Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the collective efforts of all the States in the spirit of cooperative federalism was the force that helped India emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the 7th meeting of the NITI Aayog Governing Council, the Prime Minister said that during the pandemic every State played a crucial role by focussing on the grassroots delivery of public services through cooperation across political lines. In that process, India emerged as an example for the developing nations to look up to as a global leader.
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Telangana and Bihar Chief Ministers K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Nitish Kumar did not participate in the meeting, which was attended by 23 other Chief Ministers, three Lieutenant-Governors and two Administrators and Union Ministers.
Through a four-page letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Rao had earlier conveyed that he would stay away from the meeting “as a mark of strong protest against present trend of the Union government to discriminate against the States and not treating them as equal partners”. NITI Aayog termed the decision “unfortunate”, while Union Minister Piyush Goyal had on Saturday said the boycott showed that the Telangana Chief Minister had lost interest in the development works for the country's growth.
Four key issues
This year, the Governing Council discussed four key issues: crop diversification and achieving self-sufficiency in pulses, oilseeds and other agri-commodities; implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) in school education; implementation of the National Education Policy in higher education; and urban governance.
In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister stressed the need to focus on modernised agriculture, animal husbandry, and food processing to become self-sufficient and a global leader in the agriculture sector. He said rapid urbanisation could be turned into a strength by using technology to ensure ease of living, transparent service delivery and improvement in the quality of life.
Describing India’s G20 presidency in 2023 as a unique opportunity to show to the world that India was not just confined to Delhi, but included every State and Union Territory, Mr. Modi called for a mass movement for identification of the best talent available in the country. There should be a dedicated team for G20 in the States to derive the maximum possible benefit from the initiative, he said.
In his closing remarks, the Prime Minister said each State should focus on promoting trade, tourism and technology via every Indian Mission around the world. The States must focus on reducing imports, increasing exports and identifying opportunities thereof. Even though the Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection had improved, there was much more potential. “Increasing GST collection requires collective action by the Centre and States. It is crucial for strengthening our economic position and becoming a $5 trillion economy,” he said.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, “For the first time in the history of G20, India will host the G20 meetings over the year, not only in Delhi, but in every State and Union Territory”. While highlighting the initiatives to boost learning outcomes, capacity-building of teachers, and skilling, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan thanked and requested further support of the States in the successful implementation of the National Education Policy.
Half the total demand for edible oil met by imports
At a press conference, NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chand later said the Prime Minister also emphasised the need for self-sufficiency in the area of edible oil. India was currently importing edible oil worth about ₹1 lakh crore, thus meeting nearly half the total demand from imports.
During the meeting, a key demand from the States was to make the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for pulses and oil seeds more effective. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot sought better irrigation facilities in 13 districts for rapid growth in mustard cultivation.
In response to a media query, the NITI Aayog Member said over the past five-six years, the production of pulses had gone up substantially, except for the deficit in masoor and arhar dal, leading to import dependency of just about 7%. He said the north-east States were expanding the oil palm cultivation areas.
At the meeting, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel reiterated the demand for a five-year extension of GST compensation. He also asked for a revision of the rates of royalty for coal and other major minerals; and suggested that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) be implemented in the rural areas located close to cities and cities with a population of less than 20,000.