Ahluwalia, Pitroda to field questions from the public today on Google Hangouts

Days after finance minister P Chidambaram took to the internet to address live questions from the people about the budget, it is the turn of Planning Commission Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to face questions from the public.

The event, to be held today at 5 pm, will also feature other top officials from the Planning Commission — India’s top economic planning body that sets long-term goals and policy.

According to Google, which was instrumental in organizing the event on its Google Plus ‘Hangouts’ video-conferencing platform, selected applicants will be able to ask questions to the panel that will include Sam Pitroda.

Google will restrict interactive participation in the event to those whose questions have been selected in a screening process. However, others will be able to watch the proceedings on Planning Commission’s Youtube page.

Google is pitching the event as a democratization process — part of bringing popular feedback directly to policymakers, without the intermediation of agencies like TV channels and newspapers.

“The Internet continues to play a vital role in enabling communication between citizens and government officials, helping make governance more transparent and accessible. Internet technologies today are becoming as important to citizen engagement as radio and television were in the twentieth century,” it said.

The questions, which have to be sent through http://goo.gl/Va6Au using the hashtag #12thPlan, have to be about the 12th Five-Year plan of India.

Five Year plans are broad outlines of priorities for the government in the next five years. The 12th plan period started in 2012. Originally, the aim of the 12th plan had been to achieve an average 9.56% annual growth for the Indian GDP. However, it was under a rethink with Ahluwalia saying that he was not sure such a high figure could be achieved.