The Union government’s premier think tank, NITI Aayog, is under fire from the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), affiliated to the Rashitrya Swayamsevak Sangh, for its “corporate-leaning policies”.
The SJM, which has been raising issues on India’s trade negotiations and the issue of approval of genetically modified (GM) crops, is organising a seminar in New Delhi on January 10 to review two years of the functioning of NITI Aayog.
SJM convener Ashwini Mahajan said the seminar would be a comprehensive review of the NITI Aayog’s policy interventions, papers published, the functioning of the organisation and its future role.
“The NITI Aayog was formed in place of the Planning Commission, to be the think tank for the government in a different way from its predecessor. It was supposed to take inputs from the ground up and help government formulate policy. This seminar will go into whether that has happened,” Mr. Mahajan said.
Those who were senior Ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government like Murli Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar are expected to speak at the New Delhi seminar.
The SJM has, in the past, raised the red flag over what it termed the “corporate agenda” of the Aayog, including the stance taken by it on GM technology-based crops.
In a paper titled “Raising agricultural productivity and making farming remunerative for farmers”, the Aayog had said that while there were fears over GM crops affecting biodiversity and harming people consuming those products, there was no “compelling” evidence supporting either of the fears.
Lately, the SJM has opposed the mobile wallet company Paytm in connection with demonetisation because it has a large Chinese investment.
The organisation has not been comfortable with dealing with the Aayog’s leadership under the economist Arvind Panagariya.
Apart from the former Ministers, economists like Rajiv Kumar and Abhijeet Sen have been invited for the seminar.
“Invitations will also be sent to Dr. Panagariya, Chief of NITI Aayog, and Bibek Debroy, member of the Aayog. We hope that they attend,” Mr. Mahajan said.