India’s top planning body Planning Commission’s rule of austerity in administering of the Central government schemes did not apply to its own scheme — celebrating 50 years of planning.
The scheme ‘50th Year Initiatives for Planning’ envisaged for one year 2000-01 ran for a decade till the commission replaced it with a new one for plan formulation and review from 2011-12.
The scheme was originally launched in 2000-01 to prepare a statistical profile on selected themes, organising seminars to share success stories in area of governance, preparing state development reports and building a databank covering all important sectors.
The scope of the scheme was first changed in 2003 to include project preparation facility and then in 2005 to fund a high-level committee on infrastructure headed by Prime Minister.
Thereafter, the government’s regulator for all Central government schemes, worth Rs 3,25,000 crore, altered the scope of its own scheme to meet its regular expenses such as visits of advisors to Left Wing Extremism districts in 2010 and for review of flagship programmes.
The changes, the commission said in a Right To Information reply to Hindustan Times, were done with the approval of the competent authority.
The plan panel had also used the funds to hire consultants and professionals to carry out the panel’s day-to-day functioning. Consultants were hired to suggest remedial measures on the basis of mid-term appraisal of the 11th plan to form a basis for the 12th five year plan, the reply said.
The scheme was also used to hire legal consultants to vet 40 Model Concession Agreement even though the government has a specialized arm for the same — the Law ministry.
In 2010-11, Rs 84 lakh was spent for other administrative expenses which were not explained in the RTI reply. Another Rs 50 lakh was spent on offices and Rs 29 lakh on publications. Expenditure on similar heads was made since 2007-08. No break-up of data prior to 2007-08 was provided.
In all, the commission spent Rs 40 crore through the scheme in the decade but failed to say how much of it was spent on the original scope of the scheme. The panel also said that 20 state development reports were released and eight such reports are set to be released in 2010-11.
The plan did not debunk that scheme even though it has been asking all the Central government ministries to reduce the number of schemes for effective implementation.