By Sarkaritel January 29, 2015 11:57


NITI Aayog


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

It is close to a month, and there is no news on what’s transpiring at NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), after much fanfare of its setting up. While most analysts have welcomed the formation of the new institution in place of the Planning Commission, signs of whether it will play a new role in gearing up the development process are keenly awaited.

As the country celebrates its 66 Republic Day and has done with hosting American President Obama, the Aayog should spell out its plan to give a push to the spirit of development, correct regional imbalances, integrate the States and solve their problems and undertake knowledge-based work to help India become ‘a super power’.  As the Cabinet resolution, establishing the Aayog pointed out that its objectives is “to evolve a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies, with the active involvement of the States”.

An important aspect of its work would be to work at the grass-root level and prepare plans for village uplift, keeping in mind the need to create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system, serving as a “repository for research in good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development”.

One may mention here that planning in the country has been rather lop-sided and urban oriented. There has not been sufficient emphasis on the rural sector, whether it is development of the physical or social infrastructure. As a result of this, almost 50 per cent of the districts of the country are backward. The lack of regional balanced development of the country has been a major problem and most of the new schemes, announced by the Modi government, are aimed at transforming the rural sector. The Aayog has also to help in proper planning and ensuring that development takes place in a decentralized and sustainable manner.

The existing demographic, ecological and other socio-economic parameters have to be synthesized with the developmental needs of the village. Ideally, each village should have around 70 to 80 per cent of its public needs satisfied. Experts have suggested a ‘rural need survey’ for every village for ensuring that social change is effective.

While the Aayog has rightly been mandated to pay special attention to the impoverished sections of society it has not yet been clarified how it is expected to do this. Here also the thrust has to be on the rural sector as most of the poor people live in villages. The task of helping the poor has been started with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) but the planning for this scheme needs to be changed so that the work carried out results in building assets, which could help the people for a few years. Others schemes such as the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) has been proposed to be implemented through a village development plan that would be prepared for every identified gram panchayat with special focus on enabling every poor household to come out of poverty.

The expertise of the Aayog would be of great help in this regard in making the village self-reliant and self sufficient, as visualized by Mahatma Gandhi long ago. There is also a necessity of supply of renewable energy and modernization and diversification of micro, cottage and village-based industries to provide employment to the rural youth so that they do not migrate to the cities in search of livelihood. This has become imperative at this point of time for the country to make rapid strides in the path of social and economic development.

In spite of clarity on the announcement, the Government’s intentions need to be spelt out to make the Aayog a vehicle for development and ‘achieve convergence between the Centre and States’ for evolving a long-term vision for the country. Will all the States, even non-BJP ruled be on board? Further, it is significant that the Cabinet had insisted that the vision plan should not be on borrowed ideas of other countries – where the scenario is completely different, as they do not have to tackle such huge population and high population density. The plan needs to be formulated on ground realities and as a response to the deteriorating conditions of the poor and the economically weaker sections.

As stated earlier, the Aayog has to be a knowledge centre and in a position to help the States with technology-related solutions. It has been destined to be a knowledge centre where the States could come with their problems for effective redressal. How soon will the Aayog act in making available technology applications in rural areas to bring about the desired change?

In an age where climate change and environmental factors are of concern to public policy makers as well as to the people, technology interventions have to be planned by the Aayog so as to change the thinking and accentuate the process of developmental work. This apart, there are suggestions that the annual performance reviews of departments may come through the Aayog with its comments and recommendations to the Cabinet.

Indeed, the determination and dedication of the Members of NITI Aayog would be of crucial necessity in gearing the organization towards those who have so far been at the receiving end. Moreover, revival of the rural sector and also the semi-urban areas, having potential for growth, would need to be attended to at the earliest. The uphill task that the Aayog and the Government have to face to prove its sincerity and effectiveness cannot be doubted and implementation procedure is even difficult with the bureaucracy not quite responsive.

Recall that during the time of the UPA government the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) was set up as early as November 2010 for evaluating government schemes and programmes, including assessing the role and effectiveness of the Planning Commission. In its report to the Prime Minister, it was clearly stated that Commission in its present form is “a hindrance not a help to India’s development”, as it found it impossible to reform such a large ossified body. A new body was needed “to assist States, to provide long-term thinking and help in (carrying out) reforms”.

The big question now is how soon will this new body deliver in line with the needs of a modern economy? While replacing and/or transforming the Commission has taken place, its policies and actions will reveal whether it is an effective instrument in providing necessary support and guidance to the States. And, more importantly to the masses! –INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel January 29, 2015 11:57