Polity and Governance

NITI Aayog and its relevance

NITI Aayog and its relevance
When India got independence on August 15th, 1947, the government had a lot on its hand and the first thing was to assess the resources and enlist the deficient resources and making a proper formula for the utilization of them in the nation’s best interest. With this as an aim, the Planning Commission was formed by a resolution of the Government of India in March, 1950. Its first chairman was the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. It was tasked with improving the standard of living of Indians. It made Five-Year Plans and foresaw their implementations, the machinery required. In short, it was the main agency that set the tone of the direction for India to march ahead. But, in August, 2014, the Government of India scrapped Planning Commission. On 1st January, 2015, a cabinet resolution was passed which facilitated the formation of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog which replaced the Planning Commission. This seems to be a sudden change, but it is not, it was felt that the Planning Commission got tired in its planning and policy forming process and it was felt that a rejuvenation was required in central planning process. The Planning Commission formulated 12 Five-Year Plans and the aim of first eight of them was to build the public sector with massive investments. The Planning Commission was formed on the lines of USSR. It followed a ‘top-down’ approach. It was mainly Delhi-centric, even after the reforms in 1991. The ‘one size fits all approach’ of the Planning Commission hindered the massive progress potential of many states. The Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley said “The 65-year old Planning Commission had become a redundant organization. It was relevant in a command economy structure, but not any longer. India is a diversified country and its states are in various phases of economic development along with their own strengths and weaknesses. In this context, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning is obsolete. It cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy”. The case of China and that of Latin America/Caribbean (LCA) and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) pegs the importance of central planning in development of nation. The LCA and SSA followed the Washington Consensus while the China became the “factory of the world” and improved the standard of living by many folds because it followed the industrial policy and the State Planning Commission was a powerful tool in that which chartered the growth for the nation. However, in India, the Planning Commission did some magnificent jobs but it could not resolve the inter-state issues. It reported to the National Development Council which was incompetent. The Plans it made were very ambitious and most of the time the outcome was short of that intended. Now coming to the newly formed NITI Aayog, the structure of it includes the Prime Minister as chairperson, four ex-officio members who are cabinet ministers, four full time members, they include, Bibek Debroy (ecomomist), V.K. Saraswat (ex-DRDO chief), Ramesh Chand (agriculture expert), Dr. Vinod Paul (Public Health Expert) and there is the Governing Council which includes the Chief Ministers of all the states and the Lieutenant Governors of the UTs except for Delhi and Puducherry. The first Vice Chairperson of NITI Aayog was Aravind Panagariya and the present is Rajeev Kumar. The CEO is Amitabh Kant. There are 13 functions enlisted for NITI Aayog. It is regarded as the think-tank for policymaking in India. It follows the bottom-up approach. It’s centric towards the idea of taking states together in un-tapping the potential of India. The functions include evolving a shared vision of national development with states’ involvement, fostering cooperative federalism, formulating plans at village levels and aggregating them at higher levels, interests of national security are included in economic strategy and policy, special attention to those section which may not benefit appropriately by economic development, designing strategic and long term policy and program framework and initiatives and monitoring them and making mid-way correction if needed using feedback, advising and encouraging partnership between like-minded think-tanks as well as educational and policy research institution, creating a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system, resolving inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues, maintaining a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, active monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of programmes and initiatives, focusing on technology upgradation and capacity building and the last is to do as required to further the execution of the national development agenda. There are 17 sustainable development goals some of which include zero hunger, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, etc. The NITI Aayog has done some amazing work since its inception including, Ayushmann Bharat, National Energy Policy, Developmental Strategy for North East and Hilly Areas, the recommendation of the closure of PSUs in distress, strategic disinvestment in CPSUs, working towards doubling farmers income by 2022, the Atal Innovation Mission. It also backed for the reforms in the Medical Council of India and the UGC (University Grants Commission). The NITI Aayog has two hubs at its core, one which functions for engagement of the states with the Central government i.e. Team India Hub and the other one, Knowledge and Innovation Hub hones the think-tank capabilities of the institution. However, some critics argue that NITI Aayog being a think-tank must remain distant from the government but what we see is it praising the present dispensation unconditionally and with a penchant for the private corporate sector as if it is the savior of the Indian economy without acknowledging the contribution of the public sector. The rigid approach followed by the Planning Commission of setting Five-Year Plans and allocation of resources for preset economic targets has been modified by NITI Aayog. The monitoring and implementation by encouraging competition among states will ensure that the results are more effective and reach the set goals and it is estimated that proper implementation can add 2-3% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) without utilizing any new resource. Lastly, it’s everyone’s prerogative to rate NITI Aayog and term its relevance but with India aiming to achieve growth and development with challenges like poverty, improving standard of living, environment challenges, regional and social diversity, various inequalities like gender, class, etc., the NITI Aayog holds a platform which is very much the launchpad for India into the success horizons. It is a hybrid version of the Planning Commission and a think-cum-action-tank.
References:- https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/why-niti-ayog-replaced-planning-commission-1455101793-1 http://pib.nic.in/newsite/printrelease.aspx?relid=170000 https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/is-niti-aayog-relevant/article24998885.ece http://niti.gov.in/content/overview https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NITI_Aayog https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/columns-keeping-the-niti-aayog-relevant/38261/ http://niti.gov.in/content/functions https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/EpV8XyCfKKTdndWWiqrMZL/NITI-Aayog-An-institution-to-fix-implementation-issues.html http://niti.gov.in/content/overview-sustainable-development-goals http://planningcommission.gov.in/aboutus/history/index.php?about=aboutbdy.htm

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