Friday, September 14, 2012

Plans and Priorities: Machinery of planning; Role, composition and functions of the Planning Commission and the National Development Council; ‘Indicative’ planning; Process of plan formulation at Union and State levels; Constitutional Amendments (1992) and decentralized planning for economic development and social justice.

Before proceeding directly to the Planning Machinery and processes of India, it is necessary to understand and get a clear idea of the concept of Planning in India and also the role of Priorities in those Plans. So, let's begin.


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Planning was a topic of interest and debate pre dating Independence. In 1940,the Indian National Congress advocated and set up the National Planning Committee in order to prepare comprehensive plans of reconstruction of undivided India. Independent India adopted planning in the 1950's as its development vehicle.

 Planning is a preparation for action and conscious effort to achieve desired ends.A Plan is a long term goal & plans precede as well as succeed policy. To explain this in detail,lets take the example of the Directive Principles Of State Policy(DPSP) (which are enshrined in Part IV,article 36 to 50 of the Indian Constitution)and its relation with Planning and Policy making in India.

DPSP as stated by the Indian Constitution is fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State ( for the original as well as contemporary definition of State under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution,please refer to apply these principles while making laws. Article 38 and 39 (a),(b) & (c) of the DPSP's in the Indian Constitution are cited in the resolution of 15th March 1950 by which the Planning Commission was setup. It is worth noting that it has been stated by distinguished jurists,economists as well as theorists that the DPSPs can never go out of relevance as it is relevant to all times and is an everlasting set of guidelines for formulating State policies. To go through the DPSPs , please refer -

So,coming back to the relationship between a Plan and a Policy,one should note that the DPSP is the generalised plan of the Constitution founders that details the vision of future India. And, policies(definitive framework given to the generalised plan) are to be made by the State on the lines of this Plan/Principles with help of the Planning Commission. And the Planning Commission also makes a final Plan of implementation of that Policy which is then executed by the executive wing of the Govt. Of India (Centre and states).

Lets understand the definition of Policy - Public  Policy can be described as the overall framework within which the actions of the government are undertaken to achieve its goals. It is a purposive and consistent course of action devised in response to a perceived problem of a constituency, formulated by a specific political process, and adopted, implemented, and enforced by a public agency. For more details on Public Policy,refer -

Now,since we have understood the Plan(generalised)- Policy(establishment of overall definite framework to achieve the generalised plan)- Plan(Implementation) relationship and working,let us move on to understood the term Priority in the working of Plans.

Within a Plan(after a Policy is formulated) that is devised with objectives to be achieved and the actions/initiatives/means to be used for achieving the same through Programmes and schemes of the govt.,there is always a conflict between one objective and the other,therefore it is necessary to proceed in terms of priorities between these objectives, as first things must come first. Programmes based on well reasoned priorities are invaluable in developing countries as they cannot afford to waste time,people or material. Stages of a implementation plan, on the basis of priority are decided to propose the allocation of resources for the due completion of each stage.Planning Commission concerns itself with the building of a long-term strategic vision of the future and decide on priorities of nation.

Examples of priorities in Plans - The reason for giving priority to agriculture and increased wheat production in the first & third five year plan was for a larger goal,and that was of Industrial development which was very important for a modern world development and large scale employment opportunities. But, in order to provide raw materials for Industrial development,it was first necessary to make the people of the country sufficient in field of food production and also produce surplus which could then be provided for Industrial development. One can see that Industrial development then began and rose in later plans after these efforts.
The Third Five Year Plan of India stressed on agriculture and improvement in production of wheat,however, the Sino-Indian war of 1962 exposed the weak economy and thus focus shifted on priority basis to the Defence sector to meet with this exigency. Then again,the Indo-Pak war in 1965-66 caused severe drought situation and also inflation,thus shifting the priority of the Plan to price stabilisation.

