Now that the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog is a reality, the non-BJP-ruled States on Sunday rephrased their opposition to it by demanding that the new institution continue with the functions of the erstwhile Planning Commission, particularly the determination of annual plans and transfer of Plan funds to States.
After the scrapping of the Planning Commission, this role is currently being undertaken by the Finance Ministry. Apart from demanding that the NITI Aayog take on this responsibility, several State governments called for greater devolution of funds and spoke out against the arbitrary cuts in Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) at the first meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here.
States also sought greater clarity on the mechanism for coordination between State Governments and the Centre under the new regime. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav flagged the issue and wanted to know the criteria of allotment of funds for backward States on a “priority basis” and the agency that would be responsible for this.
States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which have attained a certain level of development, advocated greater fairness in the criteria adopted for State-wise allocation of central assistance so that they were not penalised for developing at a faster rate than others. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy pointed out that schemes such as `Beti Bachao’ and `Jan Dhan Yojana’ were of little relevance to his State as it has already reached high standards on these fronts.
Referring to the Modi government’s emphasis on market economy as opposed to a planned one, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi lamented that while this may be beneficial to big industrial States like Gujarat, small and backward States like his would suffer as a consequence.
Across party lines, most States were of the view that they should be given greater flexibility in their implementation. This was a common thread running through the interventions of Mr. Chandy — heading a Congress-led government — and BJP Chief Ministers’ Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh). Ms. Raje was of the view that CSS should be restricted to 10 while Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar called for dismantling all such schemes.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed concern over “arbitrary cuts” in certain CSS which had resulted in incomplete projects and cost over-runs. Lamenting the revenue loss being faced by his State following the bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu urged the Modi government to implement everything that was promised in the law that paved the way for the creation of the separate Telangana.