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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  So, how should the Planning Commission alternative look like?
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So, how should the Planning Commission alternative look like?

Mint asked experts what they'd like to see in place of the Planning Commission. Here's what they said

File picture of the Yojna Bhavan in New Delhi. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/MintPremium
File picture of the Yojna Bhavan in New Delhi. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: On 15 August, in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated what has long been whispered in New Delhi’s corridors of power—his government would scrap the Planning Commission, and replace it with a more contemporary alternative.

Media reports surfaced claiming that the new body would be called National Development and Reforms Commission. Other reports mentioned the names of possible members.

On 19 August, the government asked people to send in their thoughts on the structure and role of the new body. What is known so far about the composition of the body is what Modi said—that it would comprise the Prime Minister, state chief ministers and experts.

Mint asked experts what they’d like to see in place of the Planning Commission. Here’s what they said:

AJIT RANADE, chief economist, Aditya Birla Group

The Planning Commission never had a constitutional basis for allocation of grants from the central pool. The new institution that replaces it should have a constitutional mechanism for transfer of grants from the centre to the states. This will be important if you want balanced economic development in the country; separate development projects in backward states can then be implemented.

The abolishing of the Planning Commission, however, does not mean that the need for a think tank for policy inputs and strategizing is gone. We still need an institution that would function in a way to provide an inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral glue to overcome excessive silos-ed thinking.

MANISH SABHARWAL, chairman, staffing firm TeamLease Services Pvt. Ltd

The government is organized vertically. The new institution that replaces the Planning Commission should take a horizontal perspective across ministries. The key areas where it should align the strategies and goals of the government should be education, urbanization, infrastructure and job-creation, which sum up India’s biggest problems. It should function as a body that can balance the trade-off between the different arms of the government and the central and state governments.

ARUN MAIRA, former member, Planning Commission

I am pleased that the Prime Minister has taken the bold decision of doing away with the unmodifiable existing structure of the Planning Commission. We need a new institute that will reflect five key changes. First, structurally it should be a small catalytic body that brings in knowledge from a larger network of knowledge organizations rather than housing a large number of domain experts within itself.

Secondly, scenario planning that includes political and social parts of the system should replace budgetary planning to align it with a dynamic world. Thirdly, it should provide a learning platform for states with exposure to best international ideas.

Fourthly, empowering states to take their own decisions through this learning rather than exercising budgetary control over them to act in a pre-determined manner. Lastly, facilitating coordination between the different stakeholders by adopting best methods, something India in particular needs badly.

PRONAB SEN, chairman, National Statistical Commission and former principal adviser, Planning Commission

The problems that face India today are not fundamentally very different from the ones (it did) in the 1950s; these have changed only as a matter of degree, not as a matter of substance. So the functions of the new institution will largely remain the same. The functions of planning or visioning, allocation, appraisal and intermediation between the centre and the states will have to stay.

Some functions like approvals of PPP (public-private partnership) projects and evaluation of schemes and projects can be hived off. What can be improved is the new body’s capacity to perform these functions. Over time, the body of the Planning Commission, which is the secretariat, has lost its technical capacity. The new body must have the technical capacity and the authority to carry out its functions.

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Published: 20 Aug 2014, 12:55 AM IST
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