Source: Live Mint, March 16, 2013
New Delhi: The Planning Commission became the latest government agency to interact with online citizens in a Google Hangout on Friday. The topics discussed included the purpose of planning, the need for accountability and decentralization. The plan panel is not new to social media, having set up a site for public comments and a Facebook page on the 12th Plan to an enthusiastic response last year.
Even as top Planning Commission officials interacted with panellists and citizens online on proposals contained in the 12th Plan, one plan panel member called it an “elite medium” with few questions raised on gender policies, socially backward classes and minorities.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and finance minister P. Chidambaram have engaged with the public through Google Hangouts before. Surface transport minister C.P. Joshi is set to host one on 29 March. News anchor Vikram Chandra moderated the Planning Commission interaction, taking questions from the Twitter followers of the plan panel and his own Twitter account.
Participants included Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, planning minister Rajeev Shukla, members and the secretary of the plan panel along with Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Innovation Council. Invitees to the event organized by the Planning Commission and the National Innovation Council were chairman and managing director of Bangalore-based biotechnology company Biocon, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw; the sarpanch of Kanpura village in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district, Jagdish Bairwa; Orissa MP Baijayant Jay Panda; and executive director of the National Foundation for India, Amitabh Behar.
The Hangout saw more than 800 participants who welcomed the initiative, while demanding better accountability and policy proposals for different sectors in the 12th plan period.
Shaw asked why annual reports on performance against plan promises could not be made available. Behar called for more participative planning and not just consultation. Panda raised the issue of regional equity and of poor states struggling to meet their share in centrally sponsored schemes such as the government’s flagship school education scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
Bairwa said while village council committees can supervise implementation at the local level, they cannot do anything about the shortage of teachers and doctors.
Pitroda used the medium to announce a “Hackathon” competition in April for students to communicate the 12th plan better through data visualizations, short films and innovative mobile applications.
A recording of the hour-long discussion is available on the plan panel’s YouTube channel.