Socialist-era Planning Commission was today replaced by a new think-tank, NITI Aayog, that will be headed by the Prime Minister and will have all Chief Ministers as members in a broad-based Governing Council to involve states in evolving national development priorities.
The inclusion of Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors in the Governing Council is a break with the past in the structuring of NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), which Prime Minister Narendra Modi, described as a landmark change that will foster spirit of cooperative federalism.
The body will have a Vice Chairperson and a CEO in addition to five full-time members and two part-time members, while four union ministers would serve as ex-officio members.
The erstwhile command economy era body set up nearly 65 years ago by late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had a Deputy Chairman and full-time members with a member secretary, an official, as a convener.
A PMO statement said the Centre-to-state one-way flow of policy, that was the hallmark of the Planning Commission era, is now sought to be replaced by a genuine and continuing partnership of states. It will put an end to “slow and tardy implementation of policy”, it said.
Noted economist Arvind Panagariya is tipped to be the first Vice-Chairman of Niti Aayog.
A Cabinet resolution setting up the new body said that Regional Councils will be formed to address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region.
They will comprise the Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors in the region. These will be chaired by the Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee.
The NITI Aayog will also have experts, specialists and practitioners with relevant domain knowledge as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister.
The two part-time members of the new body would be from leading universities and research organisations.
The body will serve as a ‘Think Tank’ of the government as “a directional and policy dynamo” and would provide the governments at the Centre and in states with strategic and technical advice on key policy matters including economic issues of national and international importance.
Commenting on the new body, Modi tweeted, “Having served as a CM (Chief Minister) in the past, I am very much aware of the importance of actively consulting the states. NITI Aayog does precisely that.” .
“Through the NITI Aayog we wish to ensure that every individual can enjoy the fruits of development & aspire to lead a better life (inclusive growth),” said Modi, who had in his Independence Day speech mooted the idea of replacing the Commission with a new and more relevant body.
The resolution invokes the words of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Swami Vivekanand and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in the constitution of the new body.
As per the Resolution, the NITI Aayog will provide a ‘national agenda’ for the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers to foster cooperative federalism while recognising that “strong states make a strong nation”.
It will also interact with other national and international Think Tanks, as also with educational and policy research institutions.
The NITI Aayog has been set up after extensive consultations across the spectrum of stakeholders including states, domain experts and relevant institutions.
The new body has been set up by a resolution of Union Cabinet as done in case of Planning Commission which was established on March 15, 1950.
The NITI Aayog will monitor and evaluate implementation of programmes and will seek to progress from “food security” to ensuring actual returns that farmers get from their produce.
Its objective would also include use of technology to reduce opacity and potential for misadventure in governance.
The PMO said that NITI Aayog aims to prepare the country to better deal with issues like poverty alleviation, safeguarding of environmental and ecological assets, redressal of gender, cast and economic inequalities. It will also give policy support to more than 50 million small businesses to create jobs.
Modi in his tweet said, “A pro-people, pro-active & participative development agenda stressing on empowerment & equality is the guiding principle behind NITI Aayog.
Through NITI Aayog, we bid farewell to a ‘one size fits all’ approach towards development. The body celebrates India’s diversity & plurality.”
The NITI Aayog, he hoped, will emerge as an active and important institution that will play a pivotal role in India’s development journey in the years to come. It will provide key inputs on various policy matters.