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1,000-odd Planning Commission staff at sea

india Updated: Aug 19, 2014 00:11 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Uncertainty mires not only the future of 1,000 employees working with the Planning Commission and its affiliated institutions but also some constitutional tasks on inter-state relations the panel used to perform.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address announced the 64-year-old vestige of the socialist era would be scrapped and replaced by a new body with a modern outlook.

The announcement confirmed the worst fears of people working at the panel’s Yojana Bhawan headquarters and associated offices such as the Institute of Applied Manpower Research and the National Rainfed Area Authority.

Many thought the panel would continue with abridged powers and the new government would not abolish an institution that adapted itself to the liberalisation of the economy by Manmohan Singh in 1991, when he was finance minister. Earlier, Singh took over as the panel’s deputy chairperson in 1985.

“We don’t know whether we will be accommodated in the new body or sent to another government department. Our opinion has not been sought,” said an official who has a sprawling office on the first floor of Yojana Bhawan that has the offices of the minister, deputy chairperson and panel members.

Another official, who credits his 30-year tenure in Yojana Bhawan for honing his skills in the infrastructure sector, wondered whether his expertise would matter for the new government.

“I may be of the old school and may not be needed anymore in this era,” said the official, who joined the panel at the age of 22 and has worked with Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee.

He is among several people in the five-storey building who religiously mark their attendance on the country’s first Aadhaar-based biometric attendance system every morning — and then wait for some news of their future.

Some, who in the past have been involved in the panel’s prime function of finalising allocations to state governments, don’t know whether the new institution will still perform this constitutional duty.

They said the think-tank proposed by Modi cannot be expected to allocate money to the states and the finance ministry, which was given the task to disburse money to Central ministries for this budget, does not have domain expertise on the task of state performance appraisals.

Another question is who will take over the panel’s key function of holding meetings of the National Development Council, India’s only body for holistic strengthening of Centre-State relations.

“Allocation after appraising the past performance of the state governments and conducting NDCs was the job given to the panel,” the official said and wondered that what would happen to the 12th five year plan (2012-17), the last decision of the NDC.