LSTV Insights – Redrawing Plan and Policy
On 1st January, 2015 government announced ‘National Institute for Transformation of India’ NITI aayog. This brings curtains down on legendry and controversial Planning Commission. This step has evoked mix response but one point of agreement among all was that planning commission by this time has become a moribund organization and needs to be either revived or replaced.
NITI Aayog’s composition is stated as –
- Prime Minister of India as the Chairperson
- Governing Council comprising the Chief Ministers of all the States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories
- Regional Councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region. These will be formed for a specified tenure. The Regional Councils will be convened by the Prime Minister and will comprise of the Chief Ministers of States and Lt. Governors of Union Territories in the region. These will be chaired by the Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee.
- Experts, specialists and practitioners with relevant domain knowledge as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister
- The full-time organizational framework will comprise of, in addition to the Prime Minister as the Chairperson:
- Vice-Chairperson: To be appointed by the Prime Minister
- Members: Full-time
- Part-time members: Maximum of 2 from leading universities research organizations and other relevant institutions in an ex-officio capacity. Part time members will be on a rotational basis.
- Ex Officio members: Maximum of 4 members of the Union Council of Ministers to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Chief Executive Officer: To be appointed by the Prime Minister for a fixed tenure, in the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
- Secretariat as deemed necessary.
So far, stated objectives convey that aayog will strive to foster cooperative federalism, which means states will be given more roles in the planning and policy making. This will be a move toward bottom up approach which is recommended by numerous committees and also by 73rd and 74th amendments.
Also, it is being said that in addition to taking up socio-economic agenda, aayog is expected to direct its functioning towards a coherent strategic policy aimed also at foreign affairs, security, governance and environmental issues. It is supposed to act as think tank which will provided well researched inputs to various ministry and states.
Having said this, contributions of planning commission to Indian economy can never be underestimated. 1st budget of India, in 1948, was merely of Rs 100 crores. By the 4th plan it grew rapidly to Rs 1000 crores and has been increasing since then. This was due to capacity built by PC. At that time ideology both at centre and states was almost common because of one party rule. But this all changed in coming times which caused resistance from states.
Nehru stressed that states should be given major role in policy making, but at time of his successors, centre state relation got sour and PC started showing centralizing tendencies.
By 1980’s planning commission started showing redundancy and it was very clear that plans are not delivering on the ground. Since then there have been many efforts to revive PC, but it refused to change.
Its relevance time and again is questioned in liberalized and globalized era. Planning is something which is viewed associated with Socialism. But reality is that every MNC, every other organization has some long term objective and so does governments. Planning just breaks their long term policy, in shorter achievable goals and roadmaps.
Main failure of PC is attributed to its transformation in a big bureaucratic organization, which has little flexibility and little connection with ground realities. It ceased to represent and reflect diversity of India, and continued to give one-size-fits-all plans.
National Development Council was another extra-legal-constitutional body which was supposed to serve as platform for states to voice their demands. Plan was made by PC and then presented to NDC for approval. But over time NDC has been reduced to just token value, contributing almost nothing to planning.
Notwithstanding all this, last 10 years has been somewhat better for PC. Remarkable strides have been made in primary education sector and now health sector is at center of its focus. This has started showing up positive results in relevant social indicators.
Even if there was problem, it could possibly have been dealt within present setup. To some, this move appears as presents government’s antipathy to Nehruvian things.
It is beyond doubt that planning is uncompromisable and it has to be seen that, how center state finances will be shared now and whether there will be 5 year plans like before or there will be just vision documents and, ministries and states just setting their own plans and goals. Its relation with constitutional bodies, mainly Finance Commission and interstate council is yet to be seen.
Best form of planning which new body should strive toward is of Decentralized nature. Plans shall be moving from village level to district planning committees, then to states and finally to center.