In this article we will discuss about:- 1. History of Planning in India 2. Role, Functions and Responsibilities of Planning Commission 3. National Development Council 4. India’s Five-Year Plans 5. Planning Procedure 6. Planning Commission and Administration 7. Alternative to Planning.
- History of Planning in India:
- Role, Functions and Responsibilities of Planning Commission:
- National Development Council:
- India’s Five-Year Plans:
- Planning Procedure:
- Planning Commission and Administration:
- Alternative to Planning:
History of Planning in India:
Planning Commission in India has come to say as an important organ of development administration and process. Nation’s every activity today revolves round this organisation. Unless funds for a project are made available by the Commission, the work cannot go on.
India, quite for some time, has been playing with the idea of planned economy in the country. As early as in 1876, when Dadabhai Naoroji wrote his ‘Poverty of India’ it was realised that India’s poverty could be eradicated only if efforts in some planned way were made.
It was in 1933 that M. Visvesvaraya came out with his ten year plan with the target of doubling the income of the country. In 1938, Indian National Congress set up a National Planning Committee under the Presidentship of Late Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.
The work of the Committee was, however, hampered due to the outbreak of Second World War. In 1941, the then Government of India realised the need and necessity of some sort of planning body in India and appointed a Committee for Planning. In 1943, this Committee was replaced by the Reconstruction Committee of the Executive Council, which was headed by the Governor General himself.
A year later in 1944, a separate Planning and Development Department was set up by the Government of India. Simultaneously some industrialists of India came forward, with ‘Bombay Plan’ aiming at economic development of the country in a planned way.
In 1946, an Advisory Planning Board was set up by the interim Government of India with K.C. Neogi as its Chairman. It was to make recommendations about co-ordination and improvement of planning, future planning machinery and set objectives and priorities.
It was of the view that there should be a single and compact authoritative organisation concerning itself with the whole field of development and be made responsible direct to the cabinet.
It also suggested that such a body be named as Planning Commission. The Commission’s members should be persons with general experience of public affairs on the one hand and be drawn from industry, science and technology on the other with no Minister as its member.
In 1948, National Planning Committee was accordingly set up by the government. The Planning Commission was actually set up on 15th March, 1950, by a resolution of the Government of India and started its work on 28th March, 1950.
At present in India Planning Commission has no constitutional status. In November 1989 when National Front Government took over at the Centre, Hegde was made Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. Immediately after his taking over he announced that the government proposed to give constitutional status to the Commission.
The re-constituted commission will include three opposition ruled state Chief Ministers, each one having a year’s term of office. But no change could be brought about because the government went out of power after about a year.
Though it has been defined in several ways yet for our purposes it means government’s arrangement regarding allocation of country’s labour, foreign exchange, raw materials and other resources between different branches of economy.
Prof. K.T. Shah has said that, “Planning in a democratic system may be defined as technical coordination by disinterested experts of consumption, production, investigation, trade and income distribution in accordance with special objectives set by bodies representative of nation.”
Thus, planning is deliberate choice of economic priorities and allocation of resources for achieving certain objectives in a given period of time.
It helps in taking major economic decisions on the basis of comprehensive survey of the whole national economy. Thus, planning is conscious and deliberate act which is undertaken with a definite aim.
It covers not only production but also distribution and tries to achieve all those socio-economic objectives which have already been determined. A good planning should be comprehensive and in it there should be a single central authority which should not only plan but also coordinate diverse economic activities.
Objectives of planning differ from country to country. Much depends on what stage of economic development the nation is but every plan aims at economic development of the nation, better utilisation of national resources more employment, price control, financial stability and reduction of economic gap between the rich and the poor.
Role, Functions and Responsibilities of Planning Commission:
In India both material and personnel resources being very limited, the Commission has been given the responsibility of making an assessment of the material capital and human resources of the country and also of investigating the possibility of augmentation of such resources. It is expected to suggest ways and means by which deficient resources in relation to nation’s requirements can be met.
Then its another role and responsibility is to give the country plans for the most effective and balanced utilisation of country’s resources, both available and potential from within and without.
It has also been given the responsibility on the one hand to determine priorities and stages at which plans should be carried out and on the other suggest allocation of resources which may be needed for successful completion of each stage. The Commission is also required to pin point hindrances which can retard nation’s economic development.
