Before independence, not much was done neither by Muslim rulers nor by Britishers for the development of Indian masses. Britishers, however, did launch some development programmes and enacted some laws to bring changes in the social and material life of the people of India.
The major problem that confronted India immediately after independence was how to remake, and how best to reconstruct, renovate, regenerate and reorient the vast multitude of humanity living in rural areas (about 82 per cent in 1947). Rural reconstruction means the adoption of a new pattern of life, which should be based on the habits, traditions and institutions of the villagers.
For such rural reconstruction, following some other nations’ footsteps, India had also adopted the course of planning, mainly economic planning. A Department of Planning and Development was created as early as 1944, following Bombay Plan. However, at this stage, the planning could not take concrete shape because of lack of resources and necessary means and skills to achieve it.
After independence, in accordance with the general and long-term goals of the Indian nation and the Directive Principles as laid down in our Constitution, the national government took an immediate initiative to appoint the Planning Commission in 1950 to coordinate all state and central plans and suggest ways and means to remove social inequalities and to bring social change in the desired direction.
The first government, led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, accepted the socialistic pattern of society as its goal to modernize India. Up to V.P. Singh and Chandrasekhar governments (1988-91), there was not much change in the Nehru’s policy.
But, the Narasimha Rao’s government discarded this policy in early 1991 and launched a new model based on the policies of liberalization, marketization and privatization. This new model of development is still continuing. It has not only affected economic development but also brought enormous changes in the social structure.
The main aims of the Planning Commission are to:
1. To determine priorities;
2. To make an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country;
3. To make balanced utilization of the country’s resources;
4. To assess the progress achieved from time to time and recommend readjustment; and
5. To identify factors that retard economic development.
It was in 1951 that the Commission submitted its report to the government, suggesting the formulation of five-year plans with a particular aim of developing rural India because at that time about 80 per cent India’s population lived in villages.
Moreover, the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, also reiterated the need for rural development and for this supported the idea of planning. As a result, the First Five-Year Plan was launched in April 1951.
Since its inception, the Planning Commission has prepared 11 five-year plans, each focusing on different objectives as under:
1. First Five-Year Plan (1951-56):
In this plan top priority was given to agriculture and irrigation.
2. Second Five-Year Plan (1956-61):
It was concentrated on relatively underprivileged sections of society and gave importance to heavy industrial development.
3. Third Five-Year Plan (1961-66):
It emphasized on securing self-sustained growth.
Plan Holiday (1966-69):
To rectify the ills of the bad economy that had crippled in the planning process and to finish the unfinished tasks of the Third Plan.
4. Fourth Five-Year Plan (1969-74):
It aimed at creating economic stability, reducing inequalities and to increase national income by 5.5 per cent.
5. Fifth Five-Year Plan (1974-79):
Its main objective was to remove poverty, increase employment opportunities and attainment of self-reliance.
6. Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85):
In this plan too the main stress was on the removal of poverty, elimination of unemployment, strengthening the public distribution system, control of increasing population and to achie