Yogesh Rajput | May 26, 2015 | New Delhi
On December 7, 2014, the PM, along with his team, hosted CMs for exchange of views on economic planning. The consultation agenda was “cooperative federalism” (interface between the centre and states); strategic and perspective planning; innovation and knowledge hub; and flow of funds. In other words, the agenda was the planning commission, and its future.
Seen as a Nehruvian legacy, the plan panel was never a favourite with Modi. Even as Gujarat CM, he had often objected to the unequal centre-state partnership in economic development. He had objected to the seating arrangement at the National Development Council (NDC) meetings where CMs were made to sit in the audience while the PM, cabinet ministers and bureaucrats occupied the dais. On December 7, he changed that – PM and CMs sat at the same level. A little later, on January 1, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog was born on the grave of the planning commission. “Through NITI Aayog, we bid farewell to a ‘one size fits all’ approach towards development,” tweeted Modi on January 1.
The task of the new ‘think tank’ remains the same: providing strategic and technical advice to governments. It has the PM as its head and one vice-chairperson along with full-time and part-time members. Its governing council includes CMs and lieutenant governors of states and UTs.
Four months may be too early to tell, but the new body is surely having teething troubles. Its structural and functional responsibilities remain ambiguous. In the 2015-16 union budget, '20,000 crore was earmarked for states under special assitance fund, based on recommendations made by NITI Aayog, to which the parliamentary standing committee on finance said if NITI Aayog was to decide disbursal of funds to states, then what was the need of dismantling the erstwhile planning commission.
Under Modi, states may look for more power and money, but if “NITI Aayog will develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans to the village level”, as stated in a press release, the promise of “cooperative federalism” seems doubtful. Also, does it not amount to the ‘one size fits all’ approach?
There is also the confusion over the status accorded to the vice-chairman of the Aayog. Former plan panel deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia enjoyed a cabinet minister rank and was therefore a permanent invitee to all important policy deliberations. The first vice-chairperson of NITI Aayog, Arvind Panagariya, however, has been accorded the status of cabinet secretary (for pay and allowances), which may allow him to attend important meetings but disallow full participation in discussions. Panagariya though has been equated with cabinet ministers in the “warrant of precedence”, which has led to the confusion.
In the very first meeting of NITI Aayog’s governing council on February 8, non-BJP ruled states sought clarifications on the functions and powers of this body, and expressed concerns on allocation of funds and arbitrary cuts in centrally sponsored schemes (CSS). The intervention was quick to come. In the past two months, a panel of CMs from 11 states met to discuss rationalisation of CSS. The panel would meet again on May 28 in Bhopal to finalise its recommendations and present a report to the PM. This panel is one of the three sub-groups of CMs, formed to work on areas calling for swift action. The other two sub-groups of CMs are working on skill development and Swachh Bharat mission. Critics say such panels were set up to thrash out issues between states in the time of the plan panel too.
So, what is the defining ‘niti’ (policy) of NITI Aayog?
States joining the policy formulation exercise with the centre, rather than being told to implement one made by the centre, can be the starting point towards cooperative federalism.
(The article appears in the May 16-31, 2015 issue)
Yield gaps in wheat production in India can be countered with an earlier sowing date, says a University of Michigan researcher. Using a new way to measure wheat yields, Meha Jain, assistant professor at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, found that the wheat yie
Kharpariya village, about 50 km from the headquarters town of Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district, is like many villages in the region, home to the Baiga, deemed a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) for whom permanent contraception methods are banned to prevent extinction. However, care for p
Somabhai Modi says he remembers only one occasion when he offered his younger brother prime minister Narendra Modi advice regarding work. This, he says, was when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. After one of his weekly grievance redressal sessions, the then chief minister had enquired after the well-b
Should ration cards not linked to Aadhaar be rendered ineligible?
INS Kiltan, the third anti-submarine warfare (ASW) stealth corvette built under project 28 (Kamorta class), was commissioned into the Indian Navy by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam. The anti-submarine warfare stealth corvet
Maharatna enterprise, Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) has supplied defence grade micro-alloyed grade of steel (DMR 249A) steel plates for the indigenously built anti-submarine warfare (ASW) stealth corvette INS-Kiltan commissioned into Indian Navy. SAIL’s integ