More questions than answers: Why should PM's schemes get priority in NITI Aayog?

The role of the National Institution for Transforming India Aayog (NITI Aayog), which has been set up to replace the Planning Commission, seems to be finally taking a somewhat concrete shape.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times citing a government official, the NITI Aayog will closely watch the implementation and progress of 12 pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The projects that will be monitored include Make in India, Digital India and Swachch Bharat, the report said.



The official has told the newspaper that the NITI Aayog has been told to provide reports on these projects to the Prime Minister’s Office on a regular basis. The officials at the institution are readying a “background note on the projects”, the report said, adding Prime minister Narendra Modi will discuss this at NITI’s first meeting to be held on 6 February.

The NITI Aayog is also preparing a note on the Centre’s reforms agenda and also inputs for the forthcoming Budget on 28 February, the HT report said.

Though the institution seems to be gaining a concrete shape slowly, it still seems to be raising more questions than answers.

Why should the PM’s schemes get the top priority in NITI’s agenda? Are these projects the best suited for the upliftment of weaker sections of the society? One has to remember experts have already picked holes in the implementation of some of the PM's pet schemes like Make in India and Jan Dhan Yojana.

Above all, how democratic is the move? Was this discussed with the chief ministers before taking a decision? Most probably it was not, because the panel of chief ministers is yet to be set up. If that is the case, isn’t this an indication that this new institution will continue to be as undemocratic as the earlier one?

These questions only add to the already existing doubts about the set-up.

One reason why such doubts keep cropping up about the NITI Aayog is that it has been set up through a cabinet resolution and not through an act of Parliament. Had it been done through such an Act, it would have been more transparent. As Bibek Debroy, who is now a full time member of the NITI Aayog, notes in this article, it would also have made the institution accountable to Parliament. This, in turn, would have rendered development planning more democratic.

According to the HT report, another meeting of the chief ministers will take place on 8 February. One can only expect that a clearer picture about the NITI Aayog's role will emerge after that. It should also tell us more about Modi’s idea of development planning.

Updated Date: Feb 02, 2015 11:33 AM

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