Planning From Below

B. D. Sharma

Formalisation Institutions and Size of their Operations
Felt-Needs Community and its Environment
Skills for Improvement Intricacies of Local Systems
Understanding the Absorption Pattern Individual as Distinct from Statistical Abstract
Equalitarian Social Structure Planning for Concentric Circles
Non-Recognition of Traditional Rights Totality of the Micro-World
Unfamiliarity with the New System Utilising Local Institutions
  Correcting Basic Equations

[A mathematician turned bureaucrat turned activist, Dr. Brahma Dev Sharma is a man of original ideas which often run counter to commonly held ideas particularly with regard to the population who are a class apart from ‘our class’. His ideas remind the classic statement of Einstein: "A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels." His training in mathematics (he is a Ph.D. in mathematics and started his career as a Lecturer in Mathematics) had made him analytical and careful about the choice of his premises such that his arguments do not suffer from internal inconsistencies, his engagement as a bureaucrat could enable him to see simultaneously the vastness of the possibilities to serve the people and limitation of a bureaucrat to fully exploit these possibilities, his indulgence in activism brought him closer to the people to share their woes and sufferings being one with them. As a bureaucrat serving in the tribal dominated areas of erstwhile state of Madhya Pradesh, particularly Bastar of present state of Chhatisgarh, his target people were tribal people of the area. Their plight stirred him, their exploitation shocked him, the neglect towards them was awful. How to improve their lot-worried him. A theoretical basis as well as a committed implementation, he looked forward to. Here we reproduce, with the permission of Dr. Sharma, a portion of the Chapter entitled Planning From Below from his book Planning For Tribal Development published in the year 1984 by Prachi Prakashan, New Delhi, India.-Managing Editor]

    Planning from below is a much wider concept. It envisages that the structure and the texture of the State and the national plans themselves must be determined on the basis of a consensus amongst the people which can be articulated only through preparation of micro-level plans and adopting the approach of planning from below. Or else, both the State and Central plans, even at their best, cannot but be an elitist view of the national, regional and local problems, priorities and their solutions.

    It may, however, be noted that the plan formulation at the State or at the national level and planning from below cannot be two mutually exclusive processes. Whatever may be the planning methodology, elements of both these processes in varying proportions appear inevitable in all methodologies of planning. An ideal situation would be where the national or State plans provide a general frame while the content is largely determined by local priorities. In case certain programmes are formulated at higher levels with reference to the national or regional priorities, their implications for the concerned local areas must be spelt out and adequate counterpart provisions should be built in the plans for balancing the local development profile. The need for such an approach increases as we move from the general advanced areas to situations in the backward tribal areas, which are significantly different or may have even extreme conditions. One important element of the new strategy for tribal development is that planning for tribal development should be with reference to the specific economic conditions in each area as also the specific social situation of different communities. Life in these areas is so simple and undifferentiated that the plan, even at the micro-level, must cover all aspects of life of the community. The plans at the successive higher levels with reference to the tribal areas should provide the frame and support for action at the operational points.

    The planning for tribal areas has to begin at a level, which is near enough to the people. The unit for these plans has to be much smaller than a district. Even within a block, plans may have to be prepared for appropriate sub-regions. The methodology for preparation of the micro-level area development plans at different levels will have to be so designed that the focus is on the development of the tribal community. The dilemma that an area plan may not necessarily be a plan for the development of the people living in that area, particularly with reference to the tribal areas, is quite obvious. Even a micro-level plan may be designed purely in an area development frame and may not serve the people in an adequate measure. Many a concept accepted in the planning lore may have explicit or implicit consequences for the weaker sections of the community; the organisational structure which may be accepted as a given condition at least in the short run may have certain operational constraints or compulsions which may not be fully consistent with the accepted goals; the people themselves may be faced with choices in the planning process whose meaning may not be clear to them, thus leading to rather unconscious decisions; and so on.

    It will be necessary to examine critically the concepts, formulations, organisations, systems, decision-making processes, etc. in the context of the imperatives of planning from below in the tribal areas. We may begin with the phenomenon of formalisation, which permeates all facets of modern life. Modern life is increasingly depending on a maze of institutions, which must operate rationally and predictably, if they are to contribute their bits to the larger system.


    Formalisation is an important aspect of modern administration, which has permeated the planning process in all its facets. The final decision-making levels in the various programmes under the present system are far away from the operational level where a reasonable interaction between the system and the people for whom the plans are being prepared, cannot be expected to enable the decision makers to take decisions in the context of the emerging situations from time to time. In view of this large gulf, it is quite natural that certain norms should gradually develop at decision-making levels for various programmes. The strong bureaucratic preference for being guided by precedent has its way. Consequently it is easier, both for programme formulators and for those responsible for its approval, to conform to certain well-established norms.

    While technical input in some programme formulation exercises is of a high order, there is no built-in system to plan with reference to the specific problems of each area. In fact, there has been considerable reinforcement of technical expertise in planning and programme formulation at the State and the national levels. But this expertise is largely academic; they have greater familiarity with the problems of the more advanced areas. It very often pertains to the conceptual and theoretical frames of Western societies. On the other hand, the initiative at the field level rests entirely with the administrators who are not familiar with the use of such sophisticated frames for articulating the felt-needs of the area. The result is a serious communication gap between the field and the planning forums, which continues to grow. Only in a few cases, where certain felt-needs become very strong or where there are other manifestations of grave severity that the formal frame may give way and problems of the field may get adequately reflected in the planning process. These mutations in programme formulation, however, willy-nilly again pass through the familiar process of formalisation. Innovation of today becomes the routine of tomorrow. In the absence of a flexible frame it is difficult to plan with reference to the needs of the area and the people.


