The chairman of the National Statistical Commission, Pronab Sen, who has been associated with the planning process for over two decades, says the Prime Minister should work more closely with the Planning Commission. Sen explains to Santosh Tiwari why the idea of scrapping the Planning Commission should not be pursued.
There has been a debate over the role of Planning Commission; some have even talked of scrapping it. Will this be a good idea?
Before any such talks, there is a need to first understand what are the functions such an institution performs. Then you have to list out which functions are necessary and which are unnecessary. After that, you need to decide can those necessary functions be handled by one institution or should be divided among different institutions. Unless you have completed this full process, you will not be able to do full justice.
Which, then, are the necessary functions of the Planning Commission?
The first, of course, is the Plan itself. Is it that the country does not need planning? It is a vision for the future, for development in the next five years, based on an integrated view. Then, there is a responsibility of delivering various components of the Plan on several players—finance ministry, ministries handling specific components and the state governments. How much of the responsibility lies with whom needs to be decided. And then the allocation of resources between the states and the Centre, and among different ministries of the central government. This is the function that will always be there. The Centre-state part, perhaps, can be given to the Finance Commission. Above all, somebody has to take an independent view on how much money needs to be allocated to a particular scheme. Different ministries here have competing demands. Whether a particular scheme fits into the objectives of the Plan also needs to be looked at.
Does the Planning Commission play an independent role?
Let me be clear here. The Planning Commission is a part of the government. It was, essentially as envisaged, an extension of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The appraisal part has to be done by an independent body like Planning Commission, not having the implementation responsibility. Evaluation is then the next function. It was being done by the Planning Commission, it has now been hived off to the Independent Evaluation Office. Another significant function of the Commission is that of an advisory body to the PM. Earlier,