Mid-Term As­sess­ment of the Niti Aayog

It has proved use­ful, but not quite as ex­pected

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Has the Niti Aayog proved a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion? The ques­tion is a nat­u­ral corol­lary to the sur­prise de­par­ture of its first boss mid­way through his ten­ure. The an­swer is not straight­for­ward. It is dif­fi­cult to claim that the Aayog has emerged as the go-to in­sti­tu­tion for solv­ing eco­nomic prob­lems that the Cen­tre and the states con­front. Not that the Aayog has been lax about ini­ti­at­ing pro­pos­als and schemes. Some of its pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions on en­ergy and reg­u­la­tion of health­care do make a lot of sense, but th­ese have not found trac­tion with the arms of the gov­ern­ment charged with for­mu­lat­ing and im­ple­ment­ing pol­icy. Un­less a pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tion car­ries the ex­plicit im­pri­matur of the Prime Min­is­ter, it is not taken with the se­ri­ous­ness its in­trin­sic merit might war­rant — this is the hard re­al­ity. But this does not mean that the Aayog has failed.

Where the Aayog has found a unique role for it­self is in mon­i­tor­ing out­comes in some key ar­eas such as health, ed­u­ca­tion and wa­ter man­age­ment. The Aayog holds reg­u­lar meet­ings with chief sec­re­taries of states and with sec­re­taries of the con­cerned de­part­ments, to mon­i­tor progress on out­come mile­stones. States that are found want­ing risk los­ing funds for new projects in that sec­tor while states that show ea­ger progress are as­sured greater funds. Since the days of for­mula-linked Plan as­sis­tance are his­tory, money from cen­tral min­istries would flow to those states that demon­strate the will and the abil­ity to im­ple­ment schemes. This leads to healthy com­pe­ti­tion among states. The Niti Aayog, through its reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing of projects in key ar­eas, be­comes a plat­form for ar­tic­u­lat­ing what some would call com­pet­i­tive fed­er­al­ism, be­sides for the mon­i­tor­ing of key projects.

In this, it shares a key fea­ture of the erst­while Plan­ning Com­mis­sion: ex­er­cise of cen­tral au­thor­ity that is not part of the con­sti­tu­tional scheme of things. Its rem­edy lies in the polity, with the states dis­charg­ing their as­signed func­tions with their re­sources, in­clud­ing statu­tory trans­fers from the Cen­tre.

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