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7 years and plan board yet to meet

The chamber of deputy chairman, planning board, undergoing renovation at secretariat in Bhubaneswar.
Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, Aug. 3: The State Planning Board has been almost lying defunct as it is yet to be reconstituted even two months after the new ministry has been formed.

The state of affair of the apex policy-making body, which is headed by chief minister Naveen Patnaik, can be gauged from the fact that it has not met since October 2007.

The present planning and coordination minister Usha Devi has admitted that the last meeting of the planning board was held on October 15, 2007, under the chairmanship of Naveen.

Former deputy chairman of planning board Surendranath Nayak said that the apex body had never held a meeting during his five-year tenure between 2009 and 2014.

“I had written several times to the chief minister, who is the chairman of the board, to convene a meeting. But the meeting never took place, ” Nayak said.

Asked as to why the meeting could not be held, he told The Telegraph: “The reason was not known to me. You can ask the chief minister.”

He, however, asserted that he had discharged his responsibilities as far as possible.

“I have reviewed the performance of all the departments, toured almost all the districts and supervised the planning exercise,” the veteran leader said.

The primary function of the planning board is to provide short-term and long-term policy guidelines for formulation of five year and annual plans at the state level and district levels with a view to achieve rapid economic growth and development in the state.

Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said that the planning Board had become a non-functional body under the present regime.

“It has become more of a rehabilitation camp of defeated and rejected ruling party politicians rather than an effective body to plan overall development of the state,” he said.

“This is further proved by the fact that only a deputy chairman has been nominated without constituting the full-fledged planning body,” Mishra, a former law minister, said.

The planning board, headed by the chief minister, usually has experts from different fields and eminent social workers.

There are ex-officio members, including the planning and co-ordination minister, chief secretary, finance secretary and development commissioner.

Asked as to when the board will be reconstituted, minister Usha Devi: “I am in my constituency. I will be able to tell you only after discussing the matter with the chief minister.” On June 20, BJD leader N. Bhaskar Rao was appointed the deputy chairman of the planning board. He is operating from a government guesthouse as his office is under renovation.

“I am operating from the guesthouse, where I have put up,” Rao told The Telegraph.

Eminent economist and former deputy chairman of the planning board Baidyanath Mishra said: “Planning boards are not effective in Odisha. Everything is decided by the chief minister.”

Former planning board member and BJP leader Suresh Pujari said: “Ever since Naveen Patnaik came to power, the planning board has turned into a non-functional body. It hardly meets and it has absolutely no business.”