The Resolution also says that it is the responsibility of this Commission to ‘appraise from time to time the progress achieved in execution of each stage of plan and recommend adjustments of policy and measures that such appraisal may consider necessary’.
Lastly, it has been said in the Resolution that the Commission will also make, “Such ancillary recommendations as appear to be appropriate either for the discharge of duties assigned to it; or on a consideration of prevailing economic conditions, current policies, measures and development programmes, or on an examination of such specific problems as may be referred to it for advice by the Central or State Governments for facilitating the discharge of the duties assigned to it.”
Planning Commission by this resolution of the government is, thus, expected to perform a very key-role in the economic development of the country.
The Commission is an advisory body. It is headed by Prime Minister and usually has full time Deputy Chairman, who at times has been politician (e.g., C. Subrartianian, Shri N.D. Tiwari, Solanki, G.L. Nanda, Hegde and parnab Mukerjee who held this position in addition to that of Union Minister of External Affairs while at other times economist e.g., Dr. Gadgil, D.T. Lakadawala and Dr. Man Mohan Singh.
To ensure that Planning Commission performs its desired role, it maintains a close liaison with the cabinet. Whereas members of the Commission are invited, as and when necessary, by the cabinet and its committees, the Commission also does not act in vacuum but takes full cognisance of important economic issues which arise in the Ministries.
“Thus, there is a regular stream of ideas and suggestions flowing from the Commission to the Union Government and vice versa.” This co-ordination between Cabinet and Commission has enabled the latter to play its role in a much better way.
Organisation of the Commission:
Though members of the Commission act as a body, yet in order to facilitate working they have clear demarcation of work. Each full time member has been given specific subjects to be dealt with by him. The members of the Commission are assisted by programme advisers and many other senior officers. Then there is secretariat of the Commission, which is headed by a Secretary.
It is divided into several, divisions, some of these being Agriculture and Rural Development; Economic, Education, Finance Resources; Employment and man-power; Housing, Urban Development and Water Supply and Irrigation; Health and Family Welfare; Industry and Mineral; Land Reforms; Transport and Communication; Statistics and Surveys; Power and Energy; Monitoring and Information; Perspective Planning; Social Welfare; Plan Information and Public Cooperation; Programme Administration and Command Area Development.
It has also several technical divisions. Various Divisions of the Commission also look after follow up of plan projects, for which several committees have been set up. Research Programmes Committee, Committee on Irrigation and Power Projects and Coordination Committee are some such committees.
In addition there is an autonomous body working under the guidance of Planning Commission known as Programme Evaluation Organisation. The members of the Commission are expected to work on the principle of joint and collective responsibility and discharge their functions on the basis of collective wisdom.
But with the passage of time, it has, however, been seen that each member of the Commission jealously tends to retain his monopolistic grip over the portfolios allocated to him resulting in an inhibiting effect on the expression of views by other experts.
Obviously this is not a healthy trend and Administrative Reforms Commission has come forward with the suggestion that all important decisions should be taken by the members collectively either at a meeting or by circulation.
A.R.C. has also suggested that each member of the Planning Commission should have full freedom to call for a file belonging to the portfolio of some other member and record his views on that, if need be.
Salient Features of Planning in India:
Planning system has come to stay in India. It has its own features. It is a system in which planning process starts from above as well as from below. Thus, it involves the people as well as policy-makers. National Front Government which took over from Congress (I) at the Centre in November, 1989 was of the view that the planning should start from below.
It made extensive use of public enterprises and used the help ‘of cooperative and private enterprises. It followed the principle of mixed economy. In it there was high degree of centralisation.
The Commission exercises tight control over the projects which are approved by it, though it is not directly responsible for implementation of plan programmes. The stales have less role in planning process for two reasons – firstly: ultimate say is with the Centre and secondly, the states have not that much expertise in planning as the Centre has.
National Development Council:
It was with the object of involving states in planning process that National Development Council was set up in 1952 though, the idea was mooted in 1946.
