People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 38

September 19, 2004



“Sovereign Authority Must Be Ours”


THE Communist Party of India (Marxist) has made it clear to the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia that the sovereign authority to make or suggest mid-term corrections to the Plan must rest only with our agencies and our people, who are accountable to the people.


This was conveyed by the CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury to Ahluwalia on September 16 at a luncheon meeting organised by the latter. This meeting came in the wake of the raging controversy over the appointment of representatives of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and an American consultancy group in various consultative committees constituted by the Commission. The four Left parties had issued a statement criticising the move and urged the UPA government to reconsider the move.


In reply to queries from press persons after the meeting, Yechury said the objection of the Left was not on the question of whether it is Indian or foreign agencies/persons but it was of the sovereign authority and that must rest with us.


Apart from this issue, Yechury also discussed the question of Planning Commission deciding on its priorities for allocations. He stressed that these priorities must be based on the Common Minimum Programme and must include the key sectors like employment generation, rural development etc. He urged Ahluwalia to allocate money for these without delay.


Earlier, four leading economists Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, C P Chandrasekhar, Thomas Isaac and Jayati Ghosh had written a letter to Ahluwalia expressing concern over these appointments. The full text is given below:


We the undersigned members of some of the newly constituted task-forces and consultative committees, are deeply disturbed by the news that these bodies would also contain representatives of the World Bank, the ADB and the McKinsey consultancy firm. Our disquiet is increased by the justifications for this move which you have given to the press on two separate occasions. The first justification invoked the fact that the World Bank gave large loans to India. If the Planning Commission gratuitously inducts Bank representatives to its various bodies for this reason, then it is implicitly accepting the view that the lender is a sound and dispassionate judge of the recipient’s interests, a view whose untenability is obvious from the moneylender-kisan relationship in the Indian countryside. Your second justification invoking Gandhiji’s famous remark about keeping “doors and windows” open is disingenuous. Would the Commission be justified on the basis of that remark in having foreign government officials on its consultative committees?


The views of the World Bank and the ADB etc. on all the issues before the task-forces/consultative committees are well known. It the Commission wants to hear these views further, or hear other views, it could always organise informal in-house seminars. But inducting representatives from these organisations, which have their own agendas, in officially constituted bodies of the Planning Commission, is altogether different. These task forces may not be very important, but a precedent is being set which, apart from betraying intellectual subservience, augurs ill for the future. We urge you not to let the Planning Commission, an institution nurtured by the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, P C Mahalanobis and D R Gadgil to be reduced to an arena for the expression of the views of motivated foreign agencies and consultancy firms.