By Sanjay Thapa
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
A Nehruvian edifice – the Planning Commission, has come to an end under PM Modi. Or has it? It is indeed important to dig in to see its relevance. Getting Swaraj, PM Nehru had an ardent task of getting India back on the track. For this Planning was important – five year plans to disaggregated annual plans.
For our first Prime Minister Nehru, governing a new born country with a big population in abject poverty was not easy. New to the art of governing, PM Nehru was influenced a lot by the Soviet Union. Thus, planning for India’s development was inspired by Stalin’s aggressive ‘Centrally Planning’ model. The Soviet Union was in the post-world War II crisis phase. And as resources depleted, the Soviet Union was economically emaciated.
India, too, was like the Soviet Union as it economically exploited resources, and had a large number of segregated states with each demanding its own share of flesh. Nehru took resort to ’equal distribution of wealth’ as well a ‘common dining table’– where each state or occupant of the dining table got an equal portion of the harvest. After independence, equitable growth of the economy and poverty alleviation were the chief priorities, as Nehru had inherited an exploited India from the East India Company. Much under these influences, the Planning Commission took shape.
But beginning this year, a silent burial has been given to the Planning Commission. PM Modi has already made a start in this direction on his first Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Lal Qila. So, with the beginning of the New Year, the fifty-four year old body has been rechristened ‘Niti Ayog. PM Modi has tweeted and re-tweeted his agenda to provide a more federal and decentralised architecture to the think-tank that has often been called a ‘parking lot’ for unwanted bureaucrats, an unnecessary hurdle breathing down the state’s neck, and also a ‘White elephant’ by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram himself.
But the fact remains that till now the new Niti Ayog has largely the same structure as the Yojana Ayog. The constituent representatives of states remain the same, the hierarchy remains the same with the PM as the Chairman. The body’s proposals go to the NDC, and the sectorial allocations are still decided by the body. So where’s the difference? Where’s decentralisation? We look for answers to this.
As the Union Budget 2015-16 rollout closes in, and the North Block has lit its midnight lamp, it seems the FM, Arun Jaitley, has more work at hand this time with the Plan allocation to be worked out with a new body called Niti Ayog, which has replaced the Planning Commission.
SANJAY THAPA is a senior editor and a TV/Radio commentator with over 20 years of experience in covering macro -economy, politico-Eco & finance policies. He has been associated with leading media houses like India Today, Indian Express, and Economic Times as well panellist and anchor at seminars and panel discussions in DD and AIR NATIONAL. With a Masters degree in Economics with specialisation in ECONOMETRICS he initially worked as SW ENGINEER at India’s leading IT MNC before he decided to switch to his much loved passion for journalism – which in fact started during his SENIOR CAMBRIDGE school days in Doon. Besides Economics he is an avid music aficionado and finds much pleasure in playing many musical instruments.