Block-Level Planningby PR Sarkar
In a decentralized economy, economic planning is to be undertaken for the welfare of the local people. Economic planning will utilize all the mundane and supramundane potentialities of the local area to meet the local requirements.
Factors of Planning
Economic planning should include the following factors – the cost of production, productivity, purchasing capacity and collective necessity.
Cost of production: In many rural economies, it is a traditional practice for farmers and their family members to work in the fields to grow crops. At the time of fixing the price of their produce, they do not calculate the labour costs involved in cultivating the land or pay wages to their family members. Nor do they determine the cost of the tools or machines they use in the fields, or count the other expenses incurred in producing their crops. Hence, they fail to systematically calculate the per unit cost of production. As a result, they incur losses or perpetually get low prices for their produce.
To solve this problem, agriculture must be reorganized and established on the same basis as industry through the cooperative system. According to PROUT, agriculture should be treated as an organized industry. Only then can the per unit cost of production be systematically determined and the poverty of farmers end. Farmers will get proper prices for their commodities and stability in the agricultural sector will be achieved.
In a Proutistic economy, the cost of production should be systematically determined and kept at the minimum level. All industries, including agrico-industries and agro-industries, must see that the cost of producing a particular commodity does not exceed its market value. Every production unit must be economically viable.
Productivity: The economy will have to be organized in such a way that it has its own innate power to produce more and more. Money should be invested – money should be kept rolling rather than hoarded – so that the collective wealth of society is continually increased. This principle guides planners so that maximum production will occur according to the collective needs. There should be increasing production based on consumption and full employment for all local people. Products should be developed wherever raw materials are available, and under utilization of any production unit should not be allowed.
If people are guided by the needs and potentialities of their socio-economic unit, the law of productivity is benign. Maximum production in the economy will provide a congenial environment for more investment, more industrialization, more employment, increasing purchasing capacity and increasing collective wealth in an ever progressive manner.
Purchasing capacity: Planning should also result in the increasing purchasing capacity of every person. PROUT does not support the existing practice of considering the per capita income as the index of people’s economic standard. Per capita income is a deceptive and defective measure of collective wealth popularized by capitalist economists to fool people and cover their exploitation. The genuine measure of people’s economic advancement is increasing purchasing capacity.
To increase people’s purchasing capacity, the easy availability of the minimum requirements, stable prices, progressive, periodic increases in wages and salaries, and increasing collective wealth must be ensured.
In a Proutistic economy, there will be no limit to purchasing capacity – that is, purchasing capacity will be ever increasing. The minimum requirements must be guaranteed and should always be increased according to time, space and person, and this can best be done by continuously increasing the purchasing capacity of the people in relation to the economic development of the concerned socio-economic unit. The greater the purchasing power of the people, the higher their standard of living.
Collective necessity: Planners will also have to consider the existing collective needs as well as the future requirements of a socio-economic unit, and chalk out their developmental programmes accordingly. In India, many industries have been established but the production of electricity has not been increased. Through lack of proper planning, power production has lagged behind industrial development. This is especially evident in Bengal and Bihar.
Most importance should be given to the production of the minimum requirements, so planners will have to make provision for the minimum requirements of all, but the requirements of both meritorious people and those with special needs should not be neglected, otherwise the requirements of the age will not be met.
Planning should function on various levels such as the block, district, state, national and global levels, but block-level planning will be the basic level of planning. Block-level planning is essential for economic decentralization, so it should be adopted in all blocks. There should be provision in the constitution for block-level planning for socio-economic development. The amount of natural and human resources varies from block to block, hence separate economic plans will have to be made for each and every block. There should be a block-level planning board in every block for this purpose. The block-level planning body will prepare a plan for the development of the block and accordingly implement the local developmental programmes. Above the block level there will be a district-level planning board. Thus, from the block level upwards, there will be planning boards to prepare and implement the local plans and programmes. It must be remembered that planning should be of ascending order, starting at the block level, and including all the levels of a socio-economic unit.
Most blocks are currently demarcated on the basis of political considerations. PROUT does not support such divisions. Block divisions should be reorganized according to such factors as the physical features of the area (including river valleys, varying climatic conditions, topography, the nature of the soil, the type of flora and fauna, etc.), the socio-economic requirements and problems of the people, and their physico-psychic aspirations. Thus, blocks should be scientifically and systematically demarcated as the basis for efficient decentralized economic planning.
