Former members of the Planning Commission (PC), which the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has succeeded, say that the body must focus on implementation.
According to Economist Saumitra Chaudhuri who resigned from the Planning Commission last year, the Aayog must be made a government body which is responsible for the implementation of its plans.
“It should not be merely a think-tank as think-tanks are not answerable to the public for their recommendations. NITI Aayog should be a part of the government which is responsible for the implementation of its recommendations,” he told The Hindu .
After coming to power last year, the National Democratic Alliance government decided to replace the Planning Commission with a body which gave more powers to the States. The debut meeting of the NITI Aayog on Friday was presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rajya Sabha MP and former PC member Bhalchandra Mungekar alleged that abolishing the Commission is part of a larger design to “do away with the legacy” of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. “As Dr. Ambedkar’s name is synonymous with the Constitution, Pandit Nehru’s is with the PC.... NITI has been divested off the PC’s job of allocation of resources and it is just a discussion forum,” he said.
“The claim, that this is in the spirit of co-operative federalism, is hollow as the National Development Council has also been abolished by this government. The NDC, which had all CMs and union cabinet ministers as members represented co-operative federalism more stubbornly than even the Inter State Council,” he added.
According to former PC member Syeda Hameed, NITI needs to engage state planning boards, which are chaired by CMs, for a comprehensive plan. In such a plan, she explained, “Each state's identity is kept intact but the conversation between states and centre keeps swirling and is sustainable. We began, but did not go far enough. NITI should also become the nodal entity for bringing civil society into the planning process.”
Former bureaucrat and PC member Anwarul Hoda told this paper that while NITI has given up the resource allocation mandate, it will continue to frame policy. “The weakness of the PC was that it could not do enough to implement the plans. This is done by the state governments. Implementation is the one thing NITI needs to strengthen.”
Economist Mihir Shah, who resigned from the plan panel last year, said: "The PC was important because it was unique in conception -- both embedded in but also at a distance from government, with credible independent experts guiding the government on how best to reform implementation and promote innovation. It was also crucial in mediating between the centre and the states, as also across central government departments. Will the NITI Aayog have the same credibility and convening power? That is the question."