Like demonetisation, abolishing the Planning Commission was a 'Tughluqian' move, which has yielded in its place a forum of "intellectually mediocre drum-beaters," said former Union minister Jairam Ramesh.
A sitting Rajya Sabha MP and former member of the erstwhile plan panel, Ramesh said the commission did not keep India poor as it was often alleged but actually kept India together.
The Planning Commission was an institution in the Government of India, which formulated India's Five-Year Plans, besides performing other functions and was set up by a Resolution of the Government of India in March 1950.
It was dissolved by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in 2014 and replaced with NITI Aayog.
"It was only in August 2014 that the prime minister announced that the Planning Commission would be abolished and in its place a Niti Aayog would be set up. This was in keeping with the new prime minister's mindset: everything must bear my imprint, no matter what's the history and what's the legacy," Ramesh said while delivering the seventh Sharada Prasad memorial lecture on the topic, 'Wise Counsel: Reflections on the Planning Era'.
The lecture was organised in memory of late H Y Sharada Prasad, a civil servant and journalist, best known as the media adviser to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Continuing his denunciation of the government's decision to abolish the commission, Ramesh said the body, which was a counter-weight to the finance ministry, a powerful voice for the states, a source of in-house criticism and a forum to bring different viewpoints to the table, stood abolished "at one stroke".
"Planning was associated with Nehru. Vajpayee was a product of the Nehruvian era and his obituary speech on Nehru's demise is a masterpiece. But the present prime minister is obsessed with the obliteration of Nehru in every aspect. In my view, the decision to abolish the Planning Commission was as much a Tughluqian move as was demonetisation," Ramesh said.
He further said the commission performed valuable functions "at an arm's-length relationship" with the government in power and which even stood up to the government in power on numerous occasions while being part of the system.
"After over six decades, it certainly needed a large dose of adrenalin. But what was administered to it in 2014 was a poison pill. What we now have in its place is an intellectually mediocre drum-beater for the powers that be.
"I don't mind admitting that something in me died when the last rites of the Planning Commission were performed four years ago and it faded into history unmourned and unappreciated," Ramesh said. -- PTI