    The problem of identifying the felt-needs of the people is a complex one. 'People' itself is an abstract concept. It is our common experience that all shades of demands are ascribed to the 'People'. In the more backward areas, this is even more difficult because the people in general are inarticulate. A small elite may project its own needs as the people's needs. Since it may be the only group which comes in contact with the administration or even with the political leadership, its demand is taken as a genuine people's demand. Sometimes it may so happen, that even this group may not be giving expression to what it feels is necessary for the people. They may just be putting forward a demand because an answer has to be given when someone talks about development and asks them as to what they would like to be taken up. They may have observed a number of things happening all around. They may just name some of them without meaning anything serious, which may be taken as the demand of the people. In some cases, they may even do so to please the lower bureaucracy or they may be just echoing what the administration wants them to say. Sometimes, some demands may be made just because it may be a matter of prestige for the individual, community or the village. For example, big pan-chayat bhawans in the early community development programme did not come up as something in response to the felt-need. Once the idea of panchayat bhawans was put forward and one village accepted it, others too made a demand for similar structures so as to keep up with their peers.

    Sometimes, a superficial cause and effect relationship is sought to be established between some specific programmes, so as to impart aura of respectability to such programmes. For example, development generally gets associated with a road development programme. It is a moot point whether the road programme follows development or precedes it. The fact, that in the comparatively advanced areas road programme seems to go with development, is considered sufficient to support the premise that road construction in the less developed areas will necessarily usher in a new era of progress and advancement. However, when road construction is taken up without building up a suitable economic base, the communication network tends to grow in isolation. Some benefits may accrue to the area which, however, would pertain to small section of the community. While some may gain substantially, for the common man, the advantage is marginal which may be projected as a great achievement and indicator of progress. Thus an impression of development may be created where in reality nothing worthwhile may have been achieved.

    Another problem in assessing the felt-needs in any area is the lack of a clear perspective about the possible alternative choices for investment. The sectoral programmes are usually prepared at the national level or at the State level. A local area can get the benefit from each programme to the extent it can register its claim on that programme. This process repeats itself in relation to each programme under every sector. Therefore, there is a tendency to present as wide a charter of demands as possible so that the area can get maximum share from as many programmes as possible. This strategy gives the impression of maximising the total investment in an area. In this context, it is difficult to work out rational inter-sectoral or intra-sectoral priorities for each area. The choice in our plans is not between alternative patterns of investments but the decision has to be on a 'take it or leave it' basis. Thus even if the community is associated with the planning for an area, they may be influenced by considerations of expediency. It is quite natural that the rationale for all programmes is sought and fully projected in every proposal. On the other hand, if choice were available to the local community within an overall financial ceiling, they will be required to exercise their judgement and make a rational choice. Then it would be possible for them to work out a better choice-schedule with reference to the specific problems of their area.

    The aspirations of the elite group sometimes tend to guide the national priorities which may not be in consonance with the priorities of a local area. For instance, take the case of the National Programme of Minimum Needs. It covers elementary education, drinking water facilities, approach road to all villages with a population of one thousand or more, medical facilities of a certain standard, rural electrification programme, etc. The concept of 'minimum needs' in this programme assumes a certain level of satisfaction of other basic needs— like food and clothing. It is true that in the more backward areas, there is a wide gap between the level of available social services and the minimum level in respect of various items included in this programme. But the basic needs for the very subsistence and survival of some communities in many areas may remain to be satisfied, while investment may be made for the not-so-very-necessary minimum needs.

    Such a contradiction may not be fully appreciated at the national level because it is presumed that the general development programme in the country would take care of other crucial aspects not covered by the Minimum Needs Programme in that area. There is no mechanism for ensuring that these presumptions are fulfilled in each area. The programme-profiles in the backward areas are usually unbalanced. Therefore, when these programmes are put on the ground in specific areas, contradictions arise which may baffle the common man. Heavy investments may be made on certain facilities, which are not just required. On the other hand, adequate resources may not be available for other basic needs. To the extent such a balance is not achieved in a specific situation, it only means unrealistic planning for that region. It is on this ground that the Minimum Needs Programme was kept flexible in its application to tribal areas. But in practice the raison d'etre of this flexibility remains to be fully appreciated by the concerned sectoral authorities. They may continue to be guided by the uniform norms fof the general areas in the case of tribal areas also till such time as a more powerful micro-planning frame gets fully accepted.

    While identification of the felt-needs is an important element in the exercise for planning from below there are other important constraints, which will also need to be carefully assessed. Planning from below should really mean making a start from the last man. It is necessary to identify those programmes, which can benefit him. In this process, the most important task is to free oneself completely from the conceptual frames and priorities valid for other socio-economic situations. They tend to be borrowed without appreciating the implications to the change in the context. Similarly, there are numerous preconceptions about what is desirable for the last man. These will also need to be shaken off.

