Planning without an objective is like driving without any destination. There are generally two sets of objectives for planning, namely the short-term objectives and the long-term objectives. While the short-term objectives vary from plan to plan, depending on the immediate problems faced by the economy, the process of planning is inspired by certain long term objectives. In case of our Five Year plans, the long-term objectives are:
(i) A high rate of growth with a view to improvement in standard of living.
(ii) Economic self-reliance;
(iii) Social justice and
(iv) Modernization of the economy
(v) Economic stability
(i) High Rate of Growth
All the Indian Five Year Plans have given primary importance to higher growth of real national income. During the British rule, Indian economy was stagnant and the people were living in a state of abject poverty. The Britishers exploited the economy both through foreign trade and colonial administration. While the European industries flourished, the Indian economy was caught in a vicious circle of poverty. The pervasive poverty and misery were the most important problem that has to be tackled through Five Year Plan.
During the first three decades of planning, the rate of economic growth was not so encouraging in our economy Till 1980, the average annual growth rate of Gross Domestic Product was 3.73 percent against the average annual growth rate of population at 2.5 percent. Hence the per-capita income grew only around 1 percent. But from the 6th plan onwards, there has been considerable change in the Indian economy. In the Sixth, Seventh and Eight plan the growth rate was 5.4 percent, 5.8 percent and 6.8 percent respectively. The Ninth Plan, started in 1997 targeted a growth rate of 6.5 percent per annum and the actual growth rate was 6.8 percent in 1998 - 99 and 6.4 percent in 1999 - 2000. This high rate of growth is considered a significant achievement of the Indian planning against the concept of a Hindu rate of growth.
(ii) Economic Self Reliance
Self reliance means to stand on one’s own legs. In the Indian context, it implies that dependence on foreign aid should be as minimum as possible. At the beginning of planning, we had to import food grains from USA to meet our domestic demand. Similarly, for accelerating the process of industrialization, we had to import, capital goods in the form of heavy machinery and technical know-how. For improving infrastructure facilities like roads, railways, power, we had to depend on foreign aid to raise the rate of our investment.
As excessive dependence on foreign sector may lead to economic colonialism, the planners rightly mentioned the objective of self-reliance from the third Plan onwards. In the Fourth Plan much emphasis was given to self-reliance, more specially in the production of food grains. In the Fifth Plan, our objective was to earn sufficient foreign exchange through export promotion and important substitution.
By the end of the fifth plan, Indian became self-sufficient in food-grain production. In 1999-2000, our food grain production reached a record of 205.91 million tons. Further, in the field of industrialization, now we have strong capital industries based on infrastructure. In case of science and technology, our achievements are no less remarkable. The proportion of foreign aid in our plan outlays have declined from 28.1 percent in the Second Plan to 5.5 percent in the Eighth Plan. However, in spite of all these achievements, we have to remember that hike in price of petroleum products in the inter national market has made self-reliance a distant possibility in the near future.
(iii) Social Justice:
Social justice means to equitably distribute the wealth and income of the country among different sections of the society. In India, we find that a large number of people are poor; while few lead a luxurious life. Therefore, another objective of development is to ensure social justice and to take care of the poor and weaker sections of the society. The Five-Year Plans have highlighted four aspects of social justice. They are:
(i) Application of democratic principles in the political structure of the country;
(ii) Establishment of social and economic equity and removal of regional disparity;
(iii) Putting an end to the process of centralization of economic power; and
(iv) Efforts to raise the condition of backward and depressed classes.
Thus the Five Year Plans have targeted to uplift the economic condition of socio-economically weaker sections like scheduled caste and tribes through a number of target oriented programmes. In order to reduce the inequality in the distribution of landed assets, land reforms have been adopted. Further, to reduce regional inequality specific programmes have been adopted for the backward areas of the country.
In spite of various efforts undertaken by the authorities, the problem of inequality remains as great as ever. According to World Development Report (1994) in India the top 20 percent of household enjoy 39.3 percent of the national income while the lowest 20 percent enjoy only 9.2 percent of it. Similarly, another study points out that the lowest 40 percent of rural household own only 1.58 percent of total landed asset while the top 5.44 percent own around 40 percent of land. Thus the progress in the field of attaining social justice has been slow and not satisfactory.
(iv) Modernization of the Economy:
Before independence, our economy was backward and feudal in character. After attainment of independence, the planners and policy makers tried to modernize the economy by changing the structural and institutional set up of the country. Modernization aims at improving the standard of living of the people by adopting a better scientific technique of production, by replacing the traditional backward ideas by logical reasoning's and bringing about changes in the rural structure and institutions.
These changes aim at increasing the share of industrial output in the national income, upgrading the quality of products and diversifying the Indian industries. Further, it also includes expansion of banking and non-banking financial institutions to agriculture and industry. It envisages modernization of agriculture including land reforms.
(v) Economic Stability:
Economic stability means to control inflation and unemployment. After the Second Plan, the price level started increasing for a long period of time. Therefore, the planners have tried to stabilize the economy by properly controlling the rising trend of the price level. However, the progress in this direction has been far from satisfactory.
Thus the broad objective of Indian plans has been a non-inflationary self-reliant growth with social justice.