Four days after announcing that he would scrap the planning commission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday threw it open to people to suggest ideas on the shape of the panel’s replacement, inviting mixed responses to the move.
The move is seen as a part of his efforts to strengthen government-people relations and a section of the establishment feels the prime minister, who puts a premium on out-of-the-box ideas, may already have some big-ticket plan in mind, but wants to gauge people’s mood first.
Modi announced in his Independence Day speech that the 64-year-old Soviet-style commission would be replaced with a new institution, but did not spell out any details.
“Inviting you to share your ideas on what shape the new Institution to replace the Planning Commission can take,” the Prime Minister tweeted Tuesday. “We envision the proposed Institution as one that caters to the aspirations of 21st century India & strengthens participation of the States,” he added in another tweet.
The move evoked mixed reactions, with most experts seeking a revamped panel instead of a totally new body.
Sayeeda Hamid, a panel member during the UPA regime, said changing the name will not make any difference until the government learns from the “good work” done by the commission.
“The new body should adopt the consultative process that was started by the commission,” she said. “One cannot develop a prospective plan without talking to non-government organisations.”
Former planning commission secretary NC Saxena said he was worried about the future of the 1,000 people who were employed with the panel and the disbursement of money to state governments. “The new body will have to have the basic elements of the planning commission,” he added.
Ajay Chhibber, head of the Independent Evaluation Office that was set up last year to look at the commission’s functioning, in June recommended scrapping it, saying it was “beyond repair” and suggested setting up a body, which can foster ideas for implementation across India.
He said that disbursement of funds could be given to the finance ministry and the finance commission, which can be a permanent body in the new system.