These are just a few,there are many more examples like these in every Five Year Plan of India. FOr gist of all Five Year Plans refer  &  for the recent one,that is the 12th Five Year Plan, refer .

Thus,the overall underlying goal of every Plan is to mobilise resources of a country for increasing capital formation for increased public expenditure in order to fund rapid development. However, certain objectives in the implementation plan are given priority keeping in mind the immediate situation as well as the resources and funds available at that point in time.

Planning as an activity is based upon the application of various mathematical forecasting tools using which projections of future with some certainty may be possible. Planning helps in providing/identifying various stages of development which may essentially evolve in the attainment of some development goal.

Planning as an activity in regard to nations is seen of utmost significance as through it only nations plan for socio economic reconstruction and for strategic employment of resources for better attainment of objectives in the future.

Planning helps nations to recover from the acute problem of underdevelopment and also helps them to institute such structures and processes through which goals of future may become more achievable. Planning on one count has to address the short term goals and on the other has to prepare the foundation and mechanism for the reasons/factors for retarded/slow/lop-sided growth of the nation.
Planning helps nations identify disablements emerging in various sectors and helps in establishing the strategic means through which these disablements could be addressed.

Three dominant traits of Indian planning may be noted her:
i) It is highly centralised,
ii) It is bureaucratic,
iii) It builds upon its preceding plans.

The National Planning Commission at the National level is the main planning agency.
Below the national level are a number of state planning board/planning departments.
Below the state level are the District planning committees have come up in a number of states formulating district level plans.

All are integrated. Though the state and District level planning machineries are not that strong but nevertheless have helped in spreading the consciousness of planning at the grass root levels.
Besides the above,some other agencies are also involved in the planning process. A few to mention are the IIFT(Indian Instt of Foreign Trade) for studying problems in increasing exports and reducing imports,DRDA(District Rural Development Agency) to look after the development activities at district level,etc.

The Planning Commission was set up through a resolution of the government of India in 1950 in consequence to the Economic Programme Committee ,1948 recommended it in its report.
Post Independence it was realised that the provisions of the preamble,fundamental rights and DPSP could only be achieved through a planned effort.

The planning commission plays a Integrative role as it integrates and directs the govt. of India to move in Plan direction. It also plays a co-ordinating role between the Centre and the State. It also plays a Mediating and Facilitating role as it divides and allocates resources to State and Centre for Plan implementation. It plays a pivotal role in change and updating of Systems to be efficient in carrying out Planning. And last but not the least, it Plays the role of an Information disseminator as it regularly provides best practices in the field to the central and state governments in carrying out Plan Implementation.

The Planning Commission is a permanent,autonomous,advisory and expert body. The Prime Minister is its Chairman and the Finance Minister,Minister of Agriculture,Minister Of Energy,Minister Of Industry,Minister of HRD,Minister of Law and Justice and Water resources,Minister of Environment and forests,Minister of State of Planning are its Minister members. The other six full-time members are experts of various fields like Economics, Industry, Science and General Administration.

The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission who is generally a distinguished academician/economist/civil servant or a politician is given equal status and rank of a Cabinet Minister. The Planning Commission is also called the super cabinet at times due to this very same reason.

The main objective of the Planning Commission is not executive responsibility but to assess the resources and need of the economy and then to formulate the developmental plans in consultation with ministries of govt. of India and the state govts. It also has the responsibility of suggesting priorities of development plans. In recent times it has also gathered itself to certain administrative matters and functions of a purely executive nature as well.

The National Development gives the final approval to the plans and execution of the plan lies with the Union and state governments.