Skills for Improvement

    If we start from the poorest man, the most important question is his capacity to absorb the benefits of the new economic system. Every socio-economic system has its own complement of technical skills. A change in the system makes older skills obsolete and if a person is to fit in the new system, new skills are necessary. But new technical skills cannot be acquired instantaneously. For example, when we consider a programme for shifting cultivators, the only serious constraint may be that of imparting the necessary technical skills for settled cultivation to the community. It is easy to allot land, provide implements, bullocks and other agriculture inputs. But for the success of the programme, the tribal should know how to plough. This skill is universal in the more advanced agricultural tribal communities and, therefore, is taken for granted even for an entirely different situation arising in a different tribal area. The pre-agriculture communities may take a long time before they can acquire these elementary skills. In fact, agricultural operations, which appear to be simple, are a package of extremely complex elements. This complexity goes Unnoticed because these elements are so very common and familiar to the planners. The common lore about ignorance of the village folk in the higher circles is also responsible for this Situation. Switching over to settled cultivation will not only require a shifting cultivator to master the technique of ploughing but he will have to acquire the art of keeping the drought animals, training the young calves for use in plough, to master new techniques like the choice of time for sowing, selection of seeds, weeding operations, harvesting at the right time, etc. It has to be appreciated that a slip at any one of the numerous points in the complex calander of agricultural activities and a rather long cycle of its operations may upset the entire pro-gramme bringing all his efforts to a nought.

    Thus, it is quite clear that the intricacies and complexities of the simple skills, which are necessary for taking up a new programme, may not be fully appreciated unless a special effort is made to look at the problem from the other end. We may now turn to the other side of the same process. In the first instance, there is inadequate appreciation of the skills, which the members of the simple tribal communities have. The result in terms of planning for the common man is therefore quite unsatisfactory. The local skills may not even be identified. In fact, sometimes the tribal is treated as a completely unskilled individual who perhaps needs to be taught everything modern. 'Such a view is primarily due to the lack of knowledge about their socio-economic situation. This elitist perception is also influenced by the long distance between the policy-makers and the people; individual distinctions tend to fade out. This is one of the most elementary obstacles to realistic planning.

    Tribal communities, in terms of skills of their individual members, are perhaps the highest skilled groups. The advanced communities score over them only on account of specialisation and organisation. Individual in a complex organisation loses simpler skills in a wider field and acquires increasingly sophisticated skills in narrow fields. In this process, the group as a whole acquires a much higher level of various skills. The organisational input gives it a frame, a form and viability. But the members of the advanced groups as individuals are no matches to the individual members of the simpler societies. Therefore, the absence of a high level of specialised skills cannot be interpreted as non-existence of any skill.

    Planning from below, to be realistic, must start with identification of these skills. It should proceed with careful selection of skill-points on whose foundation new skills can be built up. This would be the easiest method for bringing the unfamiliar new elements of specialisation within the reach of the group. For example, if those members of the community who are skilled blacksmiths, no matter how crude their skill may be in relation to those in the advanced communities, are selected for higher specialisation in related skills, it will be easier for them to pick up the new skills. On the other hand, if those persons, who may have never tried their hand at the hammer, are picked up for training in a mechanical skill, the experiment will have little chance of success.

Understanding the Absorption Pattern

    Another fact of the process of change is the way the local community reacts to the new contact. A clear appreciation of this process will provide a greater insight and may help in identifying the softer points and areas of resistance in the traditional culture. Spread-effect is a well-known phenomenon. Each community usually borrows and accepts new ideas from its neighbours. This absorption is selective and its quantum depends on numerous socio-psychological factors. The natural inclination of each local community to accept new ideas and their experience so far should be identified. If the areas of easier acceptance are known, it may be possible to reinforce those processes and stimulate a faster pace of change without disrupting the social fabric.

    Rejection and acceptance are two facets of the same phenomenon. Development, in the case of tribal communities, implies a fast structural change in their economy with far-reaching consequences for the social system itself. There is a natural tendency in a group to prefer status quo. Anything unfamiliar tends to be treated as a risk. The community might have already got exposed to some unpalatable interactions, which may have developed into sensitive spots. One adverse encounter might lead a group to reject everything new. They may withdraw into a protective shell and simulate complete insulation. If the community has to be drawn out of its shell special attention will have to be paid to their sensitive spots. If the community can be reassured, it would be in a better receptive mood. Some of the special features of the tribal situation which will need special attention are discussed in the following paragraphs.

i. Equalitarian Social Structure

    It has to be appreciated that the tribal communities usually do not comprise competitive sub-groups particularly in the earlier stages of their development. Therefore, in their case, the acceptance or rejection of an idea is more likely to be a group decision of the community as a whole. In an equalitarian situation, particularly when the community spirit is high, the arithmetic of profit and loss is not in terms of the number of individuals benefited or affected. In certain situations, if even one individual is adversely affected by a new programme, it may lead to a complete rejection by the community, notwithstanding the fact that a much larger number of persons may have been benefited. In many tribal communities it is a common practice to hold lavish feasts for gaining social recognition, which primarily aim at liquidation of accumulated surplus with its individual members. If only certain sections of the community get the benefit of new developments and grow rich, the resultant disparity may go against the traditional code, and the programme may not be a welcome one. In this context, the individual benefits computed by the planners may have no meaning for the recipient group. Special care has to be taken of the likely points of adverse impact which can become a matter of concern to all. They should be clearly identified and expeditious corrective measures adopted.

