Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trivialisation of Planning process


Social networking site is being used for feedback on the plan process. Will the elite decide what the poor in the country need?

Sopan Correspondent / New Delhi

There seems to be a deliberate attempt to trivialise the planning process of the country. Highflier Montek Singh Ahluwalia-led planning commission got itself registered on social networking website Facebook to enlist the opinion and ideas of people at large on the 12th plan period, stirring a debate whether this was necessary when planning for the poor was being done and poverty eradication remains the biggest challenge.

It seems, the plan panel is oblivious of its priorities and the nation’s desperate needs to ameliorate millions of people from the curse of poverty, who do not have access to computer, what to talk about internet. A soul searching is required as those who are on facebook do not look to the plan panel for solutions. However, there is a general perception that government’s planning should focus on poor and even UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s main focus remain around people, who are have-nots in India’s socio-economic strata.

While launching the Facebook page of the plan panel in January, Ahluwalia said, “We will make the detailed 12th Plan around this time next year. We are seeking public comments and decided to adopt a web-based approach.”

This has also been announced at the function that the Plan panel became the second government organisation after Census Commission to take to a social networking site, which will help get feedback on a regular basis. As of now, most of the government websites are static, where one can only post or mail comments but cannot get any response.

Asked if the website would help public fight corruption, Ahluwalia said, “I am expecting people to give their views on inflation and corruption. I find a lot of people have views on corruption. The issue of corruption becomes very relevant. We would like to see what they have to say.”

But still there was no talk of plan panel’s core competence – planning and monitoring of schemes and programmes implemented by central and state governments. At the planning level a web-based exercise may give the panel the opportunity to have opinion of people. But those, who would be forwarding their opinion, would not be of representative nature. If the elite suggest anti-poverty ideas and schemes, then why can’t experts sitting in the plan panel think of such ideas and formulate schemes themselves. Where is the involvement of the poor and have-nots for whom the plan process is in place?

Ironically only 100 netizens have liked the page so far. Some, however have commented. One said, “We will hear people rather than just suits.” Another said “at least people’s voice would be heard.” Ahluwalia’s take on the launch day was interesting as he said, “We can’t have people like Bill Gates in all our committees. But, he can be out there among million Indians and we don’t want to miss his suggestion.” But the moot question is that do we need to have Bill Gates to plan for our poor.

India has limited resources, so the country needs planning for effective use of scanty wealth and resources, while keeping in mind our own priorities. The priorities can not be suggested by people like Bill Gates, who may not have the experience of Indian realities.

If at all planning commission wants to engage people at large in the planning process, then it needs to physically reach out to the masses through elected representatives, who work with the people in their respective constituency. If they do not do so, then they should continue with what has been happening for last 63 years of Independent India. One of the lower level officials in the planning commission, once said, “In India the plan document was prepared only once in 1951 and since then every time same document was carried forward with 10 percent hike in allocation.” Continue with that Ahluwalia, there is nothing wrong in it, as sky will not fall on earth. Only the process involved in planning gets exposed.

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