What is new about it? Not much!

The same old faces are here again. The newly constituted Commission has once more the same deputy chairman, namely, Montek Singh Ahluwalia. There is again the old list with Ms. Syeda Hameed and Mr. Abhijit Sen  from the old panel. The Prime Minister has administered  the oath office to new members whose names are given but not their faces in the photos that are published in one newspaper. They are : Mr.Mihir Shah, Mr.Narendra Jadhav, Dr.K.Kasturirangan. The other names are Mr.Arun Maira, Mr.Saumitra Choudhury, and Mr.B.K. Chaturvedi. The point here is that we can’t find fault with the gentlemen inducted into the new setup.

What we object to this sort of induction is the fact, first, there is no detail about the qualifications of these gentlemen and their specialisation for the public enlightenment. The Planning Commission has a history, right?

In the prime days when it was making news, it usually  had a head that is the deputy chief, almost a public figure of sorts. That only gave a momentum to the deliberations of the body. There were any number of experts on this once  prestigious body. There were  some pubic figures, names are too many, names like Drugabhai Deshmukh, why, Chintaman Deshmukh himself  were charismatic figures and also with great public service behind them.

Now, the point is what the previous commission’s great moments? What are the new supposedly great moment going to be?

We are for one totally disagree with the wisdom of the government is selecting the names and inducting them in the way as they have done, all without any public  participation in such an exercise. It seems the whole exercise was done in a hurry and in a hush-hush manner. It certainly casts a shadow of credibility-gap on the part of the government to do things, always without any public interest or public consultation or public participation in the constitution of the body which is  supposed to function like a catalyst.

Or, is there any small or short speech or note about the ideas of the new body or what mandate has been entrusted with the body for the next ,say, five years?
None, none at all. This is simply unacceptable.

There area  whole lot of issues on which the public is agitated. There is the global meltdown. There is a “deep recession” to borrow the phrase from Barack Obama. Has anyone, from the Prime Minister  to other experts why the global meltdown has taken the form and reach as it has done?

Aren’t the Indian people entitled to know from such great economic experts like our Prime Minister and the deputy chief of the commission  why the economic recession set in? Please let them educate us, enlighten us. Also, let us know what the new government proposes to do to bring back the economic recovery and growth.

So, there must be a freshly thought of mandate for the commission. There is the  state of the Indian economy. Is there any single rate of growth even now. The finance minister gives one rate. The RBI gives another rate. Whom to take seriously?

Will the planning commission stimulate economic growth? And how?

What are the new ideas on the old issues, disinvestment and FDI and other economic reforms. As it looks all these days since the new government has taken office there is not much evidence for the old set of economic reforms agenda. In fact, in the face of the meltdown and the winning of the elections with a comfortable majority, all the economic reforms have quietly exited! It is now, it seems, back to old business, the talks of aam aadmi and the safety net etc.
Nothing. But you must have to articulate and impress with your new articulations.

The finance minister’s budget is not a budget at all. It is a  populist spending agenda. May be there is an invisible(or invidious?) hidden agenda for all concerned as to prove  who is really populist and who will win the hearts and minds of the people as well as the potential rivals and supporters!
Anyway, an expert body like the planning commission must surely must come out with a policy priority note and give to the country. That is the minimum moral justification for these otherwise honourable gentlemen to remain in the positions they are now occupying.

There are of course very serious  issues. Just now we have a report before us narrating how serious and widespread and deep the, for instance, the question of malnutrition of children in the Amravati district of Maharashtra. There were similar reports about the malnourished children, dying, in the four districts of Madhya Pradesh. It is heart-rending. In Maharashtra, the infant mortality rate is 38 per  1,000 live births. While in the Malghat region it is 74 to 78,according to the petitioners before the High Court in  1997 on a petition filed by none other than the activist, Sheela Barse on malnutrition deaths.

Twelve years now gone. What progress made? The court once again remained the state of its constitutional obligations. On another petition filed by Rajendra Burma and others,it is a PIL, the court said  this on January 15,2009:”We have no hesitation in observing that the progress made in preventing malnutrition is hardly satisfactory…”

Adivasi children death due to malnutrition is unacceptably high. This geography is the constituency of dignitaries of the President of India. Maharashtra has other great dignitaries also. There are also great many issues in the agriculture sector. As the magazine is chiefly devoted to agriculture, we don’t burden the readers and others with that much more challenging field.

So, one thought the new commission would have some fresh new faces, some activists and others so that the commission would interact with the ministers who are also now made as members of the commission and there would be more interactions with the policy makers and the policy implementers.

Experts can come later. Problems must come first! Issues must be posed in the face of policy implementers.

We simply don’t believe in high sounding schemes and faceless bureaucrats formulating plans. We demand accountability from those who sit in the commission and demand results.

Image Source : mynews.in

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