New Delhi: India’s apex planning body, the Planning Commission, has embarked on an exercise to make itself more relevant and effective, and the process, aptly enough, is being headed by Arun Maira, a member of the commission, who was chairman of multinational consulting firm Boston Consulting Group till mid-2008 and continues with it as senior adviser.
In an internal note to advisers at the Planning Commission, Maira has sought suggestions on how to create a new identity for the Plan panel and how to make it more effective.
New journey: Arun Maira, who is heading the exercise, says it is part of an effort to evolve with the changing environment. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
The note, which has been reviewed by Mint, also suggests more openness in the planning process and relating it to the common man, understanding poverty and addressing it, aligning planning with reforms, monitoring accountability, and stimulating innovation.
Maira confirmed that he has been tasked with the job of making the Planning Commission more effective and added that the exercise is part of an effort to evolve with the changing environment. “Also, new members from different backgrounds such as Mihir Shah, K. Kasturirangan and myself have joined the commission and maybe the idea is to understand and evaluate the planning process through a different angle,” he said.
While Shah has worked on water and livelihood related issues, Kasturirangan steered India’s space programme as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
The Planning Commission was set up in 1950 with the objective of raising the standard of living of people by augmenting production and optimizing available resources.
The idea for making the Planning Commission more effective comes at a time when it has already worked out a detailed terms of reference for the mid-term appraisal of the 11th Plan (2007-12). These include focusing on fiscal priorities of states, compliance with fiscal responsibility and budget management, monitoring of gross domestic product and socio-economic indicators such as literacy rate, child malnutrition, poverty ratio and infant mortality rate, besides evaluating the performance of around 16 flagship programmes of the government such as the mid-day meal scheme, education-for-all initiative Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and the National Rural Health Mission.
“The need to work out the effectiveness of Planning Commission has been felt because the commission gradually has been filling posts with generalists such as those from the Indian Administrative Services and Indian Economic Services rather than experts, which used to be a case earlier,” said an adviser at the commission, who did not want to be identified.
This person added that currently only certain divisions of the commission such as agriculture, transport, science and technology, and health have experts as advisers. “Important divisions such as project appraisal, housing, power, water resources, rural development and industry are largely headed by generalists and, therefore, no serious work is being done at these divisions.”
There are at least 25 senior-level advisers at the commission.
Yashwant Sinha, member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party, former finance minister and former member of the Planning Commission, said the objectives of the agency needed to be redefined.
“The kind of work the Planning Commission did between 1950 and 1970 has lost its relevance and that era is gone. I feel that the commission should be converted into an implementation commission, which will make sure that government programmes are actually implemented. Currently, these programmes are created and money for running them is recommended by the Planning Commission, but they largely remain unimplemented,” said Sinha.
Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.