    The discordant issues may arise both in relation to social matters and economic life. These issues may also be institutional in character. For example, the first manifestation of the new contact with a modern economy may have adverse social implications. A self-regulating community may find itself unable to face the stronger groups. A well-known phenomenon in the backward areas is the large-scale illicit relations of migrants with the tribal girls and shattering of the traditional moral code leading to a serious situation of social disorganisation. These aspects cannot be brushed aside merely as manifestations of human weakness. If the society, which has been managing its affairs for centuries, is not able to cope up with the intruder, its instinctive and rational reaction could be to withdraw and shun all new contact. Unless the traditional society is given adequate authority to manage its affairs in a way, which it is used to, and allow it to deal with the outsiders on terms of equality and protect itself, other measures may prove to be of no avail.

ii. Non-Recognition of Traditional Rights

    Another situation of conflict arises when there is dissonance between the traditional view about property rights and the new concepts borrowed from advanced areas and supported by the general law. For example, a tribal community may consider itself as the master of the area of its de facto control. The effective extension of the modern administrative and legal framework may really mean non-recognition of the traditional tribal rights over land and forests. In such a situation, the first reaction of the tribal community will be to reject everything associated with the new system, which is seen as an instrument in the denial of the continued enjoyment of their customary rights over the resources. Therefore, if steps could be taken to harmonise the traditional rights and the modern frame, it may be possible to protect the tribal interest and give him a sense of confidence to deal with the new system. It may also result in an optimum utilisation of the natural resources for development in general.

iii. Unfamiliarity with the New System

    The institutional infrastructure is an integral part of the total developmental system whose fabric has to be so designed that it is consistent with that system. Important changes— economic, social, legal—take place in various institutions as development programmes are taken up in an area. The utility of an institutional system to a community depends on the degree of their understanding of the system and also on the idealism and sense of service amongst the members manning the system. The tribal communities may not be able to cope with the changes in the existing institutions and organisations. For example, even the police station may be an unfamiliar place to him. Since the tribal is not adept in dealing with the system, he may look upon the police station as an instrument of assistance to the intruding groups. The simple tribal looks upon everything unfamiliar to his own small world as alien and as representing the new authority. Here it is essential that the role of administrative and developmental institutions is properly appreciated by the local community. Similarly, the administrative officers, the police force, the executive agencies and the extension services should be properly oriented to be able to appreciate the tribal world-view and the complexities of the tribal situation. These steps should be an integral part of micro-level planning in the tribal areas where the need for inculcating a sense of confidence in the community should be underlined.

Institutions and Size of their Operations

    Institutions play a crucial role not only in the implementation of developmental plans but also greatly influence the quality of the plan programmes themselves. The structure of the institutions in its turn depends on the tasks accepted as desirable goals in the overall policy frame. Moreover the institutions also have their own traditions, perceptions and priorities. The size of operations of various institutions is an important factor, which influences the planning process.

    Let us take the case of institutional finance for various programmes. The banking institutions are attuned to operations of a very large size in the modern sectors of the economy. Therefore, whenever they take up any schemes in the rural areas, it is difficult for them to adapt and adjust to the requirements of an average cultivator in terms of the quality and the content of services, their scheduling and the quantum of financial assistance. Even when they consciously try to scale down the size of their schemes, the moderate scheme may still be too big for the cultivator. For example, a loan of five to ten thousand rupees may ordinarily appear to be of a very small denomination to a bank. But if we look at the same transaction with reference to an average artisan in the more backward areas, this may be too large a sum. His requirements may range between Rs 50 and Rs 500. It is the smaller schemes which are really of great concern and crucial for the development of individuals coming within the fold of modern economy for the first time in the backward areas. These aspects should attract the attention of the* banking institutions. If such a conscious adaptation is not made, these institutions may cater to the needs of a very small elite group notwithstanding the fact that they formally operate in the rural areas. These people could afford to approach them even otherwise. Moreover their interest may come in conflict with those of the larger sections of the population.

    There is another aspect to the same problem. Sometimes an institution in its anxiety to help the really poor may inadvertently inflate their small needs. For example, an artisan may be given an advance of Rs 10,000 which, a modest amount for the bank, is far in excess of his requirement. This may land him in trouble because he may not be able to handle such a large amount. He may waste the money on not-so-very essential items of personal or social consumption. Or he may be simply cheated in such a transaction by the go-betweens. As a result, he may become insolvent and get economically ruined.

    The various co-operative financing institutions appeared on the scene with a clear objective of reaching the small man. Even these institutions tend to address the average cultivator and operate at a comparatively higher level than what is required by the small man in the more backward areas. For example, a tribal may require just a few rupees, about ten to twenty, for meeting his immediate needs. A moneylender advances him on demand such small or even comparatively bigger amounts at any time of the day or night without necessarily insisting on any formality. But a co-operative may be obliged to complete all its formalities even for such small amounts. This makes its operations cumbersome and costly. The co-operative institutional frame in its present shape proves inadequate with the poorer sections of the community and the more backward areas, for all practical purposes, are out of its purview. If a co-operative is to serve the poorest man, it must devise suitable working methods to cater to his needs. The above analysis for financing institutions equally applies to other institutions also including the extension agency, marketing organisations, and institutions meant for protection of the interest of the weaker sections. The needs and the problems of an average individual in the tribal areas are of too small a size to be taken care of by the existing institutional structure; the individual programmes supported by the institutions are of too big a size to be within the reach of the small man or to be of real use to him. The formal institutional structure itself proves to be a real constraint and a positive obstacle even in the normal functioning of the processes of percolation and spread-effect. This dilemma needs to be resolved by suitable adaptation of the institutional framework, redefining their objectives and reviewing their method of working for a realistic solution of the problems of the poor tribals.

