Minister on Job may Write Plan Panel Obituary
With the appointment of MoS with independent charge, all key decisions are expected to be taken by the minister
YOGIMA SETH SHARMA
The Narendra Modi-led government’s unprecedented move to elevate the post of minister of state for planning by giving an independent charge to Inderjit Singh Rao has raised doubts over whether the role of Planning Commission is being reduced to just a ministry. The commission has been headed by the prime minister as its chairman ever since its inception in 1950. With the appointment of a minister of state with an independent charge, all key decisions related to fund allocation are expected to be taken by the minister and answers to parliamentary questions would be in his name and not the chairman. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has questioned the functioning of the commission time and again over the years and there were indications that he could restructure the commission if he came to head the government. Even outgoing PM Manmohan Singh had, in his farewell speech to panel members on April 30, sought “reorientation” of the panel and empha- sised changing its role in the “new world” of an open and liberal economy. Planning Commission secretary Sindhushree Khullar has, however, said that the planning ministry and the commission are two different things and that the prime minister continues to be the chairman of the commission as has been the practice. “This is a ministry which responds to the commission’s deliberations to Parliament,” Rao told the media after taking charge of the planning ministry on Tuesday. The commission was set up through a Cabinet resolution by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to assess funds available with the government and how best they should be spent for social and economic growth. It works under the overall guidance of the National Development Council. The deputy chairman and the full-time members of the commission, as a composite body, provide advice and guidance to the subject divisions for the formulation of five-year plans, annual plans, state plans, monitoring plan programmes, projects and schemes.