June 17, 2011 1:33:27 am
The Planning Commission,which opposed a proposal to hike the MPLADS corpus,has succumbed to its own members demands for discretionary funding of up to Rs 1 crore each every year.
The members can engage any individuals,academic institutions,consulting firms or even non-profit organisations of their choice to undertake research in any area that ostensibly aids the planning process.
In an internal circular dated May 25,accessed by The Indian Express,the Planning Commission has split research needs into two categories based on the fee to be paid to the consultant: up to Rs 25 lakh,and beyond Rs 25 lakh and up to Rs 1 crore.
To avoid criticism,the circular does specify a modicum of screening but the power to appoint vests largely with the member concerned.
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Of course,such consultancy works are in addition to the existing arrangements where the Plan panel can engage think-tanks and other organisations registered with it for general research. It has also hired over 50 consultants in the recent past with salaries up to Rs 1 lakh a month for tenures of up to five years.
When contacted,Arun Maira,a member in the Plan panel,who before joining the government was the India chief of Boston Consulting Group,told The Indian Express that the proposal had his full backing. It provides speed and flexibility to members and will significantly add to the quality of research the Planning Commission can hope to benefit from, he said.
There are those,however,who said such discretion was uncalled for and prone to misuse.
According to the circular,research proposals of up to Rs 25 lakh will be considered within the subject matter division in the Planning Commission,but will require the approval of the member concerned.
While the Plan panel will not call for tenders,an advertisement will be placed in the Planning Commission website specifying the scope and nature of the research. While only entities empanelled with the Plan panel can apply,a member can specify reasons if he is keen on roping in a particular consultant of his or her choice.
Research work that calls for fees over Rs 25 lakh will be screened by a sanctioning committee which has three members and financial advisors from within the Plan panel. Here,the circular does call for an advertisement to be placed by the Planning Commission in at least one national daily,but again requires the concurrence of the member concerned.
Besides,the deputy chairman can also appoint two experts or outside consultants by paying them lumpsum amounts for assisting the Planning Commission on its state plans. The Member-Secretary needs to be consulted for this.
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