In 1967, based on the recommendations and suggestions of the A.R.C., the Government of India outlined the following functions of the Council:
(a) To give guidelines for the formulation of national plans;
(b) To help in assessing plan resources;
(c) To consider plans as formulated by the Planning Commission;
(d) To deal with important questions of social and economic policies, which have a bearing on national development;
(e) To review the working of the plan from time to time and suggest measures for speedy achievement of plan targets;
(f) To suggest measures to secure active participation and co-operation of the people in planning process;
(g) To suggest ways and means for improving efficiency of administrative services dealing with plan implementation.
(h) To suggest measures for building up resources for national development.
(i) To ensure the fullest development of less advanced regions and sections of community.
The Council is a very powerful body, which, is headed by the Prime Minister himself. All the State Chief Ministers, Lt. Governor and Chief Executive Councillor Delhi, Administrators of Union Territories, Members of Planning Commission, Food, Home, Finance and Defence Ministers of the Central Cabinet are members of the Council. The Council usually meets twice a year though there is no rigidity about it.
Role of NDC:
It is useful link between the States, Central Government and Planning Commission. Its recommendations are today accepted as policy directives. The NDC provides a very effective forum for vindicating grievances and focusing attention of the central government and Planning Commission about implementation and execution of the Planning policies and programmes at the central level.
Once the matters have been thrashed at NDC level and targets fixed quick and earnest efforts are made to raise plan resources for achieving targets. It also creates a sense of responsibility among the states for making the plan a success and does not make them feel that the Plan has been imposed on them by super-bosses.
Some voices have, however, been raised against NDC. It has been said that since its inception it has virtually relegated Planning Commission to status of a research arm.
In 1959, whereas H.M. Patel said that it was superior to Planning Commission, K. Santhanam assessed its position by saying that its position was approximate to that of super cabinet of the entire Indian federation. But there seems to be no dispute in its occupying a pivotal position in the planning system of India.
While assessing its importance one of its former Vice-Chairman, V.T. Krishnamachari said, “It provides a forum in which the Union Minister and Chief Ministers of States discuss the plans at important stages in their formulation….” The Council also considers social and economic policies affecting the country from national point of view so that where necessary, uniformity may be secured.
India’s Five-Year Plans:
First Three Five-Year Plans:
Most important task of the Planning Commission in India is to give the country five-year plans. First such plan covered the period of 1951-56, which involved a total outlay of Rs.3,360 crores of which Rs.1,560 crores were in the public sector. The aim of the plan was to increase production of food and raw materials and to develop irrigation and power projects.
It also aimed at enlarging the scope of employment and consolidating progress in the field of social services. It was hoped that the plan would help in rapid increase in the rate of development in less developed states. Priority was given to key industries, like iron and steel and manufacture of electrical equipments.
1956-61 period was covered under Second Five-Year Plan, with total outlay of Rs.6,750 crores, out of which Rs.3,650 crores were in the public sector. The Plan objective was to considerably increase national income and to take India on the path of industrialisation.
It laid stress on development of basic and heavy industries. The plan also promised expansion of employment opportunities and reduction of inequalities in income, thereby promising even distribution of economic power.
Third Five-Year Plan covered the period 1961-66 with total outlay of Rs.10,200 crores. Out of this only Rs.4,000 crores were in private, whereas Rs.6,200 crores were in the private sector. Its main objectives were to have secure above 5% p.a. rise in national income to sustain growth rate in subsequent plans and to obtain increased self-sufficiency in food grains.
Another objective was to expand basic industries, to meet requirements of further industrialisation, to ensure substantial increase in employment opportunities as well as to reduce economic inequalities.
After the Third Five-Year Plan there was Indo-Pakistan conflict and also there were severe drought in the country. There were also such problems as devaluation of currency and general rise in prices resulting in erosion of resources available for plan purposes.
This delayed the finalisation of Fourth Five-Year Plan. Therefore, in between 1966 and 1969, there were three annual plans. Each plan, of course, took into consideration conditions prevailing in those days.
Efforts were undoubtedly made to make the best use of the situation but on the whole the state of economy and the non-availability of financial resources for plan purposes kept down the size of development outlay during this period.
Fourth Five-Year Plan:
Fourth Five-Year Plan had an outlay of Rs.24,822 crores, out of which Rs.15,902 crores were for public and remaining Rs.8,920 crores in the private sector. The plan had several objectives. It also provided for an annual growth rate of at least 5% and that during the plan period priority would be given to the production of fertilisers and agricultural equipments.
