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Prime minister to chair NITI Aayog; CMs to be part of it

The Planning Commission became history on Thursday, with the Narendra Modi government replacing the 64-year-old body with the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog.

The NITI Aayog will have a governing council, comprising all chief ministers and lieutenant governors – the PM will chair it – and will work towards fostering co-operative federalism for providing a national agenda to the Centre and states, the government said on Thursday, in a statement.

“Having served as a chief minister in the past, I am very much aware of the importance of actively consulting states. NITI Aayog does precisely that. Through NITI Aayog, we bid farewell to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach towards development. The body celebrates India’s diversity and plurality,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

He said the new body will foster a spirit of cooperative federalism with the sole principle of developing a pro-people, pro-active and participative development agenda stressing on empowerment and equality.

The Opposition was, however, not willing to buy this argument. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the new body would discriminate against states. “It being the stakeholder in the process, I am afraid, is going to discriminate against the states,” Tewari said.

The new body will have a chief executive officer and a vice-chairperson to be appointed by the prime minister, in addition to four to five full-time members and two part-time members. Four Union ministers will serve as ex-officio members.

“The names of the full-time members and the vice-chairman are expected to be announced in the next few days,” said a senior government official, who has been part of the process.

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI TWEETS

* NITI Aayog will emerge as an active &important institution that will play a pivotal role in India’s development journey in the years to come

* NITI Aayog has been formed after a wide range of consultation with the various stakeholders including the Chief Ministers

* A landmark change is the inclusion of all State CMs & L-Gs of UTs in the NITI Aayog. This will foster a spirit of cooperative federalism

* Having served as a CM in the past, I am very much aware of the importance of actively consulting the states. NITI Aayog does precisely that

* Through NITI Aayog, we bid farewell to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach towards development. The body celebrates India’s diversity & plurality

* A pro-people, pro-active and participative development agenda stressing on empowerment and equality is the guiding principle behind NITI Aayog

* Through the NITI Aayog we wish to ensure that every individual can enjoy the fruits of development & aspire to lead a better life

* Through the NITI Aayog we wish to ensure that every individual can enjoy the fruits of development & aspire to lead a better life

The Planning Commission had a deputy chairperson instead. Besides, there will be specific regional councils, while experts and specialists from various fields will be specially invited by the prime minister.

The Aayog will serve as a think-tank for the government and will provide suggestions for the economy, including the private sector. The institution will create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.

It will also offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues to accelerate the implementation of the country’s development agenda.

The new body will also focus on technology upgradation and capacity building for implementation of programmes and initiatives.

The Aayog follows Modi’s announcement in his Independence Day speech that there was a need for replacing the Planning Commission with a new body in the changed economic scenario.

The government has set up the Aayog through a Cabinet resolution. The Planning Commission was also set up through a government resolution, in 1950.

Providing the rationale for setting up the Aayog, the Cabinet resolution said the people had great expectations for progress and improvement in governance through their participation. This required institutional reforms in governance and dynamic policy shifts that could seed and nurture large-scale change, it said. “The destiny of our country, from the time we achieved Independence, is now on a higher trajectory,” it said.

The two part-time members will be from leading universities and research organisations but the number of full-time members has not yet been specified.

According to the resolution, the Aayog will provide a national agenda for the prime minister and chief ministers to foster cooperative federalism while recognising that “strong states make a strong nation”.

The Aayog has been set up after intensive consultations with stakeholders, including states, domain experts and institutions. It will provide critical directional and strategic inputs into the governance process by engaging citizens, providing “egalitarian access to opportunity”, and by increasing the use of technology, the statement said.

Being the incubator of ideas for effective governance would be the core mission of NITI Aayog, it added.

The objective of the new body is to evolve a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies. It will develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.

The body will ensure, on areas that are specifically referred to it, the interests of national security are incorporated in economic strategy and policy. It will pay special attention to the vulnerable sections of society.

However, the Opposition was not impressed. Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury termed the renaming of Planning Commission as “aniti and durniti” (no policy and bad policy).

Trinamool Congress leader Sauagata Roy said the sudden dismantling of Planning Commission will result in “unplanned” economy, in which the corporates will call the shots.

FROM THE HISTORY BOOK
Quotes from eminent persons were interspersed in the Cabinet note that replaced the Planning Commission

* MAHATMA GANDHI: “Constant development is the law of life, and a man who always tries to maintain his dogmas in order to appear consistent drives himself into a false position.”

* B R AMBEDKAR: “It is unreasonable to centralise powers where central control and uniformity is not clearly essential or is impracticable.”

* TIRUVALLUVAR, THE POET-SAGE: “Nothing is more dreadfully painful than poverty”, and “gripping poverty robs a man of the lofty nobility of his descent.”

* SANKAR DEV: “To see every being as equivalent to one’s own soul is the supreme means (of attaining deliverance).”

* SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

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