Scrapping of the Planning Commission is an opportunity to make governance totally result-oriented
The Planning Commission of India was notified on 15 March 1950 with the belief that the function of the government was to simply utilise resources, identified through a periodic assessment, as decided in a periodic plan produced by the Commission. The notification expected that its work will “affect decisively the future welfare of the people in every sphere of national life”. It did not specify the mission of the Planning Commission, or the missions of the government that it will support, or even any mechanism to identify the impact of its actions.
By declaring the end of the Planning Commission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a huge step forward to ensure that that the government’s objective would not be just to implement five year plans. How can Mr Modi shape the body that replaces the Planning Commission? By adding what has been missing right from the beginning: result-orientation.
The Planning Commission era had independent subject divisions: Agriculture, Environment and Forests, Water Resources, Power and Energy, Industry and Minerals, Transport, Communication and Information, Village and Small Industries, Rural Development, Education, Health, Nutrition and Family Welfare, Housing & Urban Development, Social Development and Women's Programme, and Backward Classes.
These divisions worked with concerned Central Ministries, State Governments, and various non-official agencies, to study and examine various problems and issues in relation to the formulation as well as the implementation of the relevant Five Year Plan, Programmes and Policies in their respective fields. They also organised research studies, deemed necessary either on their own or through competent external institutions/organisations. Each Principal Advisor or Advisor (State Plans) helped in liaising between the Central Government and a few States/UTs. The Advisor was expected to bring out the difficulties and problems of the states to the notice of the Planning Commission and Ministries/Departments at the Centre.
While the Planning Commission moved from addressing problem-to-problem there have been no missions. The country has therefore lacked a direction for integrated development ever since the creation of the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission also lacked an integrated model of assessing the cross-impact of the activities of one Ministry on another or on the Nation and its environment. In fact, there has been no model to assess the impact of policies besides the utilisation of funds. The Government had little clarity on what it was attempting to accomplish and for whom.
If a Planning Commission-like body were to truly fill the governance deficit in India and ensure that there is minimum government, the new body should take on the mission to empower missions for each ministry. Here are the three responsibilities this would entail.
1. Develop timeless missions for the government
A mission says what we do and for whom. Without a mission, all activity is ad hoc and its beneficiaries are arbitrary. Missions focused on a current challenge remain relevant till the challenge is overcome. For example: placing a man on the moon. Missions that identify what needs to be done over multiple generations are timeless missions. In the absence of a mission, the government departments become mere procedure pushers or ad hoc problem solvers.
Without a mission, the HRD Ministry, for example, would push procedures for licensing educational institutions, push for educational institutions in one or more streams, open new or close old programs, or move into problems and issues that catch the attention of the media or various interest-groups of the time. Changes in the government would alter what the ministry does and for whom.
On the other hand, No child left behind, is a an example of a mission addressing a problem of drop-outs and exclusion but not a need of education or learning.
Peter Drucker was once called to develop a mission statement for a hospital. After spending a lot of time listening to the stakeholders and observing the hospital he helped them to articulate their mission: to provide assurance to the afflicted. Everyone from the janitor to the surgeon can identify whatever they do everyday with this timeless mission. Generation to generation the afflicted will always need to find assurance in the acts of the receptionist, janitor, nurse and doctor.
The HRD Ministry could, for example, work with the new body to develop its missions.
Here a few examples of what the HRD Ministry’s missions may look like.
Provide education to each district: This would focus the efforts of the HRD ministry to people in each district. It would seek to provide a means of education to all in the district.
Now everyone in the Ministry would ask if their proposals, projects, policies or acts will serve to provide education to each district. This may not alter the model of education but will certainly alter the access and reach of education. It will shift the focus from national education to a balance of different streams of education based on the demography of each district.
Empower teachers in every village: This would focus the audience of the HRD Ministry to teachers in every village, focusing every action of all those parts of this Ministry in empowering these teachers. Every one in the Ministry would ask if each of their proposal, policy or act will empower the teachers in every village. This will not only alter the access and reach of education but also allow alternate models of education, pedagogy and institutionalisation to emerge.