It also said that deficit financing would be avoided to check inflationary tendencies, which economy was not bearing. It was made amply clear that only such new schemes would be undertaken which were essential to keep up the momentum of growth already built up and to meet basic needs of the country during plan period. In order to check population growth it was provided that there would be a massive family planning drive in the country.
Fifth Five-Year Plan:
The Fifth Five-Year Plan began on April 1, 1974 at a time when the economy was facing severe inflationary pressures. It had a total outlay of Rs.66,353, crores, with a public sector outlay of Rs.39,304 crores. The objectives of the Plan being 5.5% overall rate of growth of gross domestic product and expansion of productive employment.
It laid stress on agriculture and, key and basic industries producing goods for mass consumption. The plan also laid stress on an equitable price wages income balance and on taking institutional, fiscal and other measures for the reduction of social, economic and regional inequalities.
It was provided that plan resources would be mobilised by way of taxation, borrowing and pricing policies in relation to public enterprises.
The planners also promised generation of employment in the rural areas so that regional imbalances would be removed. The plan very clearly said that the objectives were removal of poverty and achievement of self-reliance.
New Role of Planning Commission:
In 1977, Janata Government came into power at the Centre. The new government was of die view that the targets and approaches to the plan should be changed. In the view of the government the system of capital-intensive industries and mechanised farms had failed and that there should be stress on cottage industries.
It was also maintained that the role and function of the Commission should now be to increase productivity through larger self-employment opportunities. It was suggested by the Government to the Commission that the plan proposals should be now so revised that there should be increased stress on agriculture, cottage and small-scale industries. Efforts should also be directed to develop rural infrastructure facilities.
Planning Commission was also reconstituted and at its first meeting held on 3 July, 1977, the Commission agreed that the aim of the Five-Year Plan should be to very substantially reduce unemployment, disparities in income and that adequate provision be made for meeting public needs.
Rolling Plan Concept:
In order to have greater flexibility and realism in planning the Commission decided that with effect from 1st April, 1978 Rolling Plan Concept should be put into practice. Under this concept Five-Year Plan will be continued to be formulated on five year basis but plan targets, resources, etc., will be revised every year in the light of performance of various sectors.
It was also suggested that plan should have time bound annual targets with stress on removal of unemployment and reduction of disparities in wealth. Annual Plan Guidelines for the year 1978-79 suggested to the State Governments that it should he ensured that irrigation and other projects, which were already in progress should be completed as early as possible.
Under the new schemes priority should be given to irrigation and power sectors and continuing schemes in agriculture and related activities should be provided for at least at the same rate as these were in the current year.
Since the concept of rolling plan did not rule out five year plans therefore the government also prepared a plan document.
The Draft Plan provided that the principal objectives of planning should now be defined as achieving within a period of 10 years:
(a) The removal of unemployment and significant underemployment;
(b) An appreciable rise in the standard of living of the poorest section of the population;
(c) provision by the state of some of the basic needs of the people in these income groups like clean drinking water, adult literacy, elementary education, health care, rural roads, rural housing for the landless and minimum services for urban slums.
The draft plan covering the period 1978-83 provided for an outlay of Rs.1,16,240 crores, of which outlay in the public sector was kept at Rs.69,380 crores. It was expected that there will be potential for 5.5% growth by the end of the period. There will also be substantial employment at the end of the plan along with eradication of poverty and establishment of more equal society.
The planners also promised that within a period of next ten years not only the unemployment would be reduced but there would be appreciable rise in the living standard of the poor people and some basic needs would be provided to these people.
Draft Plan being basically rural oriented laid maximum stress on integrated rural development, agriculture, cottage and small-scale industries and so on. It was hoped by the planners that per capita consumption level would rise by about 3% during 1983-88.
Overall Resources of this plan (1978-83) were provided as under:
As regards public sector outlay of Rs.69,380 proposed to finance that in the following manner:
The plan did not much take off because early in 1980 there were elections in the country and Janata party was ousted from power. The new government decided to change the targets and approaches to the Plan.
Sixth Five-Year Plan:
Sixth Five-Year Plan covered the period of 1980-85. Janata government had fixed its own targets but before the plan could be implemented that government went out of power and Congress (I) prepared its own plan.