Community and its Environment

    The developmental matrix of a region comprises three elements: physical resources, human resources and institutional infrastructure. The man has a dual role here—he is one of the elements in this matrix, and at the same time improvement in the quality of his life is the final goal of all developmental activities. The institutional infrastructure provides the frame for the interaction between man and the physical resources for achieving the final objectives set by the society. In a micro-planning exercise, preparation of an inventory of resources— human, physical and institutional— is the starting point. It is comparatively an easy task. The total socio-economic matrix of the area provides the basic frame within which all other operations take place. Here a serious problem arises. The socio-economic situation in the tribal areas is widely different from that in the advanced areas. But it is the matrix of the advanced areas, which is familiar to the planners since they themselves belong to that system. Therefore, that situation is taken for granted and remains implicit in the policy formulation as well as in the strategy for implementation. This may be at variance with the needs of the tribal areas and may give rise to dissonance in the system.

    An essential prerequisite in planning for the tribal areas is a clear understanding of the relationship of the tribal with his environment. It has to be appreciated that while an advanced urban community depends for its functioning on a large number of formal organisations and for its sustenance on almost the entire world as its hinterland, the tribal community has a simple organisation and to a large extent is self-sufficient, being able to meet all its requirements within a limited physical space. The community draws its sustenance from its own immediate environment. The modern economic development essentially represents a process, which is continually weakening this direct relationship of the human communities with their immediate surroundings. Instead, formalised relationships are getting established over an ever-increasing area. These relationships are largely defined in terms of money-exchange equations. This process has important implications, which will need to be explicitly examined particularly in relation to the situation in the earlier stages of economic development.

    The first point of disturbance in the traditional system is usually the introduction of money. Initially, bulk of the economic activity in the tribal areas is and may continue for quite some time to be non-formalised and non-monetised. Even the 'economic' relationship is based on spontaneous mutual help sanctified by the tradition. In these economies, the value of money is generally high. For example, the rate of interest is very high for even small amounts, which the tribal may be required to borrow; the wages within the traditional economy are very low in monetary terms; and the severest traditional sanctions against the deviant are still imposed in terms of very small fines. In the modern sector, on the other hand, the value of money is quite low which is evident from the comparatively lower rates of interest, high wages and scant use of monetary sanctions. When the modern and the traditional systems come into contact, a two-tier economy begins to operate in the area. The traditional economic relationships slowly tend to be formalised and computed in monetary terms. Thus the two systems, in the stage of their initial contact itself, begin with an extremely unequal economic strength. As the economy in the area advances, money tends to become the source of all power because all other forms of obligations slowly get relegated into the background. The group, which starts with greater money power, obviously continues to have the upper hand. When all transactions in the different spheres of life— social, economic, religious— take place in money terms, the tribal may hardly be able to appreciate that he may be getting in exchange what he in his limited experience considers as 'valuable', but which in terms of equations of tomorrow will not remain so valuable. The implicit outcome of the new contact, therefore, is quite deceptive. Any rational process of planning needs to take this important fact into consideration.

    The operation of formal institutions begins to disturb the age-old relationships of the community with its environment. This disturbance may appear to be of little significance to the disinterested distant observers and to those who may be used to faster changes of much larger dimensions in their life and circumstances. But in the simple tribal situation, even a slightest disturbance may affect the community's economic life significantly without providing a viable alternative for filling in the gaps, which may be created. Even when alternatives are planned, there may be considerable time lag between what is planned and what is achieved. The transitional period may be quite trying indeed for the tribal.

    The relationship between the forest and the tribal communities is an important example. The Forest Department may decide to enforce its rules to ensure better management of forest resources or take up commercial plantation to augment State revenues. It may not bother about the impact of its new policy on the local community simply because the earlier relationship between the forest and the tribal community may have never been formally recognised and, thus, in the limited frame of forestry operations those relationships may be deemed as irrelevant. Alternatively, the earlier formal relationship might have been in the nature of mere concessions without any obligation for their perpetual continuance. These formal propositions may be sacrosanct to the administrator and to the planner because they are looking at the scene from the other end. But the same conditions may have great significance in the scheme of things for the community itself. The fact that forests have been playing a crucial role in the local economy and may continue to do so for quite some time, has to be recognised, if a micro plan has to have any meaning for the tribal group. It is not necessary that the formal frame, as defined by the forest law and rules made there under, should be rejected outright. That would be another extreme posture. The situational realities and the formal frames have to be harmonised. May be a suitable transitional plan could be devised in which initially the local community is.not disturbed significantly but is suitably helped to rely increasingly on the local resources limited to the extent of their formally recognised rights. A programme of'social forestry' as an instant case could be launched which should not be in the form of an isolated sectoral programme but as an integral part of the total developmental effort in that area. The gradual reduction of their reliance on the traditional forests should be an important element of this plan. The local community can be expected to accept the formal position in due course as its own economy develops, gets diversified and need not remain dependent on the traditional forestry resources.

    Thus, planning from below in the case of simple societies is a delicate exercise of simulating a process of change gradually building on their traditional system, which in due course should be able to replace the earlier dependence-relationship in a limited area by a set of more formal and modernistic relationships with their neighbourhood and the regions beyond. Mutative changes tend to disrupt the traditional economy. Development should represent a process of natural growth from the traditional to the modern within the assimilative potential of the people in the area.

