Niti Aayog stays policy adrift with baggage of unanchored ideas

First meeting of the Governing Council of Niti Aayog

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the Team India, first meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi on February 08, 2015.

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, August 7: Niti Aayog’s birth was out of a vengeful act of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who seethed with earlier prevalent practice of the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission ‘lecturing’ chief ministers on policy matters.

On Sunday, the Rashtrapati Bhavan will host seventh Governing Council meeting, presided over by the prime minister, and attended by the members, which include the chief ministers, and Union Ministers.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao held a presser to announce his boycott of the Sunday Niti conclave, while levelling allegations that the Central government works against the principle of cooperative federalism.

Six episodes of the Niti Aayog Governing Council give credence to the assertions of the Opposition-ruled chief ministers that the conclave is essentially a one-way idea throwing at the states with lack of follow up interest on the parts of the Central government.

While the previous Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagaria and his team for a couple of years stuck with a semblance of outreach with the chief ministers, which ceased during the stint of his successor Rajiv Kumar, who took his job as giving television bytes to praise Modi and the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

On the direction of Modi, Niti Aayog pushed a policy agenda with states which included agrarian reforms, digital economy, social sector scheme resizing, stepping up nutrition mission, health reforms in the form of the establishment of the National Medical Council, which unveiled NEET for medical entrance examinations.

Former Andhra chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu was given the task in one such Governing Council meeting to lead a policy response for cashless economy.

That was in the wake of the gung ho spirit of the Modi government in the days and weeks after the demonetization.

The effort soon revealed to itself that it was the most futile exercise, as the Union Ministers adjusted their vocabulary to begin speaking of ‘less cash’ economy, while forgetting it soon after the cash circulation went up the pre-demonetisation level.

PM Narendra Modi addressing Governing Council meeting of Niti Aayog
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Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan was given the task after another such Governing Council meetings to lead the policy response on the social sector scheme rationalisation.

The seventh meeting of the Governing Council will take place at a time when Modi is hitting out at ‘Revdi politics’, while the Supreme Court wants to discipline the state governments on practicing politics of freebies.

The Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperative (APMC) was on top of the agenda of the Niti Aayog during the first few Governing Council meetings.

The states showed least interests, which included even the BJP-ruled states.

The Niti Aayog also sought to push the agenda of the land reforms by arguing for legislative frameworks for leasing to allow the large cooperatives and corporate into farming. That remained a non-starter.

The seventh Governing Council has three broad subjects as part of its agenda – crop diversification, oilseeds and pulses sufficiency; implementation of national education policy, school and higher education; urban governance.

None of the items in the agenda brings any fresh idea on the table, while they have been talked to death in the past many years.

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