Well known economist Arvind Panagariya on Tuesday joined as the first vice-chairman of the newly set-up National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog even as the secretariat of the new body was planning a clampdown on media access.
On his first day in office, Panagariya met Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Niti Aayog and other senior officials who briefed him about the people working in the planning commission and its past work.
The officers explained to him the functioning of the planning commission and the experts it has for different sectors.
The new body will have to hire domain experts as most of the present advisors are career bureaucrats as the erstwhile planning comission did not hire technical people for a long period.
“When an expert retired in the plan he or she was replaced by a bureaucrat,” said an old-timer, who recently retired from the panel.
Unlike the past seven months when corridors of once busy Yojana Bhawan here were bereft of any hustle and bustle, the entire bureaucracy was active to receive the new vice-chairman of the Niti Aayog .
A joint secretary-level official received Panagariya and took him to his office, from where former deputy chairpersons of erstwhile planning commission such as Montek Singh Ahluwalia and KC Pant worked.
New appointments have been made to ensure smooth functioning of his office on day to day office basis and those who were with Ahluwalia having been transferred out.
The wind of change was also visible with the Niti Aayog not inviting journalists for his taking charge and allowed only official media.
Sources in the commission say that the secretariat of the Aayog was planning more restrictions for journalists on the lines of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“No journalist without a prior appointment may be allowed,” an official said, of the newly constituted advisory body that will deal with economic and social issues, said. Such restrictions were only imposed in the past during for a month or so during budget preparation period.