New Delhi: A Planning Commission meeting held last week has agreed to restructure the apex plan body by hiring experts at market-linked salaries, said two senior officials.
Only those bureaucrats who have domain knowledge of the areas they are working on will be nominated to the plan panel as per the restructuring proposal, said a senior Planning Commission official who did not want to be identified. He said the commission will take up the matter once the new government assumes office after the ongoing general election, which will end on 13 May. Counting of votes will take place on 16 May.
“Planning Commission members and deputy chairman (Planning Commission) Montek Singh Ahluwalia met the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) on Wednesday and it was decided that the commission gets restructured under the new government,” said the official.
Another official at the panel confirmed the proposal that was discussed at a meeting held on Wednesday. He too declined to be identified. The two officials said one of the proposals was to hire experts at the panel for five years at a salary of Rs1 lakh a month.
“This salary was discussed keeping in mind higher salaries paid to university professors and is being suggested to attract talent in the commission,” said the first official.
Planning Commission is a statutory body which shapes the country’s planning process through five-year plans. It is also an important link between the Centre and the states in getting centrally sponsored programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme implemented. It also monitors these programmes and recommends allocation of funds for them from the Centre.
Currently, it comprises senior officials from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Economic Services (IES), academics and those having domain knowledge in various fields. However, it is dominated by officials from the IAS and the IES.
“It is mostly the IAS officials who despite being generalists get prime positions. Retired bureaucrats also find Planning Commission a good parking ground. But when it comes to promoting officials not belonging to the IAS, growth opportunities are very poor. This suggests talent is given a back seat,” said the first Planning Commission official.
In 2004, the commission had tried to hire experts at higher salaries but the move was resisted by the Left parties that had offered outside support to the Congress-led ruling coalition at the Centre.
Human resource consultant Anil Sachdev said: “The government has messed up certain organizations by placing too many bureaucrats, for instance in Air India and some companies in the oil and gas sectors... I think the finance ministry is the only ministry which has done a good job of placing technocrats at right places. It’s high time Planning Commission also had such a structure,” he said.
Pronab Sen, chief statistician of India and a former Planning Commission adviser said: “While professionals at high salaries are welcome, there needs to be people who understand the nuances of the working of the Planning Commission and this is when cadre people come in handy. To reform the Planning Commission, better promotional avenues need to be given to in-house experts with domain knowledge...”