Regional Disparities in India: Some Basic Issues
THE MAIN objective of this paper is to make an assessment of policies intended to reduce regional disparities as visualised in the plans, against the background of regional development and spatial organisation in India. Some basic issues relating to regional disparities have been highlighted with a view to establishing how the government is beating about the bush. Regional disparities are, by and large, an outcome of the working of the socio-economic system and its processes. Partly they are also influenced by regional factors. As in many other areas of development, regional imbalances stem mainly from the failure of our planning process which is constrained by the framework of mixed economy and the emerging pattern of distribution within it. The problem of regional disparities in India is to be seen in this larger context.
Regional disparities are expected to be reduced through ^planned efforts". But the plans are formulated within the framework of an extremely iniquitous system of ownership of property and a heritage of regional inequalities. Planning in India continues to be aggregative and sectoral, devoid of spatial dimensions. This makes integration of plans at different levels and between different sectors difficult. In recent years, regulations and controls have been diluted, and the government has decided to allow large industrial houses and FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act) companies to make fresh investments in such areas as were hitherto reserved for the public sector and small units. The liberalisation of industrial licensing provisions and the proposed amendments of the MRTP Act make nonsense of the socio-economic objectives of the plans. The mechanism of incentives and disincentives is not oriented to the larger socio-economic objectives.
Even our public sector has become an instrument of exploitation as it has helped in strengthening the stranglehold of the private sector. The distribution of income is closely related to the ownership of means of production. An unequal distribution of incomes arising from a highly skewed asset distribution is constraining the sustained industrial growth. The CSO data reveal that the pattern of consumption expenditure is shifting in favour of upper income brackets. Regional