Intricacies of Local Systems

    Charting out a clear direction for the gradual change process presumes a reasonable understanding of the local economic system, particularly the traditional production processes and relationships. For example, the tribal agricultural practices may be much less sophisticated and less specialised compared to the practices in the advanced areas. But they are quite intricate and complex at that level of their economy. In fact, they represent the best adaptation of the people to the local geo-climatic conditions at a given skill level and social milieu. In many tribal areas, agricultural operations start with the first showers and continue till the last drop of rain can be usefully utilised. There are overlapping crop schedules for different fields in the same village depending on their location, slope, water availability and quality of soil. The same village may have a large spectrum of agricultural practices. In other words, the tribal knows by experience the best utilisation of land resources at his level of technology. If this fact is not appreciated and the traditional kharif and rabi crops of the more advanced areas are used as the reference frame for extension work, much of the agricultural activity of the tribal may remain outside its purview. It has to be acknowledged that the practices, which the tribal has developed through centuries of trial, are perhaps the most suited to the local agro-climatic conditions.

    There are severe limitations to the applicability of the results of general agricultural research to completely different agro-climatic regions. The agro-climatic conditions in a hilly tribal region are liable to vary sharply within a short distance. When extension services are established for the first time in an area there is an understandable resistance to change until such time as a mutual-confidence-relationship is established between the extension agency and the people, even though the recommended practices may have been fully tried out in the local conditions. The expert in his anxiety to push a particular programme, may sometimes be inclined to go by his 'book' without waiting for the results in local conditions. The cultivator, however, has his feet on the ground and may be intutively aware of the limitations of the new methods recommended by the extension workers, although he may not be articulate enough to express his doubts. Therefore, agricultural research findings need adaptive field trials in the local conditions on a much larger scale in the tribal areas than in the more familiar conditions of the advanced areas.

    One of the reasons why such an obvious and logical approach has not been adopted so far is the sectoral over-specialisation in our developmental plans. The world-view of each authority is so limited that they are not able to appreciate the total dynamics. In fact, the total dynamics of the socio-economic system is not presented at any point of time at one place in the process of planning, currently in vogue. The specialist in each minute discipline works with reference to the frame developed at the national level. Strangely enough, he is not a party to the formulations adopted therein. The formulations are handed over to him from above. They are familiar to him by virtue of his training and the accepted norms of his discipline and specialisation. Consequently they are also acceptable to him. When he applies the given concepts to the micro world around him ('micro' is not used in contrast to the term 'macro'; Here 'micro' represents a complex, living, full but small world!), he considers those prescriptions as correct and valid. The local practices in the absence of a comprehensive frame are torn out of their context. They are robbed of their validity and are sought to be changed.

Individual as Distinct from Statistical Abstract

    An important aspect of the modern economic scene is the breaking up of small communities and emergence of mass societies. The man as an individual with multi-dimensional personality is being displaced from the centre of the scene and his relationships are being 'systematised' by numerous organisations in response to the demands of the new mass society. Man, therefore, gets fragmented in terms of his numerous attributes relevant to the concerned organisations. Each organisation treats the man as a statistical abstract with specific characteristics relevant to its own functions and nothing more. The organisations get concerned about other facets of human personality only to the extent they are likely to influence his behaviour in the relevant sphere. The quality of life and the goals of development cannot be a mere arithmetical summation of these statistical abstracts. One basic problem, therefore, is to extricate the real issues of development relevant to the man as an individual from the statistical abstractions and generalizations of different orders and to bring them in relief taking into account the regional and sub-regional variations. The implications of each programme with reference to the local community, particularly the weaker sections, are somewhat difficult to work out. In fact, introduction of a highly sophisticated model may help in pushing the basic problems further into the background.

    Specialised sectoral activity may disturb the existing economic balance and adversely affect the local community. The changes in forestry practices in a sparsely populated area dictated by the organisational model of development provide an important illustration. The forestry operations were generally adjusted in the early days of scientific management to the locally available skills and manpower. This balance continues to hold in many backward areas. In this context, if a decision to intensify the working of forest resources is taken, it "may be justified in overall terms and may be an attractive economic proposition for the State. But it may not benefit the local community; on the contrary, it may put it to disadvantage. For example, the local community within the existing pattern of forestry operations may be having the benefit of casual and seasonal employment as a subsidiary occupation. If the working of forests is organised on a different pattern in which an individual has the only alternative to accept the new work-opportunity on a long term basis according to a. schedule determined independently, or leave it, he may prefer to keep out of it and have his feet firm on his known ground. Thus, in the initial stages of a programme like Intensive Forestry Management, the tribal community may, in effect, lose a subsidiary occupation. Some of the tribals in due course may opt for the new type of activity and in the long run some benefit may accrue to the group as a whole. Here an important question arises about the rationale for the choice between the definite immediate slide-back of the group and the possible benefit to a section in the long run. A lot would depend on the relative weightage given to the two propositions in the developmental plan. One fact is, however, clear that a mere creation of opportunity v for a higher level of employment cannot be taken automatically to imply accrual of benefit to the local community.

Planning for Concentric Circles

    Another consequence of organisational fragmentation of human affairs in general and the vertical sectoral planning in the limited context of economic development in particular is that the linkages between programmes at the local level are not fully worked out. Each sectoral programme attempts to visualise itself as a 'universe' and seeks answers to every problem within itself as a self-sufficient unit. Thus, all organisations, irrespective of their size, have their small goals and operate within their small frames. Their successes and failures are with reference to these small universes. But each individual organisational goal must contribute to the final objective of improving the quality of life of the community as a whole. Therefore, the organisational goals have to be treated as intermediate goals. The individual results of numerous agencies get aggregated at sub-regional, regional and national levels. The performance of each organisation cannot be of the same order at all points of its operation. The shortfall at individual points are averaged out at regional or national level presenting an overall satisfactory state of affairs. But this situation cannot be expected to hold for each micro area. In fact, there is no comprehensive reference frame at the local level, which may bring into focus the imbalance, disequilibria and irrelevance of the small organisational goals to the total system in the reference area.

