The think tank of India, Planning Commission, is viewed as the body of intellectuals that can apprehend the needs of the society and economy, and devise policies and measures accordingly. The progress of the nation and the allocation of funds are dependent on the strategies formulated in the five-year plans. It is expected that the government, the ministers, the regulatory agencies, and the bureaucrats would contribute in the best possible manner for the success of the plan. Considering India as an economy, the five-year plans can be looked upon as the most prominent set of fiscal and economic budgeting. Let us briefly evaluate the delivery of the 11th plan and conclude as to whether the think-tank and administrators succeeded in their tasks of planning and administration.
Vital to note that at the mid-term review of the plan, the Planning Commission lowered the targeted growth rate of 9 percent per annum to 8 percent. Let us also consider some credentials. The agriculture growth rate from 10 percent in 2003-04 declined to 3.8 percent in 2006-07, which was the last FY for the 10th plan. As per the mid-term assessment of the 11th plan, the average growth rate (2007-10) was just 2.2 percent. For the industry sector, the 11th plan targeted facilitation of FDI, PPP initiatives, world-class infrastructure, and foreign technology collaborations. The plan foresaw manufacturing and general industrial sector growing at an average rate of 10-11 percent, which however in real terms slipped to even 2.6 percent in 2008-09 and 3.5 percent in 2011-12.
As always, the 11th plan too focused on elementary, secondary, and higher education. Plus, improving the quality of education was also the target. The literacy rate, which as per the census of 2001 stood at 64.8 percent with a gap of 21.6 percentage points between males and females at national level, grew to just 74.04 percent in 2011 indicating a decadal growth of mere 9 percent in the decade. Reducing malnutrition to half its present level, Infant Mortality Rate to 28 per live births and Total Fertility rate to 2.1 percent, and access of clean drinking water to all was the goal of the 11th plan in the health domain. It is appalling that the World Bank has estimated India as one of the highest ranking countries in the world in terms of children suffering from malnutrition. Access to clean water was also far than achievable.
In terms of employment generation, the plan aimed at generating 58 million work prospects during 2007 to 2012. The rate of unemployment, on the contrary, reached an all-time high of 9.4 percent in December 2010. MGNREGA scheme was introduced, which has been creating artificial work prospects for the rural population, and in turn is broadening the economic gap. Other areas of focus for the 11th plan were social justice, rural development, infrastructure, energy, transport, science and technology, environment and forest, water resources, urban development, and women’s agency and child rights. The planners though were smart enough to project healthy figures in terms of development, most of the domains witnessed decline even from the previous figures.
It is shocking to note that the government assesses the mid-term achievements/ drawbacks of the five year plans, however overall appraisal post five years can nowhere be found. Either, the planners and those responsible for the execution of the plans are assured enough that the goals envisaged would be attained, or they realize the ambiguity of their vision and expertise at the very beginning of the plan. Else, aims like infrastructure, rural, and urban development would not have been threatening for the so-called intellectuals to handle. Good governance advocates not just planning and implementation, but also the appraisal and control of the devised plan so as to curb any deviations from the projected outcomes. Plus, in case the planning squad could not deliver feasible and effectual plans, surely the change of personnel should be looked for.