Each block should be made economically sound so that the entire socio-economic unit will be self-sufficient. Only then will a country or federation become economically strong and developed in the real sense. This is a unique feature of PROUT’s decentralized economic planning. When planning is prepared for the all-round growth of a single block exclusively, it is called “intra-block planning”. Each block must have its own developmental plan, adjusting with the overall plan of the socio-economic unit at its various levels.
However, there are problems which traverse block boundaries and cannot be tackled or solved by one block alone, such as flood control, river valley projects, communication systems, higher educational institutions, afforestation projects, the environmental impact of development, the establishment of key industries, soil erosion, water supply, power generation, the establishment of an organized market system, etc. So, cooperation among blocks is necessary. Planning among blocks is called “inter-block planning”. Inter-block planning is an economic venture into some selected fields to organize and harmonize socio-economic development in a few adjoining blocks through mutual coordination and cooperation.
At each and every level of planning, there should be short-term and long-term planning. In all cases, the maximum time limit for short-term planning should be six months, and the maximum time limit for long-term planning should be three years. Short-term and long-term plans should be drafted in such a way that they are complementary to each other. The immediate goals of planning at each level are to guarantee the minimum requirements of the local people, eliminate unemployment, increase purchasing capacity and make socio-economic units self-sufficient.
Benefits of Block-Level Planning
There are many benefits to block-level planning. The area of planning is small enough for the planners to understand all the problems of the area; local leadership will be able to solve the problems according to local priorities; planning will be more practical and effective and will give quick, positive results; local socio-cultural bodies can play an active role in mobilizing human and material resources; unemployment will be easily solved; the purchasing capacity of the local people will be enhanced; and a base for a balanced economy will be established. The development of local industries will provide immediate economic benefits.
The unemployment problem will be rapidly solved, and in a short time it will be possible to create a congenial environment for permanent full employment. In fact, the only way to solve unemployment and bring about full employment throughout the world is by developing block-level industries. The growth of local industries will provide social security to the local people and create greater opportunities for their all-round advancement, because all their basic needs will be met.
The population of every socio-economic unit should be organized on a scientific basis. The problem of a floating population should be tackled on the block level itself. Where there is a floating population, it should be either permanently settled or returned to its original region. Differences in Planning
Differences in planning for different regions are natural. The planning for the Punjab and the Cauvery Valleys will be the different for 3 reasons:
- The Jehlam, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej Rivers in the Punjab are all of Himalayan origin.
They provide a perennial source of water because they are ice fed. The Punjab rivers maintain their existence with the help of molten ice. But the rivers of the Cauvery Valley – the Tungabhadra and Cauvery – are of Ghat origin; that is, they originate in the Eastern Ghat and the Western Ghat. They depend upon seasonal rainfall. Although there are two rainy seasons in a year in the Cauvery Valley, they are not perennial sources of water because they are not ice fed. No hydroelectricity can be generated from the Cauvery Valley rivers because of the uncertainty of the water supply, but hydroelectricity can be generated at the Bhakhra Nangal Dam because the rivers in the Punjab contain water throughout the year.
- The Cauvery Valley is nearer to the equator and has an extreme climate.
The Punjab also has an extreme climate, but this is due to the different winds coming from the northwest and the east. The Cauvery Valley does not depend on any winds. Climatic variations will have to be considered in areas such as agriculture and power generation.
- The central portion of the Cauvery Valley consists of wavy, laterite soil and is called the Deccan Plateau.
There is a small slice of land situated between the hills and the sea which is comprised of alluvial soil and plain land. Only a small portion of the Deccan Plateau contains alluvial soil. The Punjab is plain land. The Deccan peninsula consists of four coasts – the Utkal Coast, stretching from the Mahanadi to Godavari; the Coromandel Coast, from Godavari to Cape Comorin; the Malabar Coast, from Cape Comorin to Goa; and the Konkan Coast, from Goa to Gujarat.
These coastal areas are not composed of wavy land. These coastal portions are known as the granaries of India. In the Telengana area of the Deccan Plateau, there is a chronic shortage of food. In the Cauvery Valley, the eastern coastal area – the Coromandel area – should chalk out a developmental programme. The Deccan Plateau can grow palmyra trees but not coconut trees, whereas the coastal areas can grow both.
A proper approach to planning will take into account all the relevant factors before development schemes are implemented.