National Institution for Transforming India Vs Planning Commission

NITI Aayog, a think-tank that will replace the Planning Commission. The new body is the result of “extensive consultations” the Centre held with state governments, domain experts and other relevant institutions. It was suggested that instead of a “Control Commission”, the new body should play the role of a catalyst and provide a platform to the Centre, states and experts to discuss issues and come out with the best solutions.

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Features

  1. The new National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) will act more like a think tank or forum, say its supporters, in contrast with the Commission which imposed five-year-plans and allocated resources to hit set economic targets.
  2. NITI will include leaders of India’s 29 states and seven union territories. But its full-time staff – a deputy chairman, Chief Executive Officer and experts – will answer directly to the 64-year-old Prime Minister, who will be chairman.

The Cabinet resolution, which provides the ideological framework, invokes

Mahatma Gandhi on constant development in life,

BJP ideologue late Deen Dayal Upadhyaya for uplifting the downtrodden,

Swami Vivekananda, Constitution’s architect Dr Ambedkar and Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar, to let the NITI Ayog act as the “pillars” that provide a “Bharatiya approach to development.” It prescribes 13 objectives on which the NITI Ayog has to remain focussed.

Views on Anti-Planning Commission

From being a simple planning body to a powerful ‘control-commission’ to a fiscal decentralisation instrument to an official think-tank, the voices had begun to grow louder for an overhaul even before the new government took charge in May 2014.

The Commission’s power in allocating central funds to states and sanctioning capital spending of the central government was deeply resented by states and various government departments.

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The commission had remained powerful over the decades because it had emerged as a sort of parallel cabinet with the Prime Minister as its head.

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How will NITI differ from Planning Commission?

Unlike the Planning Commission, the new body is for governance across the public and private domains, the  resolution says. “Everyone has a stake in ensuring good governance and effective delivery of services. Tt, becomes crucial for people’s initiative.

In the past, governance may have been rather narrowly construed as public governance. In today’s changed dynamics – with ‘public’ services often being delivered by ‘private’ entities, and the greater scope for ‘participative citizenry’, governance encompasses and involves everyone.”

The NITI Aayog will also seek to put an end to slow and tardy implementation of policy, by fostering better inter-ministry and better Centre-State coordination.

1. The Planning Commission, established by Jawaharlal Nehru 65 years ago to formulate Five-Year Plans, has been criticised for being a Socialist era vestige, which became irrelevant in a more globalised and market-focussed economy.

2. It will provide a critical directional and strategic input into the development process”. It will act as a “think-tank” and advise the Centre and states on policy matters.

3. The Aayog seeks to end “slow and tardy implementation of policy, by fostering better Inter-Ministry coordination and better Centre-State coordination.

4. It will also monitor and evaluate the implementation of programmes. NITI stands for National Institution for Transforming India.

5. It focus more on co-operative federalism. The term co-operative federalism denotes a two-way relationship between the Centre and state governments in matters related to economic policy and development.

6.NITI Aayog is expected to “help evolve a shared vision of national development priorities”, in keeping with the spirit of such a federal structure.

7. Constitution:

The new body has state chief ministers and lieutenant governors as members in the governing council.

NITI Aayog will also have a vice-chairperson and a CEO in addition to five full-time members and two part-time members.

Four union ministers would also serve as ex-officio members. The Planning Commission had a Deputy Chairman and full-time members with a member secretary as a convener.

Critics:

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The structure of the Planning Commission as proposed in the new resolution of the Cabinet is almost similar to the earlier one, except that the Planning Commission was reporting to the National Development Council consisting of the state chief ministers and Lieutenant Governors of Indian territory. But now there is a governing council which consists of the state Chief Ministers and Lieutenant Governors.

There is nothing new even in the constitution of a regional council. Even during the Planning Commission era, consultative panels were formed whenever issues cropped up between states.

So then what is the real break from the past?

Instead of Planning Commission formulating a plan and then asking the states whether they agree with this or not, this is going to be something where states would have much more input at the earlier level of plan formulation.

In all likelihood, it is not. The true spirit of decentralisation lies in giving away the power to plan and implement developmental programmes to local bodies. The central and state governments should remain as enablers.

In short, as of now, there is no reason to believe that the NITI Aayog will bring about a major difference on the ground in planning and implementation of developmental policies.

The new body’s acronym-based name means ‘Policy Commission’ in Hindi, suggesting a less bold departure than the English version does.

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