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Planning Commission: States must have greater role in new Plan body, says PM


New Delhi (Dec. 07, 2014): 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.

At Sunday’s meeting, Congress Chief Ministers questioned the Government’s approval to scrap the Planning Commission, which was announced by the Prime Minister on August 15. Instead, they demanded that the Centre reinvent the plan panel rather than scrapping it and replacing it with a new body.

At the consultation meeting, the Centre and States also couldn’t reach any agreement on whether India should retain or scrap five-year plans and the annual State plans. Briefing reporters after the meeting Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre would hold further consultations to decide on the alternative mechanism to transfer funds from the Centre to the States for Central Plan Assistance.

He said that at the meeting, there was broad consensus on three points: federalism must be strengthened, States must get more powers and they must have greater flexibility to implement schemes and programmes. “All States agreed that the principle of one-size-fits-all as far as the design and format of schemes and programmes go does not work,” Mr. Jaitley said. He also said that all States were in favour of cooperative federalism.

Sunday’s consultations follow a decision of the Cabinet on August 13, to repeal the March 15, 1950 Resolution by which the Planning Commission was set up. PM Modi said “Team India” was a combination of three teams — the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers; the Union Council of Ministers; and the bureaucracy in the Centre and States.

PM Modi invoked the spirit of cooperative federalism and called for abandoning the incremental approach. He said process of policy planning has to change from “top to bottom” to “bottom to top.”

In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister stressed on the need for a suitable body to replace the Commission and said the role, relevance and restructuring of the plan panel had been repeatedly questioned for more than two decades.

“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,” the Prime Minister asked, according to an official release.

Further, the Prime Minister said that when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he had attended meetings of the Commission, and had felt the need for a better platform to articulate the views of States.

The meeting could not reach a consensus on the nature of the body to replace the Planning Commission.