Kerala govt to rope in Pitroda, Montek for Vision 2030 plan

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jan 26 2012, 09:17am hrs
The Kerala government is picking the top visionary brains in the country like Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Sam Pitroda (adviser to the Prime Minister on public information infrastructure and innovation) to start its Vision 2030 Plan. The blueprint is likely to be the first long-term perspective vision plan from any State. According to Ahluwalia, although Kerala is relatively better off in development, it needs to harness its human skills more to generate income, especially in high value tourism.

The 12th Plan would focus on fast, sustainable and more inclusive growth and the State should leverage its tourism to push higher growth. The national growth target is 9%. To back this, Kerala should harness skill development programmes, employability skills programme and the neglected apprenticeship programmes and manufacturing sector programmes," he told FE.

In its 2030 Plan, getting readied in consultation with Planning Commission, Kerala would go for more innovation-driven development, insists chief minister Oommen Chandy. For this, the State has even roped in Sam Pitroda for the state planning board to detail its innovation strategies.

Pitroda has put forward a wishlist of ideas for policy formulation. "As a literacy-high State, Kerala has to be serious with its plans for developing a Knowledge City, with thrust on education and technical skills, says Pitroda. "Kerala could make use of the idling capacities of the expertise and experience of those who have retired from service," he adds.

Some other ideas that Pitroda moots include a coastal waterway to carry commercial cargo and health insurance for mobile phone users. Ahluwalia has told Kerala that the Plan should make interventions to shift from low productive agriculture to high value crop technologies and better marketing. There has to be attention to recruiting high quality teachers in Government schools, so that the quality of education is upgraded.

Kerala was better off than many other Indian States and it was possible to tinker around with some of the norms for Central funding, wherever they were more standardised for backward states, he said.

After a day of consultation with Ahluwalia, the State Planning Board was told its report card showed "good progess, but not enough", sources said. For instance, the State, which tops the country in health indices, has slums which enjoy TV facilities, but suffer poor sanitation. Access to drinking water needs to be improved,especially in coastal areas.

Left to its earlier plan perspective, infrastructure had been the sole focus of Oommen Chandy Government. Seaports, roads, flyovers, bridges and a long-term plan for a bullet train railway from north to south were the infrastructure dreams that the State had come up with. In the next five years, Kerala government plans to build 1,000 km of new roads. In the current year, R200 crore has been provisioned to get cracking on this project. The state cabinet, which met this week, decided to constitute a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for getting sanction and implementing projects sponsored by the Centre under the national manufacturing policy.

After taking inputs from senior plan experts, there has been a slight shift in focus. In its annual plan, the State is also putting more money on its cash crop basket. Agriculture will be a priority, backed with the best of technology.

Overall, the Centre and State experts concur that there has to be a huge capital-push to pick up higher growth. Therefore, the State Cabinet has proposed a whopping 25% hike on its annual plan for 2012-2013, taking it to R14,010 crore.

The lead in health and education indices are not enough, says Chandy. First generation reforms have caused some development distortions. "Kerala would offer to be the country's lab in conducting the second generation reforms, with better accuracy," says the CM. The defining feature of State's Vision 2030 document would be that it would be workable, not one that stays on paper, he adds.