2. Help Assess the impact of different options
There are many different actions one can choose, to pursue a mission. Which one would have the maximum impact? In the absence of a means to asses the impact of the policies, projects, procedures and actions of each Ministry in furthering its mission, no Ministry will be able to course-correct its activities. Without a compass, the ship cannot be navigated. Without a thermostat the temperature in a room cannot be regulated.
Feedback information systems, or information systems where action is driven by information about the impact of the action, are absolutely essential for ensuring that actions are furthering the mission.
Take for example the conversion of natural streams in urban or rural areas into storm-water drains or gutters. Does this impact the risk of flood and drought more than letting green corridors and biodiversity to protect the community? Which one will impact in the most desirable way?
The new body can work with each ministry to develop a means to assess the impact of their actions in furthering their missions. Such models would also help the ministries to share the scenarios of alternative actions with various stakeholders and align them to actions that result in desired impact.
The HRD Ministry, for example, could use the model to assess the impact of a policy to provide each person in a district a lifetime scholarship of three months education per year on the outreach, quality or other indicators of education.
The new body would also work with each ministry to develop a means to monitor the indicators of impact resulting from the acts of the ministry in real time. This would not only allow early course correction but also an effective way to accomplish results.
3. Help evaluate the cross-impacts of different interventions
No ministry can claim to be independent of the other. If, for example, surface transportation is promoted, urbanisation and industrialisation is altered. The power requirements, the resource needs and utilisation, the environmental impact, the employment generation, the fuel imports and the foreign exchange requirements, all follow the changes made in transportation corridors.
Similarly, the promotion of a few educational institutions of national importance alters the streams students choose, the cities that concentrate educational facilities, the attractors for industry, the distribution of wealth, the infrastructure and resource requirements of the country, the environmental degradation of the country, the migratory patterns of people, and even their travel habits.
Take also, for example, the impact of building new cities or industrial corridors. How will these impact mobility, transportation, fuel imports, pollution? How will these impact the resource requirements, particularly water, food, clean air? How will this impact land use and the environment? How does this affect the resilience, stability or sustainability of the critical functions necessary for the country?
In the absence of a means to examine the impacts of the actions of a ministry on the challenges before another ministry or the country, we will only experience cancerous growth of pointless infrastructure, unnecessary projects and purposeless legislation.
The new body would need to provide the Prime Minister and his Cabinet a model that would allow them to explore scenarios for simultaneous implementation of the different policies of different ministries, on indicators they propose to track. Such an exploration would not only ensure that policies work for the better of the country and impact various sectors in ways that further the missions they undertake, and also that the Cabinet works as a team to develop the country.
The new body would ideally have two main divisions: one for mission division and one for impact. The mission division would support the ministries in developing and executing their missions. The impact division would support the government in assessing the impact of programmes and the cross impacts of programmes. A 5-member board chaired by the Prime Minister would oversee the mission formulation and their impact.
The scrapping of the Planning Commission is the first step in the right direction, to ushering in good governance. It is an opportunity to bring a focus to what is done and for whom, by each government ministry and its departments. It is an opportunity to assess the impact of alternative actions of each ministry before listing desirable actions. It is an opportunity to ensure that the actions of one ministry do not compromise India’s potential for change, resilience, stability and sustainability.
It is an opportunity to undertake best practices and not merely emulate a current good practice that comes from a part of the world with a different context, different culture or a government with a different mission. It is an opportunity to put in place a mechanism that will transform the way the government works, to not only ensure minimum government but also ensure enduring good governance.
(Dr Anupam Saraph is a Professor, Future Designer, former governance and IT advisor to Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the World Economic Forum)
Distribution of resources is no longer a relevant issue and there are plenty of specialized institutions all over India who can do the thinking and planning for the government. Let us allow the Planning Commission to achieve moksha
The Economic Times proclaimed on the morning of 15th August that the vice chairman of planning commission is to be named soon; it even mentioned Suresh Prabhu former power minster of Shiva Sena as a front runner.