The functions of the Planning Commission are:
  1. To make an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel, and investigate the possibilities of augmenting those resources which are found to be deficient in relation to the nation's requirement.
  2. To formulate a plan for the most effective and balanced utilisation of country's resources.
  3. To define the stages, on the basis of priority, in which the plan should be carried out and propose the allocation of resources for the due completion of each stage.
  4. To indicate the factors that tend to retard economic development.
  5. To determine the conditions which need to be established for the successful execution of the plan within the incumbent socio-political situation of the country.
  6. To determine the nature of the machinery required for securing the successful implementation of each stage of the plan in all its aspects.
  7. To appraise from time to time the progress achieved in the execution of each stage of the plan and also recommend the adjustments of policy and measures which are deemed important vis-a-vis a successful implementation of the plan.
  8. To make necessary recommendations from time to time regarding those things which are deemed necessary for facilitating the execution of these functions. Such recommendations can be related to the prevailing economic conditions, current policies, measures or development programmes. They can even be given out in response to some specific problems referred to the commission by the central or the state governments.
The Planning Commission functions through several divisions and sections,each headed by a senior officer,usually designated as Advisor or Chief or Consultant or Joint Secy or Joint Advisor. The full time members assume day to day responsibility of these divisions and sections and tenders advice jointly on all important matters.

The Internal Structure of the Planning Commission consists of :
i) General Administrative branches -  Responsible for house keeping functions.
ii) General Divisions - Responsible for providing an integrated approach paper in regards to certain areas of economy.
iii) Specialised Subject Division - Responsible for preparing a detailed analysis in regards to the specific area for which they exist.

Programme advisors(senior cadres of IAS) assuming the status of Addtl Secy or Spl secy of GOI in the Planning Commission help in establishing a link between the Planning Commission and the state governments.

The Programme Evaluation Organisation keeps close touch with agencies involved in the process of implementation at the central and state level to see if the objectives of the Plan are being achieved as specified or not and aiding and advising them on technicalities as well as imparting training to the personnel.

 The National Development Council was established in 1952 through a resolution of the Cabinet/Govt. Of India on the recommendations of the Planning Commission in its first five year plan.  The NDC is seen as the prime body for approving plans formulated by the Planning Commission. It was established with the objective of attaining cooperation as well as avoiding conflicts from the side of the state govt as well as incorporating their views and needs in order to gain equality.

NDC comprises of all Chief Ministers as its members with the Prime Minister as the head of the NDC. It also consists of all Union Cabinet Ministers and administrators/Chief Ministers of union Territories.

Secy to the Planning Commission acts as a Member Secy to the NDC. 

 Objectives of NDC: strengthen and mobilize the effort and resources of the nation in support of the Plan promote common economic policies in all vital spheres and ensure the balanced and rapid development of all parts of the country.

Functions of NDC: prescribe guidelines for the formulation of the National Plan, including the assessment of resources for the Plan; consider the National Plan as formulated by the Planning Commission; consider important questions of social and economic policy affecting national development; and review the working of the Plan from time to time and to recommend such measures as are necessary for achieving the aims and targets set out in the National Plan.
5. To make an assessment of resources required for implementing the plan and to suggest measures to augment them.
6. To ensure balanced and rapid development in all parts of the country.

Issues with the NDC are that there are irregular meetings held. And the meeting are mostly taken up in discussing and avenging political grievances. Central govt. not accepting of any change/modification by state govt.s to the national plans. The State govts have only one representative that is the Chief Minister and the Planning Commission is represented by the Pm as well as quite a handful of Ministers along with technical experts that the states do not have there at that time. Therefore,there is a need for revitalising the NDCC process.

It is non flexible at most times. Non participatory. Non articulation of felt needs and real demands/ Feeling of being imposed upon by the states. Top down approach. Assumes a role of a parallel government.

In order to address these issues the Indian economy is gradually moving from a highly centralised planning system towards the process of Indicative Planning in the light of the 1991 economic reforms,which will be discussed below.

Indicative Planning is a process where where the Planning Commission concerns itself with the building of a long term strategic vision of the future and decides on priorities of the nation. It is an arrangement where central planning institutions are seen providing an indicative framework to carry out programmes/activities at the regional levels where sufficient  discretion is possible at the regional levels.  This process of Planning is a great advocate of decentralisation.