    Since the local community is not taken as an entity for planning in the above process, serious anomalies arise. For example, in a poultry or milk production programme, there may be undue concern for marketing, while the nutritional status of the local community may be extremely poor. On the other hand, a nutrition programme may be independently organised for children in the same area, based on processed food products from distant urban centres. Both the scheme may be burdened with exorbitant transportation costs. The accounts of the two programmes, viz., poultry development and child care, may never be put together for an overall view and the inherent contradiction may go unnoticed. However, the fallacy would show at the first sight if the village or a micro area is taken as a unit for planning and the benefit to the community in real terms is accepted as the principal goal. Then only it would become clear that the community is bearing the transportation cost both in respect of marketing the assumed 'surplus' and for purchasing commodities for making good the 'deficiency'.

    Cost of transportation is not significant by itself and a view can be taken about it on the basis of comparative costs of production, economies of sale, etc. The crucial issue, however, is the untenable situation created by adopting an apparently 'rational' frame for planning where the outside market is explored for an item, which is needed most for maintaining the health of the children in the community itself. A realistic micro plan should attempt to organise the economic activity of the area in terms of successive larger groups defined by a succession of concentric circles. There should be a heirarchy of plans for these circles, which should be viable and meaningful to the community in terms of its needs and welfare. Only those elements should go to the next circle, which cannot be taken care of within the smallest unit. Thus, instead of trying to establish linkages for each item as is the practice in sectoral planning, in a narrow elongated frame, intersecting circles of all sizes from the smallest to the largest, it should aim at inter-linking the various activities within the smallest possible circles.

Totality of the Micro-World

    The planning for concentric circles should be based on organic linkages. This approach may also be distinguished from the hierarchy of functions approach in the growth centre methodology. The functions of different centres are defined in terms of their viability for a given population threshold. The main concern is social and economic services to the community. In the concentric-circle approach the welfare of the community is the main objective, which is defined by the production functions as also the quality of social services. All the elements should help in creating a consistent system with complementary relationships.

    Here we may be faced with an apparent contradiction. As we move up from the individual and the face-to-face communities to increasingly higher levels, economic development, regulatory administration, social and cultural life, etc. appear in a more and more segmented form. The economic development frame at the national and the State level is itself a narrow one and may not be able to fully satisfy the requirements of this approach, which is basic for tribal development. As we have already discussed the micro-world of the tribal is the complete 'universe' in which social, economic and institutional aspects are delicately balanced. This 'universe' would respond to any stimulii as a system. The difference between this micro-world of the tribal and the macro-world at the national level has to be appreciated. The macro-world comprises totality of numerous micro-worlds in the nation. However, it is not just an agglomeration of the constituent units. They are all held together by a complex network of mutual relationships. These relationships are largely formal in character. Therefore, the macro-world cannot be accepted as a model system in terras of its governing relationships and concepts for the micro-world constituent units.

    The relationships between the economic, the social and the institutional systems in the micro-worlds themselves may not be-the same for all micro-worlds located at different points of th& spectrum, spanning from advanced areas to extremely backward: areas. The micro-worlds in the advanced areas are losing their cohesive and exclusive character. They can be expected to have better resilience with reference to the modern forms of interventions. Their behaviour is usually taken as model. Therefore while operating the national level matrices or while preparing national programmes, some basic resilience in the macro system as a whole is presumed. The planners are expected to know the strength and the weaknesses of this system. It may be specially noted here that the instrument of change as well as the institutional structure for implementation are largely a part of the macro system. The macro system and most of the micro-worlds are consistent in their structure. Familiarity with the system creates a better climate for understanding and adaptation. It is presumed that induced changes at selected points in the socio-economic fabric of a community in any one of the micro units will automatically give rise to certain reactions in the system which will assist the community to move forward. In this concept, the change agents have a limited catalytic role and the entire body is expected to respond favourably.

    The above picture is not true for all micro-worlds. In the more backward tribal areas with a different socio-economic system, the presumptions about consistency and resilience may not hold good. The response of the system to the new change element may be neutral or even adverse. If the community in the relevant micro-world is resilient enough, it may reject the new element or accept it. But if the intensity or change is sufficiently high, it may set in a process of disorganisation. This aspect gets ignored when development is conceived merely as an arithmetical summation of sectoral programmes and when a comprehensive view of the tribal micro-world is missing.

    The first corollary of the above argument is that no action can be justified merely in the context of its sectoral or institutional frame. It must prove its utility in terms of the totality of the development effort in a particular region. One important reason for the 'crisis of confidence' afflicting the tribal areas is that institutions tend to operate as autonomous bodies, concerned with their own small idealised worlds, having little concern for the reactions of the community as a whole. This tendency gets reinforced by the bureaucratic tendency to justify action in terms of the rules, procedures, parameters of the relevant scheme, etc. Even an obvious 'injustice' may be ignored on simple formal considerations. The most telling example is that of the commercial vending of liquor in tribal area in the name of a policy which remained in force for about a century before it was abolished recently. It represented the tyranny of a formal system which calls for a drastic change.

    The human element is slow to adapt to a new situation. Moreover there are definite limits to the absorptive capacity of a social system within a given time. If the pace of directed change ignores these limits the system may break leading to disorganisation. This situation has to be avoided at all cost. The institutional framework, on the other hand, is a handiwork of the man; it is a creature of the system for achieving specific goals. Thus, in principle, it is the institutional frame which should be malleable and adaptable. The pace of change in the socio-economic system should be defined first so that it is within the tolerance limits. Thereafter the institutional framework should be suitably devised so that it becomes a fit instrument for guiding change and development. Once this principle is accepted, it should be possible for the programmes and formal procedures to be adapted to the needs of the community in each micro-region.

