16/11/2015 8:56 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

An Obituary Of The Planning Commission


The first major policy decision of the new government was to bury me in the political graveyard of history. As my fate is sealed, I turn back to relook at my life, reminiscing about the days of sunshine and glory, the dark nights of adversity and struggle, the vicissitudes in the life of the nation and in that of my own. Nostalgia impinges me. And, therefore, as I near the grave I decide to pronounce my own obituary; unsure of whether any eulogies would be spared for me once I lie for good.

I was born in 1950 alongside the Indian Republic. The Republic and I were conjoined twins, tied with the same umbilical cord. We were both the fruits of independence. When Nehru visited the Soviet Union back in 1927 he was impressed by the physical grandeur and social levelling achieved through the planning model there and in his travelogue he quoted Wordsworth: "Bliss was in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven." There in Moscow, Nehru envisioned a dream for his nation. I was the progeny of that dream.

"Now as my utility is being questioned I fear for India's future, for let me remind you, the Republic and I were born as conjoined twins and the history of the Republic is my autobiography."

Together we set out to build the destiny of the nation. The first task was to erect the basic infrastructure of core industries. The strategy was in place and India embarked on its course of state-led industrial development. Public sector expansion, import substitution and community development programmes were the basic planks of the strategy in the first 15 years. The task before us was tough and resources were scarce. Those were the days of paucities and scarcities. Those were also the years of hopes, energy and vitality. There was exuberance in the air and lots of activity. After all, the great nation was awakening from its colonial slumber and years of moribundity. Those were the days of my adolescence.

Years of sunshine and hope were numbered and darkness soon fell. A series of disasters struck the nation through the mid-1960s. Our neighbours attacked us. Military engagements emptied our coffers. Famines devastated the economy. Our sustenance reduced to the mercy of foreign aid through the PL-480 programme. The situation was rightly called "ship-to-mouth subsistence." The five year plans were suspended for three years and I entered into a state of coma. Fingers were being pointed at me for leading a wrong path focusing solely on industrialisation. But in my defence I have always believed that we had travelled the best path under the circumstances and the later decades have borne the fruits.

As we all learn from the events of our lives, the decade of 1970 gave newer directions and destinations and greater focus on agriculture. These were the years of renewed energy, growth and development. These were the years of the Green Revolution. We achieved a level of basic self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

However, as India was growing, our needs changed and so did our dreams, desires and expectations. The global scenario was changing. The Soviet Union was on the cusp of disintegration, the nations of Latin America and several others were fascinated to experiment with newer forms and shades of liberalised economy. The reverberations of global jostling were felt here in India. Also, there were huge domestic and external pressures to set right the foreign exchange situation. Stark changes were brought about in the beginning of the decade of 1990s and I assumed a newer role. I adapted to the newer neo-liberal scenario. My goals got re-oriented and priorities redefined for the next twenty years.

The new millennium showed the nation its most glorious days as well some lows. We witnessed the unprecedented growth of 9% and sailed smoothly through the global slump of 2008-09. It was heartening to see that India had begun to reap the fruits of my life. As India emphatically carves out a niche for itself in the global arena today, I feel that my blood and sweat has paid its dividends.

Now as my utility is being questioned I fear for India's future, for let me remind you, the Republic and I were born as conjoined twins and the history of the Republic is my autobiography.

Dying souls experience epiphanies. And the voice of that epiphany seems to warn those who hammered the last nails in my coffin that it is quite easy to dismantle great institutions. The difficult part is to build greater institutions. Nehru was a great institution builder. With my passing, will new people at the helm today be able to build equally great institutions to replace me and cherish the dreams and desires of Nehru and other fathers of our great nation? I shall leave the answer to them.

As of my own legacy, I shall turn to Charles Dickens to borrow a few words from David Copperfield, "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by somebody else," let history be the judge.

Meanwhile, I shall steal a few last moments and inscribe my own epitaph: "Here Rests the Darling of Nehruvian Era, (1950-2014)."

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