Infra, social sector to be key 12th Plan areas

Infra, social sector to be key 12th Plan areas

New Delhi: The Planning Commission has zeroed in on 12 critical areas around which the 12th Plan (2012-2017) will revolve, the social sector and infrastructure being key priorities. The apex planning body will now seek public comments on the areas it has chosen to emphasize.

The commission had identified 134 areas when it began work on the 12th Plan earlier this year for which an approach paper is being prepared.

“Enhancing skills and employment generation, transport infrastructure, climate change, inclusiveness, energy security, rural transformation and agriculture growth, better education and preventive healthcare are some vital areas around which the approach paper will be made," said Pronab Sen, principal adviser to the panel.

“No doubt social sector will be given prime importance in the 12th Plan."

He added that higher investments in infrastructure by the government and through public-private partnerships will help boost economic growth, pegged at 8% in each year of the 12th Plan.

This will carry forward the “inclusive growth" targets set in the 11th Plan, which had envisaged spending over three-fourths the projected Rs14.21 trillion in the draft plan on the priority sector. In the 10th Plan, it was 55%, while total spending was Rs8.1 trillion. The projections for the 12th Plan are yet to be announced.

Sen also said the interactive website for the 12th Plan, which is currently under security audit, will be up sometime this week. The website will seek public views on the 12 key issues both in the form of objective statements and opinion poll. These will go into the making of the approach paper, which should be ready by March-end, according to Sen.

An approach paper carries general guidelines on which the plan is based. Once readied and made public, the details of plan programmes and sector-specific strategies are worked out.

Sen said a wide consultative approach was followed in arriving at the 12 areas. This included consulting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts in the field of development.

“The Planning Commission involved NGOs such as Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Social Watch, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan and Oxfam India to get the view of civil society on the challenges and needs of development planning," said Sen.

Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, the name of which in Hindi translates as “Don’t-break-your-promise campaign", is an organization working for holding the government accountable to its promises.

The approach paper is traditionally written by the perspective planning division of the plan panel. A team of senior officials makes projections for economic growth and its sector-wise distribution, poverty ratios, fiscal balance and estimation of external sector balance. This is the first time that civil society organizations have been so deeply involved in the exercise.

Some NGOs gathered feedback from other NGOs and people working in the respective areas at grassroots levels. These, Sen said, included NGOs working with demographic groups such as adolescents, the physically handicapped, women, destitutes and Left-wing extremists.

Planning Commission members and officials such as Mihir Shah, Arun Maira and Sen himself attended several meetings held with the NGOs.

S.L. Rao, former director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, says while spelling out key areas and involving civil society groups are positive steps, the focus should be on larger areas of concern.

“Ecology and environment, development of tribal areas, proper use of reforestation funds which are currently lying unused and a clear demarcation of go and no-go areas as propagated by environment minister Jairam Ramesh etc., will remain critical issues throughout the 12th Plan and therefore should be addressed with utmost care," Rao said.

No-go areas are those where mining activities and industrial projects are prohibited because of environmental concerns. The environment ministry and the Planning Commission recently had different opinions on the concept.