Planning for whom?


The latest issue of the Frontline features on its cover the Approach Paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan.   [The title of this blog is borrowed from the Frontline].

The articles in the magazine show how the Approach Paper focuses on the welfare of the private corporations and ignore the marginalised sections.  The magazine quotes P V Rajagopal (President of Ekta Parishad): “A broader analysis of the document comes out from a simple summation of some key words and how many times these were used.  It also gives an idea of the direction that the Planning Commission is taking.  The words and their usage: Dignity 0, hunger 0, equality 0, human rights 0, Dalits/Scheduled Caste 2, tribal/Adivasi 8, farmers 38, PPP (public-private partnership) 45, market 67, growth 279.”

Economic growth via the market is what the Approach Paper is hoping to give us in the Five Year Plan.  There are many articles in the Frontline which argue that this kind of growth did not achieve the welfare of all the citizens in the countries where such strategies were employed in the last two or three decades.  This is a strategy that promotes the welfare of a few.  Yes, the incomes of those few will continue to rise higher giving us a high per capita income! 

The Approach Paper even seeks to take away the land of the poor people from them.  The land belonging to the poor and even forest land may be taken away for “public purpose,” which includes infrastructure and industry.  In reality, says one of the articles in the magazine, “this (public purpose) can mean shopping malls and hotels, maybe to generate non-farm jobs!”  The Paper even “seeks to ensure a no-barriers approach to land acquisition even in districts where the net sown area is less than 50 per cent of the total geographical area (the national average.”

Columnist C P Chandrasekhar argues that “the expectation (of the Approach Paper) is that incentivising private activity will deliver growth.”  He goes on to say that markets have never been benign.  Markets will only aggravate inequality.  “Moreover,” says Chandrasekhar, “private gains were seen as substantially different and most often in conflict with social benefit.”

The Paper targets a growth rate of 9 to 9.5%.  The target may be achieved too.  But the cost will be paid for by the poor and the marginalised sections.


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6 Responses to Planning for whom?

  1. Sid says:

    Sir, in my opinion, India is one of the worst examples of mixed economy. The major reason being it’s not able to decide whether to take up the role of a regulator or a planner. Even if the policy makers have secretly decided, they often slip in another role. On the pretext of expanding and burgeoning the economy they have started to justify their target of an increased per capita income(how they narrowed down to this being their end-aim is itself a huge question-mark).
    And of course if the so called development oriented five year plans had been implemented not just on paper but in the right spirit, India would have been a developed nation with half the no. of five year plans. I think there is still some time before the planners and the policy makers realize that the economy of a country – as imbalanced as India(of course in terms of wealth distribution) – cannot be played as a zero sum game where the rich win at the cost of the hungry.

    • matheikal says:

      Thank you, Sid. Your views resonate with mine to a large extent, except perhaps about the mixed economy. I think India managed to circumvent the economic depressions that are plaguing developed nations because of its mixed economy, or at least the controls put by the govt on the private sector. Look at what is happening to America because of the liberty given to the private sector.

  2. Jose D.Maliekal says:

    Dear Tomichan,

    Thanks for the inspiring piece. I do vibe with you and Mr Chandrasekhar. I presume Jayathi Ghosh would have similar views. I presumed that Monteksingh Ahuluwaliah would have better heart for the poor. As Felix Wilfred writes, today the rich wants to have the poor deleted from their consciousness and the face of the Earth. And I would add, not only Delete, but Shift Delete, even from the Recyle Bin. Though short of time, I should read the Frontline. I read it from cover to cover on train journeys.

    • matheikal says:

      Maliekal, the whole purpose of my writing is that “Shift Delete.” I see it even in my workplace. I see it in Delhi when I move around. You can’t get rid of the caste system by killing off the lower castes. And today’s lower castes are the economically poor.

      Why would Ahluwalia understand the conditions of the poor? Today’s Hindu [Delhi edition] quotes Ahluwalia on the front page that “Rs 32 a day poverty line not all that ‘ridiculous’: Montek.” His view is that the actual calculation of Rs 4824 (in cities) and Rs 3905 (in rural areas) per family (which is translated into per day per person to get the Rs32 figure for cities) is justified. He thinks that a four-figure income per month is good enough for an Indian family. Contrast this with the electricity bill he would have to pay for his air-cnditioner per month. Contrast it also with the daily wage of Rs500 that an unskilled labourer from Orissa or Andhra in Kerala demands today. [And compare it with what a teacher is paid in a CBSE school in Kerala today!]

      I’m left wondering why the god who said ‘Sambhavami yuge yuge’ is not ‘smabhaving’ now.

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    I have read all the articles, including the interviews with manoj Tiwari and Yashwant Sinha. The former’s views are one dimensional, with no historic (even of the recent kind) perspective. Harps continuously on population. Where was he between 1977 and now, when the stories, real or made-up, of forced steriization have people running for cover at the sound of “population control”? He does not recognize that the rate of growth of popuation has come down significantly in the aggregate and the efforts must be doubled without setting targets in the non-performing areas.

    Yashwant Sinha accepts his own culpability and for a change his interview is almost non-political. A big surprise. He argues for re-purposing the Planning Commission out of micro-managing an onto strategizing and monitoring. I am not too sure the details can be worked out. But, if they can be, we must try.

    I liked Prabhat Patnaik’s piece better than all others, where he talks about the “things” perspective behind the Plan.

    Tired to add a few words; might have subtracted much from your comprehensive “idea” piece.

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Yes, Raghuram, I just say ‘yes’ to all that you have said. You have added much to the post which I would have loved to add if readers would have the patience to read a long blog.

      I particularly like your mention of Yashwant Sinha. I too thought, as I read the interview, that he was an honest politician. “I am for economic reforms,” he says, “but the market can never be allowed to substitue the government in a country like India where deprivation and destitution exist in a manner that is unbelievable.” I also liked the concluding words in the interview: “I am not a communist, but it is evident that the state’s role shall remain relevant.” How many BJP leaders will accept that?

      Thank you for adding so much to my very limited post.

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