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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Planning Commission panel to get a new avatar

Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 21, 2014
First Published: 00:10 IST(21/6/2014) | Last Updated: 18:23 IST(23/6/2014)

The country’s top advisory body, the Planning Commission, in its new avatar may have a new name, state government representatives and very few powers to regulate central fund flow. 

The Narendra Modi government is working on a plan to down size and restructure the plan panel, which had immense influence during previous governments and was blamed for policy paralysis.

A government source told HT that overarching powers to the plan panel led to procedural delays in execution of projects. The new regime, which is keen to accelerate the growth process, was not willing to accept this proposition.

“Some changes are in the offing. It would be known soon,” said the source.

HT has learnt among the several changes that government was considering was a proposal to change the name of the body, bring in representatives of the states and give more autonomy to ministries by tweaking with the responsibilities and duties of the panel.

Government officials point out that the tug of war between the National Highways Authority of India and the Planning Commission was a case in point. Several road projects are pending with the panel for approval.

Government’s intention to restructure the plan panel has received thumbs up from both the BJP and the Congress.

“Existence of bodies who work in the interest of the nation is, but some have become a parking lot for retired bureaucrats and others, is unacceptable. There is a debate about utility of such bodies and rightly so,” BJP spokesman Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram also favoured downsizing the panel.

“My personal view is that the panel should be a much more limited body tasked with drawing up prospective plans. At the moment it is too big, flabby and unwieldy,” Chidambaram, said at the AICC briefing.

When Chidambaram was the finance minister the UPA government had taken away its “game-changer” direct benefit transfer scheme and skill development programme from the plan panel to the finance ministry. 

Ever since it was set up in 1950 by a Cabinet resolution to coordinate and allocate the government’s resources efficiently, the Commission was often attacked as a bunch of “arm-chair advisors” who failed to capture the pulse of ground realities.


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