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Modi, CMs to discuss Planning Commission on Sunday

The discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state chief ministers this Sunday on the sequel to the Planning Commission is likely to focus on four broad areas.

These are cooperative federalism, Centre-states relationship, future of the five-year planning process, including the ongoing 12th Plan, and what the Commission’s replacement should be.

Officials said the CMs have been asked whether they want continuation of the present system of five-year plans, annual plans and state plans or are for junking all of these.

The meeting will be in two parts. In the first half, the secretary of the Planning Commission, Sindhushree Khullar, will give a presentation on the current state of the Commission and the work being done by it.

“In the second session, Prime Minister Modi will meet the CMs without their aides,” an official said. This is expected to be for about two hours.

Some officials said views were also being sought from some former members and former deputy chairmen of the Commission, on contours of the new body.

In a brief intervention in Parliament on Friday, the PM said the new body to replace the Commission, would be in sync with the changing times. He said the government would involve knowledgeable people and those who could provide new ideas to redefine and restructure the Commission.

“I have convened a meeting of CMs on December 7 for detailed discussion. In the Planning Commission also, there had been discussion on how to bring it in tune with the changing times. Taking all these aspects into consideration, plans are afoot towards a new shape (of the Plan panel),” said Modi.

After his address to the nation on Independence Day, this is the first time the PM spoke in public about the need to reshape the Commission.

In his I-Day speech, he had signalled abolition of the Commission. Thereafter, discussions were held between experts and economists on a new structure. Officials said the new body was to, tentatively, be called ‘Neeti Aayog’ (Policy Commission). It is to comprise four major departments — Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT), inter-state councils, Unique Identification Authority of India, and programme evaluation. Each department will be headed by a secretary.

Some departments are currently under the Commission’s charge, with their functions involving other ministries. For instance, the nodal body for DBT is the Planning Commission, while its function on direct cash transfer for cooking gas cylinders is managed by the petroleum ministry. In the case of inter-state councils, some of these are handled by the home ministry.

In between, the role and functions of the Commission were gradually reduced. Its financial might was clipped through a recent circular by the finance ministry, which directed major ministries and departments to furnish their Plan Budget estimates for 2015-16 directly to it.

Planning minister Inderjit Singh told the Lok Sabha planning was relevant in India and the Commission should come to grips with emerging social realities to reinvent itself. He noted states had moved away from allocating government resources in a command and control system, to a more complex role of mediating through policy action and providing favourable conditions for private investment, public goods and essential services.

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