Rao takes charge of Planning, Statistics ministries

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Amidst talks of restructuring Planning Commission, Inderjit Singh Rao today assumed charge of the planning and the statistics ministries.

He has been appointed as Minister of State with independent charge for both the ministeries of Planning and Statistics and Programme Implementation.

According to a Commission's senior official, it is probably the first time that a Planning Minister has been given independent charge of the Ministry.

Rao, a powerful Ahir leader from Haryana, won the parliamentary seat from Gurgaon in Lok Sabha 2014 polls.

The decision of the new government has raised doubt among Planning Commission official whether the institution would be restructured and made to play a new role in changing market economy scenario.

Earlier there were talks about the redesigning the Planning Commission and redefining its role in the new market economy during an internal meeting of the body headed by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, held on April 30.

An official said that under this new arrangement where Planning Minister will have independent charge, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue to be Chairman of the Commission but he will not hold charge of Planning Ministry.

According to the official, now Rao will be an interface between the Parliament and the Commission. The minister will reply to all queries raised by the members in both the Houses.

Asked about his priorities as Planning Minister, Rao said, "Let me have some knowledge about this department, then only we will set the priorities...Right now the question about priorities linger in my own mind too."

Refraining from commenting on the controversial issue about fixing the poverty line by the Commission, the Minister said: "..What the Planning Commission did last year, especially about poverty line that I think was the job of the last government when Mr (Montek Singh) Ahluwalia was the Deputy Chairman...I can only answer after having details."

An official said that the biggest challenge before the minister is to improve the image of the Commission which was marred by the controversies such as fixing an unacceptable poverty line and spending Rs 35 lakh for renovation of toilets.

Rao has also been appointed as Minister of State for Defence. He has also taken charge of the ministry earlier in the day.

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