IndiaCSR News Network
MUMBAI: The word Plan implies a detailed design or proposal made in advance for achieving some objective while a Policy means a course or principle of proposed or adopted action. Both dictionary meanings may be used interchangeably if not synonymously in everyday parlance, but certainly not in the political sphere. On its gruelling war front, both words have been mercilessly made to cross swords as the respective conflicting representations of two different worlds. While Plan has long been ‘owned’ by the Congress, Policy has been recently ‘acquired’ by the ruling government.
Quite obviously, the name change has been consciously timed in the hope of an amplified effect. A ‘New Name in the New Year’ invariably makes for a good media story. Even more obviously, the opposition parties have pounced on the opportunity to hit back, and have been largely unconvincing if not exactly unceremonious in their backlash. An agenda-less Congress, not surprisingly, sees an anti-Nehruvian motive behind the move like it does in PM Modi’s Sardar Patel sermons and statutes. It has condemned the renaming exercise as a dangerous, short-sighted gimmickry…As if the Congress party was diligently and definitively building upon the Nehruvian model all these years. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC on the other hand has warned of rising corporate encroachment in public policy as a direct outcome of the new regime. Other parties have cautiously welcomed the move seeking better representation to address state-specific issues as against conventional water-tight central mandates.
On the face of it, the new directive sounds logical in structure, as a secretary-free combined body of three to four divisions headed by the prime minister himself with a governing council comprising all Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors of Union Territories besides a PM-appointed Vice-Chairperson (Former ADB Chief Economist and Columbia Professor Arvind Panagariya is believed to be PM’s choice for the coveted post) and a Chief Executive Officer.
Having said that, the government should now start substantiating the claims of the new body rather than unduly harp on the name change – a largely retail exercise which has already won more than its fair share of media buzz and circulation in the public domain. In the coming time, the new body will do well to post its progress report on many crucial aspects – like what is its ‘shared vision’ being evolved, what exactly does it mean by ‘active and continuous’ state involvement (rather than merely parroting the slogan ‘strong states make a strong nation’), what are those ‘mechanisms’ to formulate credible plans at the state level, how does Niti plan (the word plan is still relevant) to monitor and evaluate the implementation.
We would be grateful if the NITI Aayog begins with spelling out the ‘heightened’ expectations of people seeking institutional reforms and large-scale changes as the press release puts it. We expect the government to gift the public a credible platform, to access and evaluate how well you have read the public sentiment. More than merely inviting them to post opinions, design logos and create slogans let them judge whether the new institution actually turns out pro-people and pro-active and whether it succeeds in steering a participative development agenda stressing on empowerment and equality.
Beyond doubt, this government means business for it has, for the first time in Indian polity, felt the need to distinguish processes from strategies as also to build a rich repository of research on good governance and best practices. Also heartening to note is its approach towards developmental issues. It astutely highlights the fact that the transformation of India would essentially be a blend of reactive and proactive change – the former, in consequence of market forces and the latter in anticipation of the evolving and emerging paradigms.
But without credible action, much of the declared vision, mission and values would be reduced to plain rhetoric. That would indeed be a tragedy given an exceptionally visionary and solution-minded Prime Minister at the helm. As of now, it’s only his personal credibility that makes us hopeful of the possibility that his vision percolates deep enough to take India from plans and policies towards action and accomplishment.