Sri B.S. Raghavan writing in the Business Line (July 7, 2010) says
The Planning Commission had it coming some time or the other, if not from the Road Transport and Highways Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, then from any of the other Union Ministers or the Chief Ministers. Mr Nath has undoubtedly earned their gratitude by pulling up the Commission for indulging in ‘arm-chair' second guessing without any sense of ground realities and bringing out books and reports which are ‘well-bound' but low in content. He had the intellectual honesty to say this in the presence of the Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who had the sporting spirit to hear it out with a broad smile and take it as ‘constructive criticism'!
It claims to work out sectoral targets and play an integrative role in the development of a holistic approach to policy formulation in critical areas of human, social and economic development.
These are just grandiloquent words. But riding on their back are as many as 34 divisions, most of which are vestiges from Nehru's days and deserve to be scrapped. Actually, in the current environment, the Planning Commission has little or no role to play.
If it is a question of keeping information and databases and serving as a mediator and facilitator for Ministries and States, or effecting coordination among them, a small cell attached to the Cabinet Secretariat or the Prime Minister's Office can easily serve the purpose, without having to maintain the huge paraphernalia of a bloated bureaucracy at such great expense.
There have been periods in the past, such as between 1965 and 1969 and 1990-92, when the Planning Commission was in a state of suspended animation, with the country feeling no ill effects.
In the present context, dismantling it will have a wholesome effect, besides saving plenty of taxpayers' money.
There have been periods in the past, such as between 1965 and 1969 and 1990-92, when the Planning Commission was in a state of suspended animation, with the country feeling no ill effects. In the present context, dismantling it will have a wholesome effect, besides saving plenty of taxpayers' money.
Janab Cynic Ali is all smiles. He remembers some old dialogues from Yes Minister -
"We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior civil servants can be removed for incompetence. We could loose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands."
"It is unthinkable that politicians should be allowed to remove civil servants on grounds of incompetence. Of course some civil servants are incompetent but not incompetent enough for a politician to notice. And if civil servants could remove politicians on grounds of incompetence it would empty the House of Commons, remove the Cabinet, and be the end of democracy and the beginning of responsible government."
"Politicians are simple people; they like simple people; they like simple choices and clear guidance."
"It is axiomatic in government that hornets' nests should be left unstirred, cans of worms should remain unopened, and cats should be left firmly in bags and not set among the pigeons. Ministers should also leave boats unrocked, nettles ungrasped, refrain from taking bulls by the horns, and resolutely turn their backs to the music."Ali Saheb points out that there are 35 Cabinet Ministers (including Sri Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Nandan Nilekani), 7 Ministers of State (Independent Charge) and 37 Ministers of State. Does India need so many Ministers, ponders Janab Ali. What a waste of public money he feels. Then why criticise Planning Commission alone as a waste of nation's resources, he wonders. Too many Ministers, too many departments (what will a Minister do without a department to manage?), too many bureaucrats / officials... too much waste of public money.
Janab Ali feels that even if on the efficiency front or effectiveness front, what Sri Raghavan writes may be true, India being ruled by politicians is too dangerous an idea. Ali Saheb thinks about the idiom "Let sleeping dogs lie" and says knowing the way Indian politicians work, it's better to have checks and balances of the type of Planning Commission (or C & AG) even if what they do is termed as arm-chair' second guessing. When we take up cost cutting, we should start from the top, he says.
For once, Hummingbird concurs.