The impetus that led to the origin of regional planning in India was the rapid urbanization and industrialization that India faced after independence in 1947. Along with this urbanization, regional disparities increased within rural and urban areas mainly in terms of concentration of economic opportunities. Apart from this, planning was practiced as piecemeal projects earlier like street beautification and hence, a shift was required from this type of approach to a comprehensive socio-economic approach. Also there was a need to have comprehensiveness in plans (in terms of physical, social and economical aspects), improved planning techniques for better quality of plans and set more realistic and attainable standards. There was no concept of integration of economic planning with physical planning and it was then realized that this consolidation was imperative.
Change in character of regional planning over the years
Initially regional planning was regarded as an extended form of town planning. According to this view, it was only an extension of urban planning and its concepts, both in theory and concepts. Even in scope, a regional plan for a region was like a master plan for a city. In the later years it involved preparation of a plan for optimal movement of people, goods and services between producing and consuming areas or region. Thus, transport planning and planning for traffic patterns on a regional basis became an important element of a regional plan.
Subsequently, regional planning started preparing comprehensive regional development plans integrating and coordinating the physical, social and economical components. This integration could be inter or intra regional depending upon the pattern of integration.
In the following years came the concept of decentralization which was a consequent of over- concentration of industries and urbanization in one urban centre. It developed as a shift from river valley development to decentralization or dispersal of industries, and then to devolution of administration of planning.
Regional planning was strongly advocated where there were conflicts arising out of administrative jurisdictions, resource patterns and areas of high disparity in terms of development.
Regional Planning Policies and Programmes – The Five Year Plans
The period 1947-1951 encountered problems of rehabilitation and settlement of refugees and displaced people from Pakistan. This initiated certain programmes directed towards urban settlements in which a number of refugee townships were built providing employment opportunities in industries, trade and commerce.
The first and second Five Year Plans (1951 – 1961) emphasized on achieving urbanization and industrialization. The Third Five Year plan (1961 – 1965) involved the preparation of comprehensive development plans for major metropolitan centres, rapidly growing industrial towns, resource regions and river valley regions. It provided for balanced regional development between urban and rural areas and between areas of high-low economic concentration.
The Fourth Five Year plan (1966 – 1971) accentuated the restriction of growth of large urban centres like Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi with restructuring of local areas and strengthening and reorganizing the local administration to enable them to cope up with growing problem of rapid urbanization. Decentralization was the thrust area in the Fifth Five Year plan (1971 -1976) and the subsequent plans. Here the provision was made for promotion of development of smaller urban centres near the primate city to ease the pressure of increasing urbanization. It provided necessary support to the industrial townships undertaken by the central government undertakings to make them more sustainable.
Other Types of Plans
The Third Five Year plan provided the preparation of regional plans for some priority areas where there was an urgent need for channelizing the development sparked off by major projects like multi-purpose river valley projects, location of large scale industries. The regions specified were:
- The Rajasthan Canal Region
- The Rihand Region
- The Bhakra-Nangal Region
- The Dandakaranya Region
- The Damodar River Valley Region
The central government provided 100 percent financial assistance to the states that took up these projects. The other type was sub-plans for hill, coastal and tribal areas.
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