The plan aimed at removal of poverty and make the country self-reliant. It wanted to provide more employment opportunities particularly in the rural areas and unorganised sector. It also wanted to strengthen infrastructure for both agriculture and industry.
The plan envisaged a total investment of Rs.1,58,710 crores at 1979-80 level. Out of this Rs.97,500 crores were meant for public sector. It was hoped that the economy would grow at 5.2 per cent a year during the plan period.
The plan aimed at making special efforts to give more share to the poor sections of society in national income through rural employment and anti-poverty programmes like IRDP and NREP. Special attention was paid to immediate as well as long-term needs of agricultural commodities both for domestic consumption and export. It also aimed at promoting small-scale and cottage industries.
It was also provided that attention will be paid to providing social services like elementary education, rural health, rural water, housing, niral electrification, etc.
It also laid special stress on science and technology for securing maximum utilisation of natural resources. It also envisaged on efficient public distribution system and on proper procurement, transportation and storage; system of essential commodities. It aimed at mobilisation of resources.
It covered a period of 1980-81 to 1984-85. The 1980-81 plan outlay was fixed at Rs. 1,51,019 crores against that additional expenditure was estimated at Rs.14,832 crores.
In December 1981, priorities and resources were re-allocated because of demands from the core areas namely Petroleum exploration and power generation.
Sixth five-year plan helped in sustaining the impulses of growth. It could reach the 5.2% growth rate as fixed in the plan but it failed to achieve target in such key industries as steel, fertilisers, cement and textiles. Industrial production also did not touch fixed targets. It made good advancement in technological field.
Seventh Five-Year Plan:
It covered a period of 1985-90. It came into operation on 1-4-1985. It kept 15 years period in view. It also aimed at removing poverty and providing social justice. It also aimed at speeding up economic and technological modernisation.
It laid stress on agriculture and introducing land reforms. It wanted to lay stress on anti-poverty programmes. It also wanted to have a self-reliant industrial economy and have the fullest human resource development.
In the Seventh plan total public sector outlay is of the order of Rs.1,80,000 crores. The G.D.P. at factor cost is expected to be 5 per cent over the Sixth Plan.
The main aim of the plan being to remove illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and provide food, clothing and shelter, particularly to weaker section of society.
Eight Five-Year Plans (1990-95):
The Plan was approved by the Commission in August 1989. It aims at achieving growth rate of 6% p.a. over the plan period. It lays stress on decentralisation of planning process at all levels and to increase exports to meet increasing import requirements of the economy and to increase foreign exchange reserves.
The plan aims at the following:
(1) To provide clean drinking water to all by 1995 and to achieve health for all by 2000 A.D.
(2) To have annual average growth rate of 6 per cent over the period of 1990-95.
(3) To protect environment and to promote ecological balance.
(4) To reduce the population below poverty line by another 10 per cent.
(5) To provide universal elementary education and eradicate illiteracy among working age population.
(6) To achieve 4 per cent employment growth rate to solve the problem of unemployment of rural people and urban poor.
(7) To achieve self-reliance and modernisation through proper use of science and technology.
(8) To ensure annual average food grain availability at 19.5 kg per person by the end of 8th plan.
(9) To ensure development of women, children and other vulnerable groups.
States Involvement in Planning Procedure:
In planning process, the Commission does not unilaterally act, but very actively involves the State Governments in it. In India first draft of the plan is prepared by the Planning Commission after consulting Ministries of central government and state governments and taking into consideration available and potential resources.
Draft proposals are then placed before National Development Council and after it has reacted to Draft the plan, it is circulated to the Union Ministries and State governments. At the state level there is a well-developed plan co-ordination system in which Secretaries of various development departments are involved. In the states there are separate State Planning Boards.
The plan is finally approved by the State Cabinet. Since the demands put on the Commission are always very heavy, as compared with the available resources, therefore, the Commission takes several factors into consideration while making its suggestions on the plan proposals e.g., availability of resources, administrative and technical manpower, removal of regional imbalances, extent to which resources can be raised from internal and external sources, population of the state, availability of raw material, economic conditions of the people, nation’s tax paying capacity and blending of the schemes in such a way that economic resources and social needs are fully met. Thus, task of the planners is no way easy.
