NITI Aayog and its Plans

Libertatem Magazine - - Contents - by Shub­ham Pa­tel

NITI Aayog, which also stands for Na­tional In­sti­tu­tion for Trans­form­ing In­dia is a think tank es­tab­lished by the BJP govern­ment lead by Naren­dra Modi. It was brought into ex­is­tence af­ter the rec­om­men­da­tion of the In­de­pen­dent Eval­u­a­tion Of­fice which sug­gested re­plac­ing the plan­ning com­mis­sion by some sort of “con­trol com­mis­sion”. The re­sult of these rec­om­men­da­tions was that the 65 year old struc­ture of the plan­ning com­mis­sion was sup­planted with NITI Aayog. The ba­sic aim of NITI Aayog was to bring up the par­ti­tion of var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments in the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, de­sign strate­gic and long term poli­cies and pro­grammes for the Govern­ment of In­dia and also to pro­vide the Cen­tre and States with rel­e­vant tech­ni­cal ad­vice. The Finance Min­is­ter Arun Jaitely pointed out that the ba­sic rea­son for re­dun­dancy of plan­ning com­mis­sion was its fo­cus on the com­mand econ­omy struc­ture which was of no rel­e­vance since In­dia is com­prised of var­i­ous states at var­i­ous dif­fer­ent lev­els of devel­op­ment and the ‘one size fits all’ ap­proach to the eco­nomic plan­ning would be ob­so­lete. [PR Ramesh, ‘We will use ev­ery pro­vi­sion in the Con­sti­tu­tion to push re­forms’, Open Mag­a­zine, Jan­uary 09th, 2015]. This takes a step fur­ther in bring­ing about the spirit of co­op­er­a­tive fed­er­al­ism as op­posed to the Nehruvian con­cept of cen­tral­ized plan­ning.

The Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia, Mr. Naren­dra Modi while de­liv­er­ing his speech in Kozhikode on Septem­ber 24th, 2016 pointed out a vi­sion for In­dia, the changes he would like to see in the times to come. The vi­sion he pro­posed in­cluded the points of con­sid­er­a­tion re­lated to re­moval of poverty, pro­vid­ing equal­ity, af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble jus­tice, clean­li­ness, re­moval of cor­rup­tion, en­hance­ment of em­ploy­ment, elim­i­na­tion of atroc­i­ties on women, and a coun­try full of hope. NITI Aayog while mak­ing its plan took the above men­tioned points into con­sid­er­a­tion and from it made a plan that cen­ters and aims to trans­form In­dia into “a pros­per­ous, highly ed­u­cated, healthy, se­cure, cor­rup­tion-free, en­ergy-abun­dant, en­vi­ron­men­tally clean

and a glob­ally in­flu­en­tial na­tion by 2031-2032”. The ac­tion points re­leased by the NITI Aayog in­cluded a 15 year long vi­sion fol­lowed by a 7 year strat­egy and a 3 year ac­tion agenda.

The Plans

The pro­posed fif­teen year long vi­sion plan projects more than three­fold growth on the econ­omy of the coun­try from Rs. 137 Lakh Crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 469 Lakh Crore by 2031-32, which is at an as­sumed growth rate of 8% per an­num. It fur­ther pro­vides for a pro­posed in­crease, three folds to be ex­act, in the per capita in­come by the end of 2031-32 i.e. from Rs. 1.06 lakh in 2015-16 to Rs. 3.14 lakh in 2031-32; it fur­ther goes on to claim that the same will en­able ac­cess to two-wheel­ers or cars, air con­di­tion­ing, and other white goods for “nearly all” in the New In­dia. [Dipti Jain, Niti Aayog needs to sell poli­cies not fan­tasies, Live Mint, April 27th, 2017].

The three-year agenda in­cludes steps to check tax eva­sion, ex­pand tax base and sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of tax­a­tion sys­tem, along with in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nism to pro­mote com­pe­ti­tion. The Aayog also pro­vided for strate­gic dis­in­vest­ment in 20 state owned loss mak­ing com­pa­nies, bring­ing down the land prices and to make hous­ing af­ford­able. In terms of agri­cul­ture the plan pro­vided for dou­bling the in­comes of farm­ers by 2022 and rais­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity through in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­hanced ir­ri­ga­tion. In terms of en­ergy the plan pro­poses that by 2022 elec­tric­ity be pro­vided to each house­hold, black car­bon be elim­i­nated, LPG con­nec­tion be given to all BPL card hold­ers etc. The plan goes on to touch al­most all the sec­tors of im­por­tance be it health or ed­u­ca­tion. [NITI Aayog, In­dia 2031-32: Vi­sion Strat­egy and Ac­tion Agenda, April 23rd, 2017].

