The Planning Commission of India, an institution that steered the command-and-control economy of yesteryears, is seeking rebirth to suit the maturing market economy.
Recent conflicts between the panel and several ministries have given a new urgency to its attempts to reinvent itself.
"We are working on a new role for the commission in the changed socio-economic atmosphere,” said Plan Panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia. "A lot has changed around the world since the economy has opened. We need to alter our processes to make India meet global challenges.”
The commission’s new avatar, which will be unveiled in 2012 with the 12th five-year plan worth Rs 20 lakh crore , will seek more people and industry participation and devolve a higher degree of the planning process to the ministries and state governments.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has in principle okayed the commission's transformation into a systems reforms commission, on which Arun Maira, a member, is working.
"With devolution of powers, the states have an essential role to play in our federal structure. We are examining ways to make central schemes, which are supported by the Planning Commission, work more effectively," said Maira, formerly with Boston Consultancy, who is entrusted with the job of defining the panel's new role.
Rather than just being a regulator for plan spending, which has irked ministries, the commission intends to opt for the bigger role of anticipating emerging challenges and providing solutions for them.
Most panel members agree the functioning of the commission needed to evolve.
"The Planning Commission will develop scenarios that are likely to emerge with forces within and outside the country that will shape its future. In a dynamic world, such well thought-out scenarios are required to guide policymakers in the government and the private sector too," Maira said.
One such solution was outlined by Ahluwalia on Tuesday when he suggested that fair price shops should get direct subsidy based on ration sold to below poverty line families.