Utilising Local Institutions

    The other side of the adaptation of modern institutional framework is the utilisation of the traditional tribal institutional structure for initiating a change. It will be necessary to understand the nature of the institutional set-up in each area and to examine whether it can be used advantageously in instituting the desired change. Two examples will illustrate the point. Take the case of a weekly tribal market which holds a key position in the tribal economy and has certain special features. It is significant to note that the entire economic activity of a well-defined small geographical area is concentrated at one spot within a small span of a few hours in a week. This situation presents a tremendous policy potential. It may be possible to influence the exchange economy of the entire region through purposive intervention. This is because the administration has to operate only at a few specific points during limited and specified time periods. In an advanced area, on the other hand, economic transactions are spread over numerous points in all villages for all the days in a week and all the year round. It will be an impossible administrative task to oversee such an economy except by extremely stringent regulatory measures.

    To cite another example, it is well-known that dissemination of information in the tribal community is the most crucial element in any development task. Audio-visual methods may be ineffective because of the communication barriers arising out of language difficulty, differences in the idiom, considerations of logistics and a variety of other factors. But the indigenous system of dissemination of information, which works on a different grid, is quite effective. These systems are studied by sociologists as a part of their academic pursuits. But they are hardly even taken note of in developmental planning. If these indigenous systems could be utilised, the information input could be effectively transmitted even in large areas within a short period. The spots, where the information 'capsule' is to be placed and allowed to disseminate, have to be identified. Not only is there little appreciation of this potential, on the contrary, there is inadequate realisation about the seriousness of the language barrier. Even the idiom and the form of communication may be unfamiliar to the local community and, therefore, it may have no value. For example, in a society where transactions are still by measure, information about prices of various commodities in terms of weights would have no meaning.

    In most of the tribal societies, the traditional Panchayats, youth organisations, informal inter-village relationships, etc. are quite strong. The decision-making is based on free and frank discussion. But once a decision is taken, whatever may be the original difference, it is accepted and the leader has full authority to implement it accordingly. This element could play an important role if the various tribal organisations could be taken in confidence and given the responsibility for planning and execution. However, even in planning for education in which the community's participation only can form a sound base, these elements are hardly taken note of. A formal institutional framework is usually super-imposed which may completely ignore and have no contact point with the traditional tribal groups. The two, therefore, work in isolation and without any interaction whatsoever.

    The dissonance between the traditional and the modern j institutions appears to be the most serious constraint to tribal I development. The modern institutions plan their programmes where the individual is taken as a free agent for decision-making, a premise which does not hold good in these areas. Since the traditional institutions are not taken in confidence their reaction can be adverse. They may see a programme as a challenge to their authority. In fact the modern institutions are designed to supercede them. Thus a situation of confrontation may arise. It is not necessary for all institutions to be super-imposed all of a sudden; instead, there should be a break and mutation in the organisational forms. A gradual evolution of the institutions is a preferable alternative in which it should be ensured that the total institutional universe comprising the traditional and the modern at any point of time is compatible. If some institution, like the feudal chiefs are anachronic, a conscious decision should be taken to remove them. Most of the other institutions can be given new responsibilities so that they are able to appreciate the new context, gradually adapt their internal structure, method of working, assume greater responsibility with experience and become effective instruments for building up a modern economy. It is this orientation in the orientational forms that can give micro planning a realistic base.

Correcting Basic Equations

    It is clear that planning from below implies a careful handling of the finely balanced micro-world of the tribal. The developmental inputs and the instruments for directing change should be so devised that they do not imbalance the basic system. On the contrary, they should assist in developing it as an organic whole. The institutional structure of the traditional system itself should be identified, understood and utilised to this purpose. It will help in internalising the change process.

    Once we start from the micro-world of a small society, the obvious first priority is the correction of the basic equations in the area. The new development brings two systems of unequal strength into contact with each other. In case the new contact proves detrimental to the tribal micro-world in any way, correcting this situation should claim the highest priority. Developmental processes bring in their wake numerous new elements which may not be amenable to the discipline of either the traditional system or the very institutions which are responsible for their introduction. In fact, the new elements tend to draw upon the inexhaustible source of power of the bigger and the stronger support-systems and, to that extent, the individual in these areas has a formidable adversary to deal with. Unless the developmental programme takes note of these basic points of disequilibrium, not much benefit can accrue to the weaker of the two groups.

    The protective land legislations, regulations of money lending, etc. are some of the measures which are designed for achieving this goal. However, these measures themselves may be taken in isolation and become sectoral in character. They are not usually viewed as constituent elements in a broader strategy for correcting the imbalance caused by the very processes of change and development. This larger frame would give even the isolated efforts a new significance.

    In any plan for correcting the basic equations, removal of all vestiges of exploitation in various forms with a strong hand has to be the first step. Measures, which may help the community to regain its inner strength and enable it to deal with the new system on terms of equality, should be accorded a high priority. Once confidence of the tribal in himself and in his system is restored, and there is no lurking suspicion about the intention of the agents of change, a sound base can be laid for healthy development. Those elements in the traditional system which may be adversely affecting the process of change can be specially taken care of. Such a step would help in creating a climate of mutual confidence and goodwill. What is more, such elements can be identified and secured to serve as a bridge between the old and the new.