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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 16 New Delhi, April 4, 2020

India Needs Return of Five-Year Plans

Saturday 4 April 2020, by Bharat Dogra

In a highly arbitrary decision taken in 2014, the newly - elected NDA government shut down the Planning Commission and halted the process of preparing five-year plans which had continued for over six decades. Even the midterm evaluation of the 12th Plan, already in process, was not completed.

It was evident then, and has been further confirmed in the course of the experience of the last six years, that this decision is extremely harmful for the health of the economy. The efforts of giving direction to the economy with well-coordinated planning have been badly disrupted at a time when, due to climate change and related factors, these are needed more than ever before. There has been a very adverse impact on cooperative federalism and hence on democracy. The process of involving diverse and independent opinions in policy-making has been badly eroded.

Hence the demand for re-starting the five-year plans should be taken up as a campaign. State governments should also raise this demand. Opposition parties should join this campaign and include this demand in their election manifesto.

Till such time that the Union Government accepts this demand a group of independent planners, economists, other social scientists and experts can start a semblance of this process on their own. This can be attempted by more than one group. Of course there can be no alternative to the government level planning but till such time that the government returns to 5-year plans, such alternative efforts will keep alive the issue and make available valuable inputs when the official-level 5-year plans start again.

P.S. - In a remote village of Bundelkhand while discussing local development projects with people, I was recently struck by the fact that several people while talking of one decade old project said - do Panch Varshiya ho gaye (Two-five year periods have passed). This made me realize the extent to which the concept of 5-year plan had been absorbed by people even in a remote village. Panch Varshiya Yojana is the Hindi name widely given to a five-year plan. The villagers did not say a decade ( dashak) has passed or ten years ( das varsh) have passed, they said do panch varshiya ho gaye!

The writer is a freelance contributor . His latest book is Vimla and Sundarlal Bahuguna— Chipko Movement and Anti-Tehri Dam Movement.

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