The government said Thursday the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog will replace the 65-year-old Planning Commission, marking the end of the Nehruvian institution that pioneered India’s five-year planned development approach.
The move comes nearly four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech, where he had announced the plan panel would give way to a new body in sync with contemporary challenges, shunning the “one size fits all” approach.
As first reported by HT, the Modi will head the body and its governing council will include all chief ministers and lieutenant governors, in line with the PM's thrust on cooperative federalism that advocates involving states in the Centre’s decision making.
“Having served as a CM (chief minister) in the past, I am very much aware of the importance of actively consulting the states. Niti Aayog does precisely that,” tweeted Modi.
“Through the Niti Aayog we wish to ensure that every individual can enjoy the fruits of development & aspire to lead a better life (inclusive growth),” the PM wrote on the microblogging site.
The primary job of the new body -- described as a think-tank -- will be to advise the government on social and economic issues. Unlike the Nehruvian plan panel, the new body will not have the power to disburse funds to central ministries and state governments.
The new panel will have a vice-chairperson and a chief executive officer, in addition to four cabinet ministers as ex-officio members, five full-time members and two part-time members from universities and research organisations on a rotational basis.
The position of the vice-chairman, for which Arvind Panagariya is among the front-runners, and several other posts will be filled up in the next few days.
The governing council will replace the National Development Council that is presided over by the PM. Regional councils chaired either by Modi or his nominee will also be set up to address region-specific issues.
A cabinet resolution passed last week said the Aayog will evolve a “framework national agenda” for the PM and chief ministers, adding that it will create knowledge support through a community of national and international experts. For that, it will have domain experts as special invitees.
The resolution said the Planning Commission was no longer relevant as it was set up when India was an under-developed economy and is now emerging as one of the largest in the world.
“From being preoccupied with survival, our aspirations have soared and today we seek elimination rather than alleviation of poverty,” it said.
However, the resolution did not specify the new panel’s roles or if the present Five Year Plan approach would continue. Officials said these issues will be resolved before the members to the commission are nominated.
News of the Aayog’s formation was received with criticism from the Opposition, who called it “fluff” and “gimmickry”. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury described the new panel as the government’s “aniti and durniti (no policy and bad policy)”.
The Congress’ Manish Tewari said merely changing the nomenclature from Planning Commission to NITI Aayog will achieve nothing.
“It aims, it appears, to give more powers to the north block of the finance ministry so that it can be a final arbiter between the states and the Centre…it is against federal structure of the country,” Tewari said.