NITI Aayog or The National Institution for Transforming India came into existence on the 1st January, 2015 by means of a cabinet resolution, replacing the erstwhile Planning Commission. The change was one of the big ticket reforms announced by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Â during his first Independence Day address after assuming office. The new think tank that the government came up with is aims to promote co-operative federalism and foster a spirit of harmony among the Union and State governments.
Why is NITI AAYOG required?
Let us start with enumerating the reasons which led to such a change in the planning corridors of the government i.e. the shortcomings of the Planning Commission and the reason for NITI Aayog.
- The Nehruvian think tank was primarily tasked with formulating the five year plans for the government and deciding on the allocation of funds to state governments. However, with age it failed to understand the local resources and requirements of the states.
- Planning Commission was concerned with the planned budget of the states however, in the recent past, most of the planned funds under the budget were lying unused and a majority of expenditure is being incurred under non-planned expenditure and hence, there is hardly a need to have a think tank for planning the funds.
- The Planning Commission made a declaration that any person spending Rs 32 daily in an urban area and Rs 26 in a rural area cannot be called poor. The statement not only was irresponsible but showed the vacuum that had crept between Planning Commission and reality. This marked the first episode of voice of dissent rising from economist, questioning the existence of the Planning Commission.
- Also, coalition politics has set a strong foot in the local and national political fabric of the country and hence, there was a growing need to decentralise planning.
- Planning Commission was seen to be adding on to the red-tapism in the country and hence, was a hindrance to the economic development.
- Quite a lot of Planning Commissionâ€™s development schemes failed because of their â€œone size fits allâ€™ approach. To put it in simpler words â€“ The Planning Commission always came up with one scheme which was to be implemented in the similar manner in each and every state irrespective of the local problems being faced by the state.
Thus, from the time of its inception in 1950 till 2014 much has changed in the country. India has moved from a mere demand of food security to profitable agriculture for which it is important for the government to become an enabler and Planning Commission failed to update itself as per the aspirations of the emerging neo-middle class and hence, was asked to wrap up.
Structure of NITI AAYOG
|Chairman||Prime Minister||Prime Minister is the ex-officio head of the Niti Aayog|
|Vice Chairman||Arvind Panagariya||Well known economist|
|Ex- officio Member 1||Rajnath Singh||Minister of Home Affairs|
|Ex-officio Member 2||Arun Jaitley||Minister of finance; Minister of corporate affairs; Minister of information and broadcasting|
|Ex-officio Member 3||Suresh Prabhu||Minister of Railways|
|Ex-officio Member 4||Radha Mohan Singh||Minister of Agriculture|
|Full time Member 1||Bibek Debroy||Economist|
|Full time Member 2||V.K Saraswat||Former Secretary, Defence R&D|
|Full time Member 3||Professor Ramesh Chand||Agriculture Economist|
|Chief Executive Officer||Amitabh Kant||Â Ex-Secretary DIPP, Government of India|
Here is a structural diagram to depict the structure of Niti Aayog.
All the full time members of the NITI Aayog hold a rank equivalent to that of a Minister of State in the union council of minister, however, this is just a name sake equivalence specified by the government, this does not entitle them to interfere in the decisions of the council in anyway, their field of work is primarily restricted to NITI Aayog only.
Apart from the members specified above, the Aayog also has special invitees. Currently, there are three ministers who are working as special invitees under the NITI Aayog: Smriti Irani (Minister for Human Resource Development), Nitin Gadkari (Minister for Road transport and Highways; Minister for shipping) and Thawar Chand Gehlot (Minister for Social Justice and empowerment).Â Prime Minister can invite experts to be a part of NITI Aayog, as and when needed.
Next thing of importance in the structure of NITI Aayog are the councils. By the resolution note released by the cabinet, NITI Aayog has various councils working under its name; let us have a look at all of those.
- The first and foremost is the Governing Council which has the Prime Minister as its chairman and the following members : All the ex-officio members, full time members, the vice chairperson of the Aayog, Chief Minister of all states and UTs and Lieutenant Governors of the centrally administered Union Territories.
The Governing Council is stated to be the only body where the PM will directly interact with CMs and LGs to talk about the future course of policy making of the union government in accordance with the hopes and aspirations of the people of various states and UTs.
- Under the governing council are three sub governing councils which are actually sub groups of chief ministers headed by one of the CM themselves, to check the progress of various schemes and report the hardships being faced by the state governments in their implementation.
First is the sub group on Centrally Sponsored Schemes: The group had deliberations on the Vision 2022 of the union government and discussed various provisions and allocations made to the states under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes. Though, the sub group has members from selected states, consultations are held on a wider scale involving representatives from all the states and consensus is built before submitting the final report.
Second sub group on Skill Development: The group was constituted to address issues pertaining to human resources, especially youth and to work on scientific methods on moving towards creating a pool of skilled manpower. This group too has submitted its report to the Prime minister.
Third subgroup on Swachch Bharat Mission :The sub group was created to look into the financial needs of the Swachch Bharat mission and give insights on the budgetary, technological and institutional requirements of the same. This sub group too has submitted its report to the Prime Minister.
- The third working group in the NITI Aayog is the task force. At present, there are two task forces working on Agriculture development and poverty alleviation. These task forces are mainly comprised of bureaucrats and free of any political control. They are also allowed to appoint experts as and when required.
Here is a diagrammatic representation of councils and their hierarchy.
Functions of NITI AAYOG:
Once the structure of NITI Aayog is known, it is very important to understand the deliverables expected from the NITI Aayog , while there is no clarity on whether or not the Aayog will continue with the five year plan exercise, there are other discreet functions that the NITI Aayog is expected to perform and will be judged on. These are:
- The Aayog is stated to function as the policy think tank of the government. Along with that, it will also work on assessing the effectiveness of the on-going schemes.
- In the course of it, the Aayog will also be taking up case studies of other nations and adopting their best practices in terms of good governance and sustainable development.
- The prime reason for the birth of NITI Aayog is to promote co-operative federalism. Many of you must not be clear about how will exactly NITI Aayog do this? For those who are not very clear with the functions of the Planning Commission, I will elaborate. Planning Commission too had the PM and all the CMs as its members but it was turning to be more of a dictatorial body where all the developmental decisions were taking place at the level of union government and meetings were mostly used up in dictating those to the state CMs. Opinions though expressed did not make much of a difference, where as in NITI Aayog decision making is being done on a joint level by both the Union and the State governments, thus, taking into account needs and wants of citizens at every level including panchayats.
- NITI Aayog is stated to promote private participation in the country keeping in view the changing needs of the world, and also come up with policies to reduce red tape.
- The Aayog will work not only on poverty alleviation but poverty elimination.
- There will be regional councils to work on specific issues like, drought problems, development works in left wing extremism affected areas etc.
- Use social media and ICT to maintain its transparency all the time.
While the NITI Aayog is one of the most ambitious reforms of the government towards â€œminimum government, maximum governanceâ€, it carries on itself a huge burden of the nationâ€™s expectations, specially at a time when the world as a whole is passing through turbulent times, and policies made at this time will steer the nation either towards a developed one or push it further down the backward scale. But, it has been â€œso far so goodâ€ for the NITI Aayog until now.