This Article is From Dec 07, 2014

States Must Have Greater Role in New Plan Body: Prime Minister

States Must Have Greater Role in New Plan Body: Prime Minister

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

New Delhi: A meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the future of the Planning Commission on Sunday saw most chief ministers favouring restructuring of the body but there was no consensus on disbanding the existing setup.

PM Modi, who has announced in his Independent Day speech that the Planning Commission would be replaced by a new body in sync with the contemporary economic world, invoked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had said on April 30 this year that the current structure has "no futuristic vision in the post-reform period".

Mr Modi pushed for an effective structure which strengthens "co-operative federalism" and the concept of 'Team India'.

Indications from the day-long meeting suggested that the government is looking at a structure which will have the Prime Minister, some Cabinet ministers and some chief ministers along with technocrats and experts in various fields.

The chief ministers could be included in the body on rotation basis and the states could be given liberty to spend funds according to their needs.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while briefing the media on the deliberations of the meeting, said no time-line has been fixed, saying the Centre will take a "considered view after consultations are over".

However, there were indications that the shape of the new structure could be firmed by January 26 next year.

Chief ministers of West Bengal and Mizoram besides poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand did not attend the meeting where the Prime Minister sought to give greater role for the states in the new body.

At the meeting, Congress-ruled states supported the idea of revamping the Planning Commission set up by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950 but disfavoured its scrapping as they felt it can be "evolved".

The Prime Minister said the question of role, relevance and restructuring of the Planning Commission had been repeatedly questioned for more than two decades.

Underlining that it was impossible for the nation to develop unless states develop, he told the meeting that the process of policy planning needs to change from "top to bottom" to "bottom to top".

The states should have a key role in the new body, Mr Modi said, adding that "states sometimes feel there is no platform to express their views...there should be an effective mechanism to address inter-state disputes".

"Can we develop a new mechanism that plans according to India's strengths, empowers states, and brings on board all economic activity, including that which happens outside the Government," he asked while setting the tone for the meeting.

Pushing for "co-operative federalism", he said the current global scenario offered a chance for India to take a big leap forward. This, he added, was possible by formulating a suitable replacement to the Commission with a view to suitably harnessing the strengths of the country.

Mr Jaitley said more states were in favour of a system that strengthens their ability to deliver and they want a lot more flexibility rather than a control and command structure.

Planning Commission Secretary Sindhushree made a presentation at the meeting, raising certain questions which the chief ministers were asked to respond.

These were: what should be code and method of interaction in this forum? What should be strategic task and mechanism for this platform? Should the 5-year-plan cycle continue? Should annual plan discussion continue in the present format between the Centre and the states? How should the proposed innovation and knowledge firm work for states? What are the expectations on the role and function of the think-tank? How should the fund flow for the Centre plan assistance to state be restructured?

"The think-tank role of the new institution was a very important agenda item and I think most people were in favour of that because it is more encompassing as it not only covers states methodology of expenditure but also gives direction or indicates at least a direction in which the private sector can also have a role," Mr Jaitley said.