Plan panel remained in news for wrong reasons in 2012
New Delhi: Planning Commission remained in news this year for wrong reasons like fixing poverty line at Rs 28.65 per capita daily in urban areas, spending Rs 35 lakh on refurbishing toilets and slashing average economic growth rate for the 12th Plan to 8 percent.
It all began in March with the Planning Commission coming out with poverty numbers based on the Tendulkar Committee methodology which raised many eyebrows and drew flak from all corners.
According to its poverty data released in March, an individual above a monthly consumption of Rs 859.6 in urban and Rs 672.8 in rural areas would no longer be considered as poor. The data was used to compute poverty numbers for 2009-10.
These numbers were used by the civil society activists to show that persons with consumption of over Rs 28.65 per day in urban area and Rs 22.42 per day in rural area were above poverty line.
The data which were provided to the Supreme Court created public outcry.
The Commission in its affidavit before the apex court earlier in 2011 had said that "poverty line at June 2011 price level can be placed provisionally at Rs 965 (Rs 32 per day) per capita per month in urban areas and Rs 781 (Rs 26 per day) in rural areas".
Following uproar over fixing poverty line too low, the Commission constituted an expert group headed by noted economist C Rangarajan in May to review the Tendulkar Committee methodology for estimating poverty. It was announced that the committee would submit its report in 7-9 months.
However, that did not happen and Plan Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia at December 27 meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) said that the Rangarajan Committee would submit its report in June, 2013.
Even before the controversy could subside, the Commission made headlines for incurring Rs 35 lakh expenditure for renovating toilets at Yojana Bhawan which houses the body in the capital.
The Commission admitted in an RTI reply that the cost of installation of Door Access Control System was over Rs 5 lakh for two toilets and the cost of renovation of two toilets where door access control system was installed worked out to be Rs 30 lakh.
The access control system was installed to restrict the entry of persons into those swanky toilets through smart cards.
Much to the embarrassment, the stories relating to expensive toilets found sizable space on front pages of many papers. Several TV channels barged into the toilets and aired the footage to increase their TRPs.
Irked by the controversy, the Commission allowed everyone to use the expensive toilets.
The troubled year closed with the Commission proposing to lower the growth target for the 12th Five-Year Plan to 8 percent from 9-10 percent planned initially. The scaled down target got the approval of the National Development Council (NDC) at its 57th meeting on December 27.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March, 2010 in a infrastructure conference, had envisaged 10 percent annual average economic growth rate for the 12th Plan period.
Singh had said, "A growth rate of 10 percent looks ambitious, but it is not impossible. It has been achieved by other emerging economies in Asia."
In October last year at the time of deliberation of the Approach Paper to 12th Plan by the NDC, Singh said, "It is relevant to ask whether this (9 percent growth rate) is feasible since the economy is currently slowing down".
The Approach Paper, however, sought to raise to the average annual growth rate to 9 percent from 7.9 percent in the previous Plan. The draft Plan Document lowered the target to 8.2 percent and NDC scaled it down further to 8 percent.