The goals and the points which were put for­ward by the NITI Aayog are of such na­ture that the im­por­tance and ne­ces­sity of its im­ple­men­ta­tion can hardly be de­nied. How­ever, the goals are of sim­i­lar na­ture with the ones that were pur­sued by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments too; but the out­come of the goals of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments fell short be­cause of two ma­jor rea­sons- in­suf­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion done by the govern­ment or flawed strat­egy since in­cep­tion. The plan pro­vides for the tripling the terms of the eco­nomic growth and per capita in­come of the na­tion. Although the claims are based on the idea that China was able to achieve the same in their last 15 years, the sce­nario needs a lit­tle more indige­nous ap­proach and con­sid­er­a­tions. The sce­nario of per capita in­come and the things at­tached to it would be­come true only if there is an al­most per­fect equal­ity in in­come of the masses, how­ever this ho­moge­nous na­ture is still a dream too far-fetched in the In­dian sce­nario. As ac­cord­ing to the eco­nomic sur­vey of the House­hold Sur­vey of In­dia’s Ci­ti­zen & Cus­tomer Econ­omy (ICE 360 sur­vey) only the top 20% earn close enough to the present per capita in­come and they hold the net share of 44.9% in terms of the na­tional house­hold dis­pos­able in­come. The low­est 20% earn around Rs. 14,850 which amounts to al­most 1/10th of the per capita in­come.[pramit Bhat­tacharya, In­dia’s rich­est 20% ac­count for 45% of in­come, Live Mint, De­cem­ber 02nd, 2016]. In in­stances of such grave in­come dis­par­ity, mak­ing claims and goals of a three­fold in­crease in gen­eral and avail­abil­ity of “white” goods seems a lit­tle too far­fetched and based on as­sump­tions.

NITI Aayog was also to for­mu­late a 7 year strat­egy along with the vi­sion for 15 years and an ac­tion plan for three years. Although, the ac­tion plan and vi­sion have been floated, the strat­egy is yet to be for­mu­lated or pub­li­cally an­nounced. The ne­ces­sity of the strat­egy can­not be un­der­mined as for any plan to be­come suc­cess­ful, there needs to be a strat­egy and an ac­tion plan in place, which how­ever is lack­ing in the present sce­nario.

The pro­posed three year plan was to re­place the plan­ning com­mis­sion and take ef­fect from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The plan has turned out to be a plan for ex­pan­sion in ev­ery re­gion named un­der it be it agri­cul­ture or jobs, mak­ing it more of a “wish­ful doc­u­ment”. Ac­cord­ing to Ra­jesh Ma­ha­p­a­tra, per­haps the lack of the strat­egy has led to the first of the blun­ders i.e. “putting the cart be­fore the horse.” [Ra­jesh Ma­ha­p­a­tra, PM Modi’s vi­sion of a ‘new In­dia’ needs sub­stance not NITI Aayog’s ‘goodie bag’, The Hin­dus­tan Times, May 01st, 2017].

Ac­cord­ing to Pra­nob Sen, an econ­o­mist who has spent 15 years in the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, the ‘sabka sath sabka vikas’ slo­gan of the Modi govern­ment is sim­i­lar to that of Indira Gandhi’s ‘garibi hatao’. Although both are over­reach­ing, in case of Indira Gandhi the pol­icy makers de­fined the term poverty be­fore go­ing on to plan a model for reach­ing a spe­cific tar­get; while in the present case much to the con­trast the NITI Aayog has failed in pro­vid­ing sub­stance to Modi’s vi­sion. [Ra­jesh Ma­ha­p­a­tra, PM Modi’s vi­sion of a ‘new In­dia’ needs sub­stance not NITI Aayog’s ‘goodie bag’, The Hin­dus­tan Times, May 01st, 2017].

The plans and goals made by the NITI Aayog are by all mea­sures very im­por­tant for devel­op­ment of the na­tion as a whole; they touch upon each area of im­por­tance and pro­vide for the nec­es­sary lev­els which should be reached within a spe­cific time limit. How­ever it can also not be de­nied that the same goals were and will be pur­sued by the gov­ern­ments which have come in the past and will come in the fu­ture. The ac­tion of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments failed due to lack of strat­egy and proper ex­e­cu­tion, for the plans to suc­ceed these la­cu­nas should be avoided and treated. The lack of the 7 year strat­egy is also one of the ma­jor con­cerns, which needs to be cor­rected soon; oth­er­wise, in spite of per­fect ex­e­cu­tion, it will lack the nec­es­sary pre­ci­sion and qual­ity re­quired for suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the plan. Nev­er­the­less, only time will tell that what the fu­ture holds for these plans.

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