Expert Opinion

‘Talk about alternative does not inspire confidence’

Print edition : September 19, 2014

Yogendra Yadav. Photo: V. Sudershan

I do not think there will be any nostalgia over the Planning Commission as it has functioned now, since it was a source of red tape. The institution was not known for coming up with innovative and creative programmes. Even the programmes it conceived and rolled out materialised only in three to four years’ time. So, if someone had said that the Planning Commission was in need of a complete overhaul, I would have given it a sympathetic hearing.

However , what is being pushed forward now is not that kind of a creative overhauling. The manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi advanced the idea of dismantling the Planning Commission has given enough indication of what is in store. He spoke about the public-private partnership (PPP) model at length while suggesting the change, but two important words that were conspicuous by their absence were equity and social justice. The talk about an alternative institution does not inspire confidence in the context of the direction and policies that we have seen so far from the government. It does not inspire confidence that the alternative will be more efficient, innovative and trustworthy, or will protect the interests of those voices which are not heard in the developmental framework.

More importantly, the direction and the day-to-day functioning of the government, especially that of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), do signal the escalation of initiatives to dismantle whatever remained of equity and social justice because of state intervention in the economy. For all its well-known ills, the Planning Commission did function as a filter, where state intervention and expenditure were examined for coherence or some relationship between financial inputs and expected outputs, and to address the concerns of poor and marginal communities. Doing away with the Planning Commission could mean removing this filter from the system and opening the doors to unregulated, uncoordinated and untargeted expenditure. Such a pattern tends to work to the advantage of the already well-entrenched. The capitalist class in India believes that the economy could do away with state regulation. This mindset could well be at work in this move too.

As told to Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

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