Thus, the central govt provides the overall framework of the Plan and the direction to move for development to the states and districts, and the respective State and District Planning Boards carry out at their levels as per their needs. This process also gives a free play to PSUs and pvt players to carry out their activities regarding the same.

Yes, Planning is very much important in the current era. As LPG(Liberalisation,Privatisation & Globalisation) ensures freedom of market forces which can only take care of demand and supply,it is through planning that the socio-economic objectives can be obtained by taking care of need and supply. State intervention is still very much required to be a neutral referee,as one can gauge from the reasons of the recent recession in 2008. It has shifted its role from a active player to that of a facilitator,regulator,guide and protector of development processes and citizens' rights in the country.

i) At the Union level - Planning Commission receives inputs from Central/Union Council Of Ministers on one side and from Programme advisors(detailed above) who bring in views of the States as well as of Civil Society Institutions. All of these are then taken into account and processed to develop a Plan Approach Paper and that is then discussed upon and improved and eventually this paper is passed by the Planning Commission's members and presented to the NDC for its review,recommendations and approval so that this paper can be further presented to both houses of Parliament for the final stamp of approval and legally turn into a Five year Plan blueprint.  The Estimates Committee estimates the resources needed for these plans. The states are asked to declare their resources and then the financial resources steering committee of Planning Commission recommend fund allocation. The funds are then given out from the Finance Ministry once approved by the Parliament. Once this is accomplished then this is passed on to the State and District level Planning Boards to implement at their level the guidelines of this plan along with the mandate of the NDC.

ii) At the states level - The Planning dept. of the states receive inputs from various state plan committees,Civil society institutions,Directorates and departments of the respective state which are mostly technical in nature,and from all district level agencies. These inputs are then processed at the Planning dept. which are then sent to the Planning Commission for its review and incorporation into the Central 5 year plan. Then the whole above mentioned process takes place as stated in the " Plan formulation process at Union level". After that, once the Central 5 year plan guidelines as well as the NDC mandate is passed on to them along with the resources allocated to them,then the plan approach paper at the state level is finalised again at the State Planning dept in definite terms of objectives and how to achieve them at their state/regional level keeping in mind the needs of the state as reported by the inputs provided to them originally. This Plan Approach paper is then passed by the state planning dept., in order to move to the next step which is to send it for the review,recommendation and approval of the Chief Minister and the state planning Board that consists of many of that respective state's cabinet ministers. Once that is achieved,it is then presented to the respective state legislature for the final approval after which it is legally implementable as a 5 year plan at the state level.

In light of the scathing remarks labeled upon the Planning Commision by various Committees like the Santhanam Committee,etc which accused the Planning Commission of arm twisting the State Governments in Plan meetings in the NDC since majority of the members there comprise of the Centre and its allies, and most importantly the extra - constitutional identity of the Planning Commission, the Sarkaria Commission was set upto review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and the States in the changed socio-economic scenario.

The Government constituted a Commission under the chairmanship of Justice Rajinder Singh Sarkaria with Shri B. Sivaraman and Dr. S.R. Sen as its members to examine and review the working of the existing arrangements between the Union and States in regard to powers, functions and responsibilities in all spheres and recommend such changes or other measures as may be appropriate.
One of the important recommendations of Sarkaria Commission was for establishing a permanent Inter-State Council as an independent national forum for consultation with a mandate well defined in accordance with Article 263 of the Constitution of India. Pursuant to the recommendation, The Inter-State-Council was set up under Article 263 of the Constitution of India vide Presidential Order dated 28.5.1990 as a Constitutional Body ( refer - ).
The Commission also recommended making the NDC a Constitutional Body so that it functions more autonomously without fear or favour.

Inter State Council enquires into and advises upon disputes which may have arisen between states and in addition it may also investigate and discuss subjects of common interest between the union and states or between two or more states in order to facilitate coordination of policy and action. They are setup by the President and its examples are - Central Council of Health,Central Council of Local Self Government,Council of sales tax,etc.