After taking all these factors into consideration, the Commission prepares a draft plan which is then widely circulated to the Union Ministries, State Governments, the public, political parties and all concerned and their comments and suggestions are invited. The draft plan is considered by the central cabinet and in the states at different levels before it is finally approved as official plan document
Planning Commission being an advisory body has nothing to do with the implementation part of the plan. It has not been given any responsibility to directly administer any plan project.
It, however, plays a very significant role by providing necessary information about achieving the plan targets by giving wide publicity to plan objectives and suggesting ways and means by which hindrances, if any, can be removed. The Commission evaluates plan projects and programmes.
Committee on Plan Projects:
The Committee on Plan Projects was set up in 1956, as a result of resolution of National Development Council. It is headed by Home Minister, with Planning Minister and Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission as its members. Some State Chief Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister on this Committee. Union Cabinet Ministers concerned with a particular project are invited, when necessary.
The Committee inspects on the spot important projects approved by the Commission and suggests ways and means by which plans can be executed efficiently and wasteful expenditure avoided. It is also expected of the Committee to make the result of its studies available to other projects, so that all are benefited by that. It also suggests ways and means by which economies can be introduced without sacrificing efficiency.
Programme Evaluation Organisation:
Programme Evaluation Organisation was set up in 1952 with the assistance of Ford Foundation. It functions under over all supervision and control of Planning Commission and in close co-operation with Ministries of Government of India. It provides necessary statistical data and information to the Commission.
The organisation scrutinises reports which are received from the field for the preparation of final report. It has been allowed to function independently, without any interference from even the Planning Commission. The organisation is required to have general appraisal of the progress of the programme and conduct field surveys with a view to finding out the effect of the programme on the life of the society.
The organisation is neither concerned with the checking of figures nor finding out whether investment being made commensurate with the success achieved, but is concerned with finding out how far the methods being used are suited for successful implementation of the programme.
Since it is an advisory body, it is not binding on the government to accept its recommendations. It also aims at winning the co-operation of the people for community development programmes.
Co-ordination Committee for Public Co-operation:
It is one of the Advisory Committees of the Planning Commission which was set up in 1952 with a view to winning the co-operation of the public in the execution of plan programmes. It has eminent persons drawn from different walks of life as its members. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Commission usually remain associated with it.
Advisory Committee on Irrigation and Power Projects:
It is another advisory committee of the Commission. It helps in the scrutiny of various schemes prepared by the government bodies about irrigation and power programmes, including their financial and technical aspects. Minister of Planning is its Chairman. It includes representatives from Ministries of Irrigation and Powers.
Planning Commission’s Performance:
Planning Commission is now 45 years old and during its existence it has given seven Five-Year Plans to the country. During the period of its existence it has considerably helped in the growth of national economy, but still it suffers from several defects.
Criticism of Planning Commission:
There is, however, mounting criticism that Planning Commission in India has failed to perform its role. Take e.g., employment. Every time the nation is fed on the promise that unemployment will be ended and poverty eradicated, but no substantial break- through has been made.
The number of people living below poverty line is very high and unemployment is of serious magnitude. It is also said that the Commission has obviously failed to play its role of distributive justice. As a result of plans all have not been benefited, but the rich have become richer and poor still poorer.
Then it is said the Commission’s role should have been both in the field of production as well as distribution. But whereas it has played its role in the field of production, it has completely ignored distribution. This has resulted in defective distribution and the benefits of production have not reached the masses.
The Commission is empowered to make discretionary grants to the states. This makes the states dependent on the Centre and weakens our federal structure which is already very weak. Not only has this but it quite often resulted in friction between the Centre and the states.
It is also said that it has greatly under minded the authority of Finance Commission.
Then it is pointed out that the planners have failed to involve the masses in the plan process. They have failed to make the rural folk an integral part of the plan process. In the villages either there is no plan consciousness or there is a feeling that it is an imposition from above. This has much retarded the progress of the plans.
It was expected of the planners that they would play a balancing role between the material, capital and human resources but the Commission has not played its role too well in this regard as well. As and when there has been occasion and necessity, the Commission has pruned and cut down amounts from social welfare activities, rather than any other field of activity.
