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Wednesday , August 20 , 2014
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Modi invites ideas on plan panel substitute

Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Aug. 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today took to Twitter to seek suggestions from the public to help re-fashion the Soviet-inspired Planning Commission, which supporters say is in line with a new, open style of governance.

“We envision the proposed institution as one that caters to the aspirations of 21st century India and strengthens participation of the states...Let the ideas flow,” Modi said in a Twitter post.

The government also announced the creation of an open forum on the website for suggestions on the new institution.

“The Prime Minister has invited ideas from people on what shape the new institution to replace the Planning Commission can take,” a statement said.

According to officials, inputs have already started flowing in, but they did not reveal the details.

In 1957, Chinese leader Mao Zedong had invited people to come up with ideas on future policy, saying, “Let a hundred flowers blossom.”

However, back then it was more of an exercise to invite suggestions and criticisms to flush out potential dissidents.

Modi has, on the other hand, been actually seeking public inputs on policy formulation.

A dedicated team within the BJP has been using social media to reach out to economists, party supporters, development experts and others to seek inputs for plans on skill development, cleaning the Ganges, enhancing the status of women, job creation, the budget and the 100-day action plan.

Officials feel Modi already has an idea of what he wanted to do in place of the Planning Commission. “He has been interacting with the plan body for the last 10 years and when he visited the Chinese reforms body, he had a scheme of action in his head however, he is also open to fresh thinking,” plan panel advisers said.

Modi had reformed the Gujarat planning department significantly during his tenure as chief minister and the body’s main jobs are three-fold — act as a think tank and statistics repository, conduct evaluation studies and help district and Taluka planning bodies to do their jobs.

Observers feel Modi doesn’t want strict target setting, but rather expects the private sector to lead the economy. He expects planners to envision development plans to which the private sector and states could both contribute.

Modi’s statement is also being read as an indication that central planning should not be top down, but rather involve states more intensely with interaction and exchange of ideas on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Said economist Yogendra K. Alagh, “We have long been advocating reform in the planning process the new institution should do scenario planning — what happens if you do or don’t have coal, what happens to oil and gas resources if supplies are disrupted.”

Agreed N.R. Bhanumurthy of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, “There are some genuine criticisms about its (Planning Commission) role as a think-tank. There is a need for some institutional structure to address the coordination issues that is crucial for co-operative federalism.”

that the new government is talking about. At the same time, there is also a need for a think-tank that deals with long term developmental goals.”

The current planning commission has a core staff strength of about 109 economists, statisticians, civil service officers and technocrats engineers trained in cost evaluation or environment specialists , with some 800 support staff. Officials said some of the experts and economists would be needed by the new body if it were to do long term planning or envisioning of the kind which they believed the prime minister would like it to undertake. However, many others may be farmed out to other ministries which are short of trained manpower.

Officials also pointed out that in the previous NDA regime at the insistence of Prime Minister atal Behari Vajpayee, some long term planning had been done. Dr Kalam had co-authored a book with Dr Y.S rajan titled ` India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium’ and the plan panel had used it as a take-off point to come up with a report on the kind of India, which could be wrought by the year 2020 and what needed to be done to achieve the dream. The team which wrote the report was led by plan panel member S.P.Gupta and entitled `Report of the Committee on India Vision 2020.”