On the same day from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Prime minister (PM) Narendra Modi conducted the single largest 'massacre' of 'Development Economists' in modern history by abolishing the Soviet-era relic called Planning Commission. It is rumored that more than hundreds of this species were occupying seats in Yojana Bhavan. It was also mentioned in passing by the PM that the said institution is to be replaced by one that is more effective.
This was a major big blow to Nehruvian Marxists who thrived on Mahalonobis’s idea borrowed from the Soviets that planning by the Government is critical for development and Government is best suited to organize our lives.
Then started the hunt for new residence for the same old Government thinkers. The Economic times [ET], a paper which thrives on 'sources' and 'deep throats' in Government rather than any serious economic reporting and analysis- decided to take matters in its own hands and declared there would be a 'New Planning Commission'. On 18th August it reported about the new planning commission’s tasks and members as well.
ET also decided to christen the body the “National development and Reforms Commission” like in China.
Incidentally, Cuts International public Policy Centre had, as early as July, come up with some recommendations one of which is this very name; so our leading economic paper has not even come up with an original suggestion.
Now the real issue is about replacing the old Planning Commission with a new one that is “vibrant and independent” –these are standard words used by usual suspects.
Then came the announcement from Prime Minister's Office (PMO) asking all Indians to send their suggestions about this new body and a suitable name for it to be sent to MyGov site.
First of all we should start by asking a basic question -- does the said body need to be replaced at all?
As far as Center-State allocations are concerned –as already pointed out by economist Surjit Bhalla—there is a major reveral in trend of funds flowing to the States. Writing about expenditure figures presented by the 2014-15 Budget he says, “for the large plan expenditure component (approximately 5% of GDP), there has been a complete reversal of trend. In 2013-14, state plans constituted 25% of this total; in 2014-15, states will handle nearly 60% of the total!”
It is anachronistic for an un-elected bureaucrat called vice chairman of the Planning Commission- as in the Soviet Model-- to advise/ berate State Chief Ministers once in five years about the amount they can spend from Central kitty. The entire model of a Central Sultanate allocating finances to states is not an appropriate one in these changed times.
The Finance Commission takes care of the statutory division of resources and the Interstate Council can be, and should be, activated to iron out any differences between the Centre and States and between States. The Prime Minster can meet Chief Minister/s every month or every quarter under the aegis of Inter State Council to foster better communication. Further, a substantial portion of centrally managed schemes can and should be shifted to States.
Now lets come to the 'think' portion of what the Planning Commission does. It is presumed that thinking can be done only by an organization located at Delhi with large number of experts employed 'to think'. This is a specious argument used by Delhi Durbar wherein it is assumed that all expertise is available only in Delhi and all those who are in Delhi are experts!!
In the days of Internet, mobile phones and social media it is waste of money to create an organization at Delhi to 'think'. There are plenty of existing organizations all over India working in different disciplines such as science, technology, public policy and defence.
The government can also fund large institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Indian Council for Social Sciences Research (ICSSR), Bhabha Automic Research Centre (BARC), National Institute of Advance Studies (NIAS), National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and others or commission specific outputs from them in both strategic and operational. Hence, we feel that there is no need to create a new institution. If the PM wants advice on specific issues he can always rely on a multiplicity of institutions that already exist all over the country. He can always have a small advisory group to identify where to get each repors from. We feel for instance that the voluminous reports of the CSO and NSSO on various aspects of the Indian economy and society has not been adequately leveraged by the Government.
Our primordial instinct of not allowing any institution to die needs to end. Institutions like individuals have life span and must have Karmic endings. The Planning Commission died on the 15thAugust and on 27th August, in the ancient tradition, it will have Vaikunta Samaradhane. But many experts, thinkers and intellectuals want it to be revived before that based on our belief in re-birth. Let us for a minute assume that the Planning Commission has achieved Moksha –no re-birth since the organization has done so much punya in its life span serving the masses of this vast land (like it did when it juggled with the poverty line and made people better off overnight). And let us leave it there and close the chapter.