Inter state water disputes act,1956 was enacted by the Parliament setting up tribunals for adjudication of water disputes between union and a state or two or more states and between one state and another or two others,etc.

Other devices in practice to secure union-state cooperation and conflict resolution also exist which are extra constitutional devices like Governors Conference headed by the President ,Chief Ministers conference,Conference of IGPs of states,Planning Commission and NDC discussions on five year plans,etc where representatives of all states get together and discuss various issues within themselves and the Union for a consensus.

However, it is sad to note that in the last 22 years, only 10 meetings have been held of the ISC,which speaks volumes on the lack of will of the Centre and political vested interests to fully implement and utilise this valuable Constitutional body/forum and instead keep relying and depending on extra Constitutional structures to ensure cooperative federalism. To read more of the sad state of affairs of the abovementioned -

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts,1992 provides for democratic decentralisation and is hailed as a revolutionary step and one of the most important political innovations in Independent India. It gave a face to Gandhian Directive principles of State policy's Article 40 that looks to promote a system of decentralized planning for local socio-economic development that would be relevant,thus, leading to the achievement of the larger goal,which is, Social justice.
The Panchayati Raj Act and the Municipalities Act respectively are the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendment act of 1992. They provide for a system of local self govt. wherein the people take upon themselves the responsibility of Planning,provisions of community and welfare services,etc. and socio-economic and cultural Development through rural development plans and programmes.
The Panchayati Raj institutions involves a three tier structure of democratic instruction at district,block and village levels,viz. zilla parishad(District level), panchayat samithi(block level), and village panchayat(basic level) respectively.
This Act provides for article 234 in the Constitution and a District Planning Committee under 234 G as well as 29 subjects for jurisdiction placed under the 11th schedule of the Indian Constitution. The 74th Amendment act for Municipalities has article 243 and its sub parts for providing Panchayat as well as Municipal Planning Committees and 18 items under the 12th schedule of the Indian Constitution for their jurisdiction.
These institutions are to enjoy fiscal autonomy and directions to the State Finance Commissions to provide funds to them. It also provides for the sources of revenues through taxes,etc.
Their rural plans are to be submitted to the District Planning Committee(in case of rural) & Metropolitan Planning Committee ( in case of urban area) which in turn submit it to the Planning Commission

However,one must also note that though this has been put on paper officially and also implemented in the right manner in many states,still there is a huge disparity and violation of the above provisions in many areas and continues to be heavily centralised.

This is so because as you have understood above regarding the plan formulation process in the states as well as centres, it is a top down approach where the plan is decided by the centre and passed on to the state and district planning committees for implementation following their guidelines. Apart from that,there are many subjects between the rural and urban bodies and the state regarding jurisdiction that are concurrent and overlapping thus leaving very few of them to the exclusive jurisdiction of the local bodies.

Finance provided by the centre as well as state to these bodies for plan implementation is also a total contradiction of financial autonomy granted to them as these funds come through the various offices of the state and district level officials and so there is undue delay at many a times for reasons unknown of funds transfers.

Also, training and skill upliftment of local bodies' representatives should be undertaken by the centre and states so that they gain the requisite expertise in effectively implementing plans.
Therefore,all these issues should be taken care of in order to make them truly local govt. democratic and decentralised institutions. Else, they will only be petrified prints on paper.


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The next article on this blog will cover:

State Government and Administration:
Union-State administrative, legislative and
financial relations; Role of the Finance
Commission; Governor; Chief Minister;
Council of Ministers; Chief Secretary; State
Secretariat; Directorates.



  1. It is needfullto analyise view of Ashok chanda &k
    k santhanam that"planning system in India reduced the operational autonomy of the states"
    futher sarkaria commission alleged overbearing approach of P.C. as more apparent than real......2nd arc neglected valuable recommendation.

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