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Towards a National Think Tank

Creative Destruction

Responding to three articles that appeared in the EPW (13 September 2014) by Nachane, Shah and Mehrotra, the authors call for clarity and debate on the ethos of the new "think tank" that is to be instituted in the place of the Planning Commission of India.

One of the several highlights of the prime minister’s Independence Day address was his bold and historic announcement about the creative destruction of the Planning Commission. He desired to replace it with a new institution having “a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, and a new direction”. He also said that the new institution should lead the country, based on “creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilisation of resources, utilisation of youth power of the nation, and empower the federal structure”.

Ever since, several suggestions on the shape, nature, and functions of the new body have appeared in the media. The Economic & Political Weekly (13 September 2014) has published three articles from eminent and experienced authors. While one (Dilip M Nachane, “Yojana Bhawan: Obiter Dictum”) dwells at length on the excellent legacy of the Planning Commission, its motivations and vision, and consequently argues for retaining much of the old system within which the Planning Commission was – as the author argues – successful, the other two (Rajeeva Ratna Shah, “Reorienting the Plan Process and Revitalising the Planning Commission”, and Santosh Mehrotra, “The Reformed ‘Planning Commission’ : The Way Forward”) propose bolder reforms. While Mehrotra argues for learning from the Chinese system, Shah questions the utility of any reformed entity unless the very processes of the current top-down planning are inverted and are made “bottom-up”. Together, these three authors lay out a useful commentary on the changing context, and spell out some details of how the new think tank could be made to work better, what functions it should undertake and also about some important operational features such as staffing.

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