Demands for greater devolution of funds to the States dominated the first meeting of the governing council of the NITI (the National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog that Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired at his 7 Race Course Road residence here on Sunday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam pitched for a higher flow of funds to the States, and demanded that the States’ share of funding under the flagship programmes be limited to 25 per cent.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sought 90 per cent grants for Central government schemes, saying Mr. Modi’s new mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas would not be possible without the provision of adequate resources to the economically weaker States. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy demanded that the Aayog continue the functions of the erstwhile Planning Commission — of determining, in consultation with the Union Finance Ministry and the State governments, the amount of resources to be made available to the States.
Mr. Yadav stressed the need for continuing Five Year Plans, and said the need, in fact, was to make even longer-term plans.
Noting that India could not progress without all its States advancing in tandem, Mr. Modi said he envisioned different States competing with each other in promoting governance initiatives, in a spirit of cooperative, competitive federalism, according to an official release. Though the world had started looking at India differently, the biggest challenge for the country still eliminating poverty, he said. Jobs could not be created, and poverty could not be removed without growth.
Briefing presspersons after the meeting, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “States emphasised greater financial devolution from the Centre and greater flexibility in the use of funds.”
He said the Prime Minister announced that the Aayog would constitute three sub-groups of Chief Ministers. One, for making recommendations on whether the 66 Centrally Sponsored Schemes should be continued, transferred to States or shelved altogether. The second group would suggest means for the Aayog to promote skill development in the States, and the third would evolve a proposal on institutional mechanisms needed to ensure the success of “Swachh Bharat”.
The Prime Minister asked each State to set up two task forces under the aegis of the Aayog: one on poverty alleviation and the other on agricultural development with the Centre’s assistance.
Mr. Jaitley coordinated the interaction, and NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya made the opening remarks.