Devolution to States Should Be Bharatiya Approach to Development

 "Perhaps most importantly, the institution must adhere to the tenet that while incorporating positive influences from the world, no single model can be transplanted  from outside into the Indian scenario. We need to find our own strategy for growth.  The new institution has to zero in on what will work in and for India.   It will be a Bharatiya approach to development".

The above is an excerpt from the press note of NITI Aayog, the institution that replaces the Planning Commission. It is true that successful approaches to development and progressive economic policies cannot be replicated across the globe. A model that works for one county may not fit another. The social challenges, the economic challenges and priorities are vastly different. Policies should also consider various sociocultural traits, and should be designed such that they not only help achieve development in the given cultural setting but also minimize any conflicts between development models and the cultural complexion.

Given this, it is obvious that India is different in itself and development models and policies that work in, let us say, Italy, or Germany, surely cannot be replicated here. Countries can learn from the accumulated experience of others and frame models and policies that suit their own characteristics. But will a county-wide policy work for India?

India has always tried to hold power at its Centre and has devolved very less to the states. The number of subjects that the states have jurisdiction over have been going down and the number that have moved to the Concurrent and the Union lists have increased. Whether it is finance and banking, railways, insurance, or aviation, policies are defined by the Union. This, needless to say, has resulted in approaches, often misaligned with local needs and priorities. It is being said that the NITI Aayog is setup with the objective of involving states in economic-policy making, in the name of ‘Co-operative Federalism’, but unless the states have enough autonomy to plan and device their own policies and schemes, the result will be the delivery of progress (from the Union) lacking any synchronization with local development needs.

Just the way Italy and Germany are different, Kerala and Haryana, for example, are quite different. Beti Bachao Abhiyan may be very relevant to Haryana, while it makes very little sense to Kerala. The Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, remarked that both Beti Bachao Abhiyan and Jan Dhan Yojana are irrelevant to Kerala as the state had already achieved high standards in the areas that these two schemes are devised to address.

Kerala, historically, has had a healthy sex ratio. In fact, its sex ratio went up from 1058 females to 1000 males in 2001 to 1084 females to 1000 males in 2011. Though Haryana bettered from 861 in 2001 to 877 in 2011 the state’s numbers are definitely worrying. The state Government of Haryana would be best placed to understand the true nature and the intensity of the issue, and address it accordingly. The design of the program, the kind of campaigns required to popularize and implement it, the challenges and hurdles, and the required funds are all better known to the state than to the Union. So, it is far better to leave the design and implementation of such programs to the states than have the Union roll out projects of such scale uniformly across the country that are often irrelevant to many regions and states.

Hence, in different aspects of development like education, health care and other human development indices, infrastructure, industries and entrepreneurship, agriculture, sociocultural issues and various other parameters, each state is unique in itself. A top-down approach to policy-making can be regressive, and may often work against the objectives of organized development. There can be no single ‘Bharatiya’ approach to development much like there can be no one model for the whole world. The Union should play the role of a facilitator to the states, rather than getting further into the centralizing business in an already centralized scheme of things if India should aspire for a healthy, sustainable, and all-round development.

(Image source: thehindubusinessline)


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