Post Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech about scrapping Planning commission and replacing it with a new body, there have been huge uproar throughout the nation. Most of the people across the country, including politicians, bureaucrats, and chief editor of various dailies have welcomed this move. Even the honourable prime minister had made this announcement without having a plan and framework of the new body, because the planning’s commission had performance poorly over last three decades.
Over the last three decades and mainly post liberalization, the relevance and standard of planning commission’s output has declined. And also it has deviated from the main objective for which it was formed. But it will be unfair from the part of government to abolish planning commission; the government should examine its reason for existence and evaluate the ways in which the commission can be revamped.
Before substantiating the reasons as why the commission should not be replaced, let us first understand why the planning commission was formed in the year 1950. The main objective with which the planning commission was formed was to provide a framework for the development and to have a control on the Macro economy. It includes maintaining the demand-supply relationship of the economy, which is the base of the Market Economy. It should also devise a plan to improve the standard of living of the people by efficient use of available scarce resources the country had and still have. Apart from this, the planning commission will process and plan the distribution of the funds between the centre and states. Finally it will evaluate the quality of the policies implemented under its aegis, and convey the results to Government of India.
Currently the commission performs the tasks of preparing five-year plans, appraisal of project, evaluation of programmes and importantly allocating resources to various states. By allocation of resources, one not only refers to financial resources, one also refers to resources like land, water, forest, Dam and other natural resources. As the government had not provided the structure and role of the new body that will replace the 64 year old planning commission, let us ask a question – “Is India self-sufficient to plan and assign tasks on their own?” Or will the country grow without a short term and long term plan. Or can the country grow with the help of National Development Council (NDC) and Finance commission alone?
For a country like India with increasing population and increasing number of states, it will be difficult to run the government and develop the country at steady phase. A proper plan is needed for the country to devise a plan and decide upon the strategic dilemmas and problems that the country is facing. Now let us go with the announcement that the planning commission will be replaced by a new body. If the new body is going to still do planning and monitor government’s performance, then why replacing an existing body that performs same tasks with a new body. The famous Chinese revolutionary had said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”. The same words holds true here.
Also there are statements put forward that the states haves better information about their local requirement and they should be allowed to plan and implement reforms at their own. But will there not a dispute if the states are given power to allocate the resources that the centre receives in form of taxes?
The right way forward will be assigning the task of allocating financial resources to Finance Commission and retaining the power of allocating natural resources with the commission. This will put to rest the inter-ministerial disputes over and states protests over the fund allocation. Then the main responsibility of the commission narrows down to planning, developing, evaluating and monitoring the programmes and policies of the government. This will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the commission towards achieving its’, as well as government’s objectives. This will help the government in knowing the information about the projects that have been sanctioned, completed or delayed. Also the commission can be reduced in number from its existing size for easier monitoring; and Prime minister can select persons with knowledge from various sectors to provide a comprehensive and strategic five year plan to the government. And the experts chosen should not be people who don’t have much expertise about the economy and our country’s relationship with other countries.
Most importantly, the planning commission should be restructured in such a way that it has eminent and intelligent academicians who can devote their entire time in research. The commission can devise a strategic and efficient plan only if it spends a lot of resource on useful research about its wealth, resources and relationship. These changes will re-establish it as a commission that bridges the rich with poor and the strong with weak. Thus the Government of India should take the appropriate steps to reinvigorate the commission instead of scrapping it.