Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the reconstitution of government think tank Niti Aayog, dropping Bibek Debroy while retaining other full-time members and including Home Minister Amit Shah as an ex-officio member. Rajiv Kumar will continue as vice-chairman of the panel, along with other full-time members VK Saraswat, Ramesh Chand, and VK Paul.
Besides Shah, the other three ex-officio members are Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Special invitees to the Aayog are Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Statistics and Programme Implementation Rao Inderjit Singh.
Here are the profiles of the members of NITI Aayog:
Kumar holds a PhD in Economics from Lucknow University and a DPhil from Oxford University. In the government, he was an economic advisor underDepartment of Economic Affairs and Senior Consultant at the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices (BICP), Ministry of Industry.
He was Principal Economist at the Asian Development Bank, Manila where he spent 10 years. He has also been chief economist at Confederation of Indian Industry and secretary general of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Kumar was preceded by Arvind Panagariya, who was the first vice-chairperson of the NITI Aayog since its inception in 2015 to his retirement in 2017.
Kumar has reportedly been in sync with Modi's "impressive and sharp focus on economic development", but has not shied away from being critical of the BJP-led government.
Saraswat, who did his masters in engineering from IISc Bangalore, holds a PhD from Osmania University. He has been credited with the development of Liquid Propulsion Rocket Engines and missiles namely Prithvi, Dhanush, Prahaar indigenously.
Saraswat is also a scientist and a researcher with over four decades of experience spanning several fields and areas in both basic and applied sciences of defence research, according to the NITI Aayog website.
He is the principal architect of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme which included technology breakthroughs. According to the think tank's website, Saraswat's efforts led to the successive interceptions of incoming target ballistic missiles at exo and endo atmospheres. "With this, India joined the select nations that have the capability to develop BMD systems," it said.
Chand is an economist with a PhD in agricultural economics from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and has served as the Director of the National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research in New Delhi.
In March this year, he was nominated by India for the post of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General. He was likely to face competition from candidates from China and three other countries.
Prior to his appointment to the NITI Aayog in 2017, where he heads the health and nutrition verticals, Paul was a faculty member at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for 32 years. He was also the head of the pediatrics department for almost a decade.
He was also appointed as the chairman of the Board of Governors of Medical Council of India. As part of the NITI Aayog, he is credited with formulating the POSHAN Abhiyaan and the Ayushman Bharat initiative.
An internationally-renowned paediatrician, academic, medical research and public health exponent, he was conferred the prestigious Ihsan Dogramaci Family Health Foundation Prize by WHO at the 2018 World Health Assembly.
Niti Aayog and the Centre
NITI Aayog is the premier policy think tank of the government and provides both "directional and policy inputs". While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Central government, it also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and states. The Aayog was set up in 2015 after replacing Planning Commission, a vestige of the socialist era.
Modi is scheduled to chair the fifth meeting of Aayog's Governing Council on 15 June to discuss various issues concerning water management, agriculture and security. The council, the apex body of the Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of union territories, several union ministers and senior government officials. This will be the first governing council meeting under the new Modi government.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2019 16:45:32 IST