ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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NEW DELHI-Why Not Back to Mahalanobis Model

NEW DELHI THE Planning Commission has been reconstituted with the appointment of as many as nine full-time members. The prime minister, who remains the chairman of the commission, does not seem to have taken much interest in the constitution of the new Planning Commission. Except for getting rid of T N Seshan as cabinet secretary by finding a higher berth for him in the Planning Commission as a full-time member, he does not seem to have played a guiding role. Devi Lal, the deputy prime minister, took a part in it only to put one nominee of his own to take care of his interest in the development of the agricultural sector according to his special preferences and perceptions. Except for Arun Ghosh and A Vaidyanathan who can be said to be competent economists capable of bearing the brunt of plan making, the others seem to have qualified for nomination as full-time members for their outspoken political positions and/or proximity to Hegde. Hegde has also managed to get endorsement for his idea of giving a statutory position to the commission. Some of the new members of the commission do have a commendable record as social activists. In any case, it is odd that whereas they have emphasised the need for decentralising planning enlarging the role of the state governments and pruning the top-heavy planning machinery in New Delhi, as many as nine full-time members have been appointed to the commission. Many of them are likely to remain under-employed. The prime minister might have done better if he had opted for a more compact and technically competent Planning Commission. Going by the first pronouncements of the new members of the Planning Commission, the emphasis in Yojana Bhavan, in addition to the dismantling of what is called the top- heavy planning machinery and the technical work associated with it in New Delhi, will be on giving a broad social welfare orientation to the planning exercise and on determining plan priorities on that basis. But the question of mobilisation of resources for this purpose does not appear to be receiving attention; this problem is being treated casually. It is also not quite clear whether the Planning Commission will be able or will be allowed to play an influential role in the formulation of economic policies. It is really for the prime minister to invest the Planning Commission with the necessary prestige and authority to play a meaningful role in the socio-economic development process. Failing that, powerful ministers in the union government will not treat the commission with much respect and will not brook its interference in their affairs. As matters stand, the status and role of the Planning Commission are uncertain. This position will not improve merely by making the commission a statutory body.

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