One reason responsible for the failure of plans is said to be federal and democratic structure of the country. The states in India are always highly critical of the planning process which relegates them to subordinate position. In a democratic state like India it is very difficult to have consent for the use of limited resources in the face of heavy demands from everywhere.
It was expected of the Planning Commission to be merely an Advisory body but it has become a policy-making agency. The technical experts in the presence of top political bosses do not express themselves freely.
Then Planning Commission was supposed to bring down agricultural population in India. But with the passage of time it is seen that neither agricultural population nor landless labour has come down. Its role in this regard has too not been much success.
Then another criticism is that functions of Planning Commission get overlapped with those of some other Ministries. This not only results in waste of labour but also of resources as well.
The planners can take credit that they have played their role in the agricultural field, where India has successfully entered the era of Green Revolution. But the critics point out that such a revolution has also resulted in the creation of only few rural elites and the agricultural masses have not risen above their poverty miseries.
It is also said that the setting up of the Commission has upset the federal structure of the country. Through its national plans it has greatly upset the actual distribution of powers between the centre and the states.
It is also said that because memberships of Planning Commission is on the basis of political patronage, therefore, the members have become docile. They see the mood of political bosses before talking and give their advice to suit their convenience, to the extent possible.
Because of political domination many competent and talented experts do not feel inclined to accept membership of the Commission, which is a national loss.
With the passage of time it has been seen that implementation is the weakest link of the whole planning system. Targets fixed by the plans have never been achieved. There is always a wide gaps between targets and performance.
Planning Commission and Administration:
After independence sphere of state activity has considerably increased and such activities which were hitherto out of the sphere of state activity have now come under state purview. There has been considerable increase in administrative activities in public and private establishments.
Due to increased activities contact of the masses with administrators and technocrats has much increased and the role of Planning Commission in administration has too very considerably increased.
There can be no expansion in administration and administrative expenditure cannot be increased without Commission’s approval. Every developmental task must have approval of the Commission before its commencement.
The Commission’s approval of the programmes results in the establishment of special functional cadres and creation of such administrative and executive services as are considered necessary for the successful implementation of plan programmes. Civil servants are to be trained in a manner that they can successfully implement plan projects.
Not only this, but Planning Commission has played a significant role in the delegation of financial powers. Since the planning has brought the people and administrators nearer and closer to each other, therefore, those officers who are even at the lower rank, but come in close contact with the masses, had to be delegated with decision-making powers, so that grievances and problems of the people were redressed and solved on the spot. Thus, they have been made to shoulder more responsibilities.
The Commission has also played a big role in the field of democratic decentralisation. It has also performed its role in the legislative field. Every legislative measure, financial proposal and administrative measure which is introduced in the House has an eye on the allocations of funds and achievement of targets.
No cabinet will usually introduce a measure which has financial implications, but which it feels it cannot get approved from the Commission.
Alternative to Planning:
Much has been said on many forums that Planning Commission is not much a success in India. Some have magnified its failures beyond proportions.
B.S. Minhas once said, “India did follow this strategy of planning and achieved successes in number of areas. However, the figures of Indian planning have been glaring enough to have petty nearly succeeded in pushing its success into pallied insignificance.” But even if it is accepted that the Commission has not played its role fully well to the satisfaction of all, then what is the alternative to planning in India?
The only other alternative can be to have no system of planned economy. Some even today argue that planning is undemocratic and it is not in keeping with our democratic traditions. They go to the extent of saying that planning is nothing else but serfdom.
That apart, if in India Planning system is abandoned then there is every danger that available scarce resources might not be used for priority purposes and be put to use for purposes which are of secondary national importance.
Moreover, “An unplanned action might fail to result in achieving the desired objectives because of different steps in the action being mutually conflicting and not being adequate in view or it may indeed deliver the results but only at the end of unnecessarily long chain of steps.”
India can think of abandoning planning only when economic, social and administrative base has taken deep roots and any shock here and there will not shake the system from its very foundations. Shortfalls and implementation problems have already focused the attention of executors of plans and administrators in public and private sectors.
But each system, planning being no exception, has its inherent defects which are removed with the time and on the strength of experience, which nation gains as the time passes. In spite of critics, defects and shortcomings, the Commission’s role in every walk of India’s national life, more so in the economic sphere is really deep rooted and it is not easy to dispense with that under the present situation.