(Views expressed in this article are personal)
(Prof R Vaidyanathan , Professor of Finance and Control, has taught at IIM Bangalore for over three decades and is consistently rated as one of its most popular teachers. Prof Vaidyanathan has coined the term 'India UnInc' for the largest component of the Indian economy comprising small entrepreneurs, households. Prof Vaidyanathan sits on the advisory boards of SEBI and the RBI.)
Clearing all controversy, the Supreme Court ruled that the jurisdiction of such cases have to be the location where the cheque bounced, meaning the bank of the person, who issued the cheque and not the bank location of the complainant
Prosecuting jurisdiction in a cheque bouncing case has been a highly contested issue since very long. The issue has revolved around the point of determination.
Where would someone file a case for cheque bouncing out of the following venues?
• Location of the bank of Complainant
• Location of bank of issuer
• Location of origin of legal notice
• Where the legal notice was received
In the Dasrath Rupsingh case, a three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court has finally laid the controversy to rest.
By and large, complaints pertaining to cheque bouncing are instituted where the bank of the complainant is. Before the Supreme Court decided the case of Harman Electronics, complainants used to file a large number of cases on the basis of the location of their attorney, not of any bank, who would send the legal notice for a cheque having bounced. The Court noted that the law of cheque bouncing was being misused rampantly. Complaints were filed in Delhi just because lawyers were issuing notices from there, even though the bank of the payer or the payee were outside Delhi.
The Supreme Court has effectively put an end to this harassment at the hands of the Drawee.
Last year, in the Nishant Aggarwal case, the Supreme Court again addressed the prosecuting jurisdiction aspect. A two Judges Bench of the Supreme Court held that the complaint under Section 138 can be filed at the jurisdiction where the bank of the Complainant is situated.
In the Dasrath Rupsingh case, the apex court has cleared the controversy once and for all. The Bench stated that the factor for determining jurisdiction has to be the location where the cheque bounced, meaning thereby, the bank of the person who issued the cheque and not at the place the intimation of dishonour reaches, i.e, bank of the complainant. The Bench further held that the offence under the section shall occur when the cheque is returned unpaid.
The Bench notes that the cheque bouncing law should not be allowed to become a tool for harassment. There had been cases where the complainant would deposit the cheque and/or issue a legal notice from a place that was totally unrelated to the transaction in question-- in a possibe attempt to harass the other party.
The Bench also safeguarded the interests of genuine creditors in such a scenario. A person/ company can insist that the payment shall be made through cheque in question, payable at a particular location convenient to the creditor.
It is also important to note that the remedy under the Negotiable Instruments Act is in addition to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not as an alternative. Meaning that the case for cheque bouncing will be maintainable only where the bank of the drawee is, but if the creditor can demonstrate that various acts of the transaction took place in another jurisdiction, like his office/ residence, then he can maintain a separate action for fraud, cheating and forgery. Then there is also an option before the Complainant to institute a civil suit for recovery against the person who issued the dishonoured cheque.
Status of the pending cases:
After ruling that the proper jurisdiction to hold trial in a cheque bouncing case is where the bank of the alleged accused is situated, the Bench passed an order dealing with the currently pending cases.
In all those matters where the alleged accused has appeared after summoning and his evidence under Section 145 has commenced, those cases will remain where they are already pending. In all other matters where the evidence by examination under Section 145 has not begun, the case will be returned to the complainant to institute at the jurisdiction where the bank of the accused is situated.
Reading any judgement by Justice Vikramajit Sen is an excellent experience and this one is no different. However, in a separate judgement, Justice TS Thakur has also given elaborate findings regarding the confusionaround cheque bouncing matters.
(Dushyant K Mahant , is Founding Partner of Mahant & Mahant and Intellectual Property Lawyer. He did his Masters in IP Law from Brisbane. Does pro bono work as well. Mr Mahant is active on social media to exchange views and news about politics, law and common sense)