The era of planning in Independent India dawned with the establishment of Planning Commission in 1950 by Pt. Nehru's cabinet resolution. In 1951, first five year plan was launched with an objective to address various agricultural impediments to usher into an era of agricultural growth & development. With mixed results, though encouraging, the nation took baby steps during its early years of independence towards building a planned approach to foster agricultural and industrial growth which left paralyzed and devastated by the colonial rule of British India. Planning Commission (PC) took the responsibility of this huge but impending task and achieved some extraordinary feats. During the process, PC touched almost every sector of the socio-economic sphere of Indian life like education, health, employment, industry, agriculture, security, science & technology, arts, culture, etc to give a holistic and inclusive outlook to the planning approach. Till the early 1990s, India has come a long way from being a subjugated colony to a food sufficient & decently industrialized nation thanks to earnest efforts of some our leaders of post independence era who worked ardently to help build a truly democratic nation.
Despite the increasingly important role played by the PC till the reforms era started in the early 90s, the agency's role in the post- reforms era needs to be revalidated. The agricultural growth has declined rapidly after the post-reform era from being 3.5% in 1991 to just 2% during the 10th plan period (2002-2007) marks a significant departure from the foremost aim to build a robust agrarian sector for a primarily agricultural economy like India. Analysis of the steps taken to strengthen the agriculture sector would reveal that the very dream of our beloved Lal Bahadur Shashtri of 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan' is still a distant dream with market laws like APMC either induce farmers to take the route of suicide due to heavy indebtedness or leave the occupation altogether. Also subsidies have distorted the finances of the Centre due to such distorted approaches towards agricultural planning. Measures to channelize redundant labor force in agricultural sector to the more productive manufacturing sector too yield minimal results so far.
In the era of globalization, the need to have a PC working on globally accepted approaches is strongly felt in India especially when we are making great strides in science and technology, space exploration, building nuclear weapons, our policy makers and planners need to relook at what went wrong during the process of modernization of the economy leaving behind 70% of the nation's people poor, uneducated and starving. During his inaugural Independence Day speech, PM Modi expressed his desire to scrap the existing PC altogether and constitute a revamped planning body to address planning issues in the country. BJP manifesto talks about building 100 smart cities, introduction of bullet trains, industrial corridors across the length and breadth of the country, building inland waterways to connect North-Eastern region of the country with the main land and to achieve all these infrastructural feats, there is no doubt that the current policy making and planning process need a serious rethink.
While true to his approach, he looked domestic issues through the lens of foreign relations and undertook various visits to countries like Japan with which technology to build next generation industrial corridors to strengthen business within India could be realized. On the account of incoming visits, Chinese premier's camaraderie might help us with the introduction of Bullet train in the near future which would take our transportation & communication to the next level and simultaneously addressing international peace & other objectives of panch-sheel required to concentrate on progressive approaches free from cross border intrusion resulting in unnecessary wastage of financial resources which could otherwise be used to achieve various socio-economic goals of the economy. Such rigorous approach towards strengthening international relations to address domestic problems was meakly inculcated in the planning approach during the reign of PC.
Gandhi ji rightly said 'Be the change you want to see', and without changing our planning perspective we, as a nation, could not expect to achieve the growth trajectory that our forefathers have envisaged to achieve after independence.