Delhi is a large city-state with area of 1483 sq km and a population of 16.7 millionwhere more than two third of its area as urban. Rest of the area is fast urbanizing.For a city like this the planning process is challenging and magnitude of problems is enormous. It should be noted that Municipal Corporation of Delhi initiated projects of preparation of ‘Local Area Plan’ for 36 wards through various planning consultants to address planning issues and problems on identifying the ground realities.Development in Delhi is guided by the Master Plan 2021 and various Zonal Development Plans. The increase in urban population as a whole and increased migration to Delhi has led to a number of planning and development issues as land are a scarce resource in Delhi bounded by other states having their own development controls and guidelines. In order to counter the ill-effects of urban problem diagnosis and rational planning model, the planners and policy makers of Delhi started to engage public in various states of planning and plan implementation in various forms and degrees. The engagement of public in planning has stated long back in 1962 when the first Master Plan for Delhi was prepared. Even after 50 years of planning for people the planners and policy makers thought for evolving planning with people approach in planning and this culminated in Delhi in the form of concept of Local Area Plan. In 2005, pilot project for the preparation of Local Area Plan got initiated and got completed and the result was not satisfactory and again in 2010 pilot project for the preparation of Local Area Plan started and by 2012 it got completed. It should be noted that Delhi is one of the Indian city to have a Master Plan and Zonal Plans for guiding and controlling the urban growth and development. The need of the people and demand for the development goes hand in hand and this lead to the participation of the public in the plan making process so as to entertain their grievances and make them partner in the development.
Public participation can be materialized only when the public is capable enough to express his views and empowered to participate in the working of the local governance and this was envisaged by the policy planners long ago. In this direction, the enactment of 73rd and 74th amendment to the Constitution is noteworthy. The amendments were made to ensure decentralization of planning, planning at local level initiated to empower local people to take action and participate in various stages of plan preparation and plan implementation. This very act led to the planning and development by local bodies by themselves.
Planning at lower level cannot be comprehensible before knowing about the decentralization. Decentralization can be perceived as a process of devolution of power, responsibilities, functions and finances to the local bodies. The primary objective of decentralization programs is to improve resource allocation and service delivery by bringing decision making process closer to the citizens. Participatory planning is part of the decentralisation process and it aims to identify the critical problems, joint priorities, and adoption of various socio‐economic development strategies for the development and welfare of the community. As stated by Olthelen (1999), participatory planning is the initial step in the definition of a common agenda for development by a local community and an external entity or entities. Over the period, this initial step is expected to evolve for the parties concerned towards a self‐sustaining development planning process at the local level. The great authors have presented their views on the need for greater public participation and the nature of such participation for optimal utilization of the aspirations and the expertise of the local people for whom planning is being carried on.
Arnstein often quoted article “Ladders of Citizen Participation” that “the idea of citizen participation is like eating spinach: no one is against it as it is good for you”. But question arises whether citizen participation is serving some purpose or it is just for custom in planning exercise. There is considerable confusion about what looks like in practice, and little consensus about what exactly citizen participation is supposed to be accomplish (Day, 1997). Kweit and Kweit (1981) assert this confusion is mirrored in the attempts empirically evaluate citizen participation programs. Furthermore, Catanese (1984) states that the problem with the public participation is that, it is difficult to know how to carry it out effectively because there are no specific goals. But I will take public participation in one field say Urban Planning they it might be somewhat easy to devise some mechanism for assessing the public participation.
Participatory planning involves conducting planning with the involvement of a number of people. These people can be a whole range of different stakeholders, and it obviously depends on the nature of the thing we are trying to develop or refine, and the context as to who should be involved. The role of the consultant in this process is that of facilitator and coach.There is a general consensus for increasing public participation in the process of planning and development and this has been substantiated time and again by a number of national and international policy making bodies. In this regards we can see the provisions of the Indian Constitution and United Nations sponsored Millennium Development Goals.
Citizen participation is a part of our constitutional provisions and democratic heritage. People should share in decisions affecting their destinies. People participation, involving the constituents in the politico-administrative and planning processes, means their needs and aspirations are heard and mainstreamed in the development agenda. Empowerment of citizens and their involvement in the decision-making processes, from central to local level, is regarded as vital for supporting pro-poor policies, improved service delivery, poverty reduction, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The participatory role of civil society groups with government and planning agencies has evolved over recent years. Citizens groups, Community based organizations (CBOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become active participants in national and local development planning activities and the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programs, and projects. People participation should starts at the grassroots level and should work in harmony for fostering needs-based local planning activities.
Shashikant Nishant Sharma
(Courtesy: Sharma, Shashikant Nishant (2012), Participatory Planning in Plan Preparation: A Case of Delhi, Graduate Thesis, Department of Physical Planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi)