable more hygienic environment in the cities
  3. With the launch of JNNURM, the environment for implementation of schemes in the PPP mode has become more congenial
  4. JNNURM has managed to provide a strong impetus to investments in urban sector and incentivized cities to develop sustainable investment frameworks through service delivery reforms and cost recovery of services provided.
  5. Many of the urban spaces have become liveable again and some of the notable achievements in this regards are 24×7 water supply in some cities, Ahmedabad Bus Rapid Transit System, property tax collection system in Bengaluru etc.
  6. The mission has partially contributed to the achievement of MDGs like providing sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, ensuring environmental sustainability and the eradication of slums and to achieve significant improvement in lives.

Federal aspect of JNNURM

The 74th CAA calls upon states to provide the municipalities with adequate powers, mainly due to a major lack of capacity within the local bodies, to handle enhanced responsibilities. This was however helped by the general reluctance of many states in transferring powers to the lower tiers of governments, namely, the municipalities.

JNNURM aimed at addressing the two parts of the problem together by incorporating the issue of delegation of powers from the states to the municipalities and enhancing the capacities of local bodies, as part of the programme package.

It provided financial assistance to the states and the local bodies to undertake listing down of good practices, exchange of ideas among the peer group and strengthening the training institutions.

At the same time, the JNNURM made it mandatory for states to commit to empower the municipal bodies adequately, in line with the 74th CAA and also to commit to bring about fundamental reforms, which lay in the domain of the state governments and on which the municipal bodies had no control, such as introducing an arrangement of clear and enforceable titles of the proper.

Planning for Local Governments

Before the advent of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, Zila Parishad and Municipal bodies were entrusted with the planning and allocation of resources at the district level. The 74th CAA made provisions for the constitution of a Planning Committee at the district level, with a view to consolidate the plans prepared by the Panchayats and the Municipalities and prepare a development plan for the district as a whole.

District Planning Committees (DPCs)

District Planning Committee (DPC) is the committee created as per article 243ZD of the Constitution of India at the district level [1] for planning at the district and below. The Committee in each district should consolidate the plans prepared by the Panchayats and the Municipalities in the district and prepare a draft development plan for the district.

In preparing the draft development plan, the DPC shall have regard to matters of common interest between the panchayats and the municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation and the extent and type of available resources, both financial or otherwise.

The DPC in this endeavor is also mandated to consult such institutions and organizations as may be specified. In order that the plans at different levels are prepared, there is need to strengthen the system comprising the machinery of planning and the process of consolidation of plans at the district level.

Problems of DPCs

  1. In most States DPCs are yet to function as envisaged in the Constitution. They neither consolidate nor prepare draft district developmental plans.
  2. Very few States are preparing district plans even though some of them allocate funds to the district sector
  3. In several States, where there is no separation of the budget into District and State sectors, allocation of funds to Panchayats does not match the legislative devolution of functions to them.
  4. Funds given to Panchayats are tied down to schemes, thus limiting the scope for determining and addressing local priorities through a planning exercise. In this regard, CSSs pertaining to functions devolved to Panchayats now constitute the largest element of such tied funds.
  5. Actual provision in State budgets also differs from the gross outlays communicated. Some States do not provide matching funds to Centrally Sponsored Schemes, reducing the actual flow of funds for such Schemes to local governments.
  6. Planning is of poor quality and is generally a mere collection of schemes and works, many of the works suggested by elected panchayat members themselves is an ad-hoc manner.

Way ahead for District level Planning

  1. The guidelines issued by the Planning Commission pertaining to the preparation of the plan for the district and the recommendations of the Expert Group regarding the planning process at the district level should be strictly implemented.
  2. Each State Government should develop the methodology of participatory local level planning and provide such support as is necessary to institutionalise a regime of decentralised planning.
  3. States may design a planning calendar prescribing the time limits within which each local body has to finalise its plan and send it to the next higher level, to facilitate the preparation of a comprehensive plan for the district
  4. State Planning Boards should ensure that the district plans are integrated with the State plans that are prepared by them. It should be made mandatory for the States to prepare their development plans only after consolidating the plans of the local bodies. The National Planning Commission has to take the initiative in institutionalising this process.
  5. For urban districts where town planning functions are being done by Development Authorities, these authorities should become the technical/planning arms of the DPCs and ultimately of the District Council.
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