As part of administrative reforms, the Modi government is out to cut the jumbo body the Planning Commission to its size. With 30 divisions manned by 109 senior officers and a staff strength of over 800, the Planning Commission, though lacking any constitutional and legal authority, has been distributing and monitoring plan funds to the state governments and central government departments since its inception in 1950.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plans to downsize and review powers the commission has found support from unlikely quarters -- former finance minister P Chidambaram and former Chief Justice of Delhi high court Justice Rajinder Sachar. While Chidambaram recently favoured making the commission a limited body tasked with drawing up prospective plans, Sachar said the states at present are treated as supplicants standing with begging bowls before the Planning Commission. Identical views were expressed by Modi, when he was heading the government in Gujarat. Chidambaram also said the Planning Commission at the moment is too big, flabby and unwieldy.
Sachar told dna that centralised planning was not only a negation of federalism, but also it doesn't make sense for approving the plans of the states. "In reality after the 73rd and 74th amendments in the constitution, endowing powers to local bodies, the continuance of the Planning Commission has become untenable, if not illegal," he said.
Both the provisions mandate the legislatures to empower panchayats with powers with the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice as also to provide powers to impose taxes by panchayats. Justice Sachar asked non-BJP states to support curtailing powers of Planning Commission and demand implementation of 73rd and 74th amendments, which will give them right to revenues from consolidated fund of India. The view in the new government is also that the Planning Commission is only adding to red tape, a creature of the old 'Licence Raj' and a legacy of Communist Soviet Union system.
As per the new government plan, the finance ministry is out to deal with states directly on their annual fund allocation. Prime minister is also not too keen with the commission's five-year plans.
The BJP's election manifesto had also hinted at a revamp of the high-profile commission, whose deputy chairman was given status of a cabinet minister. It had said that the Centre should only be an enabler and facilitator for state governments.