In a fast past paced discussion that saw former members of Planning Commission, parliamentarians and several other dignitaries and after months of deliberations, a sense is finally here: Reinvent the Planning Commission but make planning a federally empowered function with active participation of States and in a bottom up mode.
“We need to work on the change as if there is no box, rather than do out of box thinking”, said Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International. “While learning from history is essential, changes can only be made if new approaches are thought about”.
This majority sense has evolved after a series of discussions hosted by CUTS international Public Policy Centre, here yesterday. These discussions were kicked off through an e-debate months ago which culminated in two round tables.
The overarching sense also entailed discussions on how to retain the authority of Planning Commission if it was to act solely as a think tank sans financial allocation powers, which is now a settled majority view. Participants drew examples of Korea and Thailand, where planning is done by research bodies, which are effective only because of government’s acceptance.
Within the overarching sense some divergent views also echoed, particularly on the issue whether to retain the word ‘Planning’ as a nomenclature of the reformed body. While no one disputed that planning is necessary, some suggested that retaining the existing nomenclature may just be a mental block in moving ahead and not signal a change.
China has changed the name of its planning body to National Reforms and Development Commission, but that did not mean a reduction of its planning functions. Though China has a sui generis governance system it does involve its provinces and cities in planning and reforms actively.
Implementation was flagged as a crucial issue by the debate and it was thus voiced that the new body should be populated with State representatives and also create a repository of both good and bad practices in various domains.
Suggestions were also made for the need of reviving the constitutionally empowered district planning committees in order to take on board bottom up approach for overall planning. In addition it was emphasised that the new organisation should be a lean body, gaining objective perspectives from outside, and that the need of the hour is not only to think out of the box but as if there was no box.
The views and suggestions so made in these roundtables and e-debate have seen participation of nearly 100 experts. Their views are being compiled by CUTS in a report which will be published soon. The debate saw active participation by experts, parliamentarians, and practitioners such as Arun Maira, Pronab Sen, Ajay Chhibber, B K Chaturvedi, Syeda Hameed, B L Mungekar, Mani Shanker Aiyer, R Ramakrishna, C P Thakur, V P Singh, Ashok Jha, Gopal Pillai, N C Saxena, Sanjaya Baru and Surjit Bhalla, amongst others.
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