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Mainstream, VOL LII No 36, August 30, 2014

Instead of Dismantling We Need a Better Planning Commission

Sunday 31 August 2014, by Bharat Dogra

COMMUNICATION

One of the most controversial decisions taken by the new government relates to the dismantling of the Planning Commission.

While this had been talked about since the regime-change in Delhi, the Prime Minister made an official announcement in his Independence Day speech when he stated: “We’ll replace the Planning Commission with a new institution having a new design and structure....”

This’ll be done in a hurry, as The Indian Express pointed out on August 17—“By next week the name of Yojana Bhawan will be history. It’ll be part of several orders the government will issue soon to put an end to the role of the Planning Commission. The building that houses the Planning Commission on Parliament Street will get a new name, said a top source. The Modi Government has also indicated that it’ll want to put a pause in the Five Year Plans. The Mid-term Review of the (12th) Plan too is expected to be scrapped.”

All this is very unfortunate. If the decision of the government had only been to make important changes in the Planning Commission, that would’ve been OK and it could be seen later what kind of changes are being considered. But the decision to dismantle the Planning Commission is clearly not correct, and should be reconsidered. There should be a strong campaign for this.

Actually in the some Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister also made a somewhat different suggestion elsewhere: (Quoting from the English translation of his Hindi speech published in The Tribune dated August 17) he said: “So we’ll have to think about giving the Planning Commission a look. While the Planning Commission has done good work in the past, it is a very old system and it will have to be rejuvenated.”

Rejuvenation is fine, but this is very different from dismantling!

In reality what we need is rejuvenation and strengthening of the Planning Commission to cope with new emerging challenges. With the emergence of climate change as a serious threat and with the increasing pressure on natural resources, the need for more effective and careful planning is more than ever before. The objective now of meeting the basic needs of all people has to be linked with reduction of GHG emissions and protection of the natural resource base, which needs more complex and detailed planning with much better data base.

Such honest planning exercises will make it amply clear that to meet the basic needs for people on a sustainable basis, much greater equality and environment protection have to be ensured strictly and carefully without further delay. However, the agenda of much greater equality and environment protection is not acceptable to powerful corporate interests inclu-ding multinational companies. This is one major reason why the role of planning has been steadily eroded over the years and now a much bigger attack has been made on it in the form of dismantling of the Planning Commission.

Bharat Dogra

C-27 Raksha Kunj

Paschim Vihar

New Delhi- 110063

Tel: 25255303