Why is Niti Aayog working on a 15-year vision plan when India already has one? | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Why is Niti Aayog working on a 15-year vision plan when India already has one?

On September 25, 2015, India and 193 countries signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replaced the Millennium Development Goals (2000-15). This long-term plan is good enough to help India meet its development goals. So why do we need yet another vision statement? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on implementing the SDGs instead?

opinion Updated: May 04, 2017 09:25 IST
On September 25, 2015, 193 countries including India signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (2000-15). This long-term plan is good enough to help the country meet its development goals.
On September 25, 2015, 193 countries including India signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (2000-15). This long-term plan is good enough to help the country meet its development goals. (Sushil Kumar/HT PHOTO)

I read with bewilderment a recent report in HT that the Niti Aayog has held a meeting of its governing council where vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya presented a 15-year vision statement. The plan, the report said, seeks to transform India into a “prosperous, highly educated, healthy, secure, corruption-free, energy-abundant, environmentally clean and globally influential nation” by 2031-32”.

I was surprised to read this because India already has a 15-year development plan. On September 25, 2015, 193 countries including India signed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs replaced the Millennium Development Goals (2000-15). This long-term plan is good enough to help the country meet its development goals.

So why do we need another vision statement? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on implementing the SDGs instead?

To counter criticisms against the MDGs that they were not developed in a participatory way and so not owned by any country, the SDGs were prepared after unprecedented consultations with the participating nations.

In India, the Planning Commission—the precursor to the Aayog—held extensive consultations with all stakeholders.

Thanks to such similar consultations in all countries, the SDGs have a broader vision of what constitutes “good development” than the MDGs.

Some of the interesting features of the SDGs are:

Instead of only talking about girls’ education (as the MDGs did), Goal 5 of the SDGs has a much more ambitious goal on gender equality. It talks about ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women, and ensuring women’s leadership in decision making in political, economic and public life.

There is also a goal to reduce inequality within and among countries (Goal 10) since we have seen an explosive increase in the inequality of income and wealth in the last 15 years.

This was missing in the MDGs, which focused only on poverty reduction and failed to see a connection between the rising inequality and the slow progress on poverty reduction in the world.

There are two other ways in which the SDGs are novel.

First, they are universal and apply to all 193 countries. It is now recognised that all countries --- not just the developing nations ---- are facing development challenges.

Second, it is recognised that all sectors — governments, civil society, and the private sector — will need to start working together to tackle these ambitious goals (Goal 17 on partnerships).

While governments still have the primary responsibility, they cannot be achieved by them alone.

It is worrying, therefore, to see India developing yet another 15-year vision instead of urgently getting down to implementing the SDGs.

The clock is ticking and there are less than 5,000 days left to attain these ambitious goals.

If a new vision statement is necessary, then India must make sure that it is aligned with the SDGs and also that it is designed in as participatory a manner as the SDGs were.

The exercise of developing and implementing the new vision should lead to greater partnerships and trust building between the government, private sector and civil society. This is the need of the hour.

Nisha Agrawal is CEO, Oxfam India

The views expressed are personal