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Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 21, 2013
The UPA government’s 12th Plan came under attack from Members of the Parliament (MPs), who described the document as “unrealistic”, devoid of “ground realities” and without a definite “poverty line”.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance is evaluating the government’s 12th Plan even though the National Development Council — a body of chief ministers and key central Ministers — had approved it on December 27. It would mean that the committee’s suggestions may not be incorporated in the Plan document because it has gone through all the approval processes.

Committee chairperson and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said the meeting remained inconclusive as all the members were unable to speak on the presentations made by plan panel members, led by deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

It was unusual for Ahluwalia and other panel members, including minister of state for planning Rajeev Shukla, to brief the committee on the 12th Plan as the bureaucrats, not political functionaries, usually submit submissions before the committee. However, Ahluwalia and six other members made presentations on various aspects of the plan on Monday.

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Plan panel members found themselves being grilled by MPs on the mess created by the commission on India’s poverty line. They first adopted the Tendulkar Committee’s poverty line of 37.5% and, following criticism of it being low, junked it. The panel had appointed a committee headed by noted economist C Rangarajan to recommend another methodology to define poverty.

“Amazingly, the plan has been decided without any poverty line,” an MP said. Another pointed out that the UPA government had junked its own poverty line, and it was giving subsidies without making a clear demarcation in that regard. Ahluwalia told the members that the Rangarajan committee was expected to submit its report by October 2013, and asked members to submit their suggestions on how the poverty line should be defined.

The Planning Commission was criticised even by some of the Congress MPs. One of them said that the 12th Plan document fails to reflect the ground realities and has, therefore, failed to provide solutions. “There is too much emphasis on economic growth without addressing ways to check inflation. Vulnerable sections such as women and elderly people have been ignored,” the member said.

Many members also expressed their annoyance over the failure of the plan panel to incorporate their suggestions in the 12th Plan document.