NITI Aayog, which also stands for National Institution for Transforming India is a think tank established by the BJP government lead by Narendra Modi. It was brought into existence after the recommendation of the Independent Evaluation Office which suggested replacing the planning commission by some sort of “control commission”. The result of these recommendations was that the 65 year old structure of the planning commission was supplanted with NITI Aayog. The basic aim of NITI Aayog was to bring up the partition of various state governments in the decision-making process, design strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India and also to provide the Centre and States with relevant technical advice. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitely pointed out that the basic reason for redundancy of planning commission was its focus on the command economy structure which was of no relevance since India is comprised of various states at various different levels of development and the ‘one size fits all’ approach to the economic planning would be obsolete. [PR Ramesh, ‘We will use every provision in the Constitution to push reforms’, Open Magazine, January 09th, 2015]. This takes a step further in bringing about the spirit of cooperative federalism as opposed to the Nehruvian concept of centralized planning.
The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi while delivering his speech in Kozhikode on September 24th, 2016 pointed out a vision for India, the changes he would like to see in the times to come. The vision he proposed included the points of consideration related to removal of poverty, providing equality, affordable and accessible justice, cleanliness, removal of corruption, enhancement of employment, elimination of atrocities on women, and a country full of hope. NITI Aayog while making its plan took the above mentioned points into consideration and from it made a plan that centers and aims to transform India into “a prosperous, highly educated, healthy, secure, corruption-free, energy-abundant, environmentally clean and a globally influential nation by 2031-2032”. The action points released by the NITI Aayog included a 15 year long vision followed by a 7 year strategy and a 3 year action agenda.
The proposed fifteen year long vision plan projects more than threefold growth on the economy of the country from Rs. 137 Lakh Crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 469 Lakh Crore by 2031-32, which is at an assumed growth rate of 8% per annum. It further provides for a proposed increase, three folds to be exact, in the per capita income by the end of 2031-32 i.e. from Rs. 1.06 lakh in 2015-16 to Rs. 3.14 lakh in 2031-32; it further goes on to claim that the same will enable access to two-wheelers or cars, air conditioning, and other white goods for “nearly all” in the New India. [Dipti Jain, Niti Aayog needs to sell policies not fantasies, Live Mint, April 27th, 2017].
The three-year agenda includes steps to check tax evasion, expand tax base and simplification of taxation system, along with institutional mechanism to promote competition. The Aayog also provided for strategic disinvestment in 20 state owned loss making companies, bringing down the land prices and to make housing affordable. In terms of agriculture the plan provided for doubling the incomes of farmers by 2022 and raising the productivity through increased productivity and enhanced irrigation. In terms of energy the plan proposes that by 2022 electricity be provided to each household, black carbon be eliminated, LPG connection be given to all BPL card holders etc. The plan goes on to touch almost all the sectors of importance be it health or education. [NITI Aayog, India 2031-32: Vision Strategy and Action Agenda, April 23rd, 2017].
The goals and the points which were put forward by the NITI Aayog are of such nature that the importance and necessity of its implementation can hardly be denied. However, the goals are of similar nature with the ones that were pursued by the previous governments too; but the outcome of the goals of the previous governments fell short because of two major reasons- insufficient implementation done by the government or flawed strategy since inception.
The plan provides for the tripling the terms of the economic growth and per capita income of the nation. Although the claims are based on the idea that China was able to achieve the same in their last 15 years, the scenario needs a little more indigenous approach and considerations. The scenario of per capita income and the things attached to it would become true only if there is an almost perfect equality in income of the masses, however this homogenous nature is still a dream too far-fetched in the Indian scenario. As according to the economic survey of the Household Survey of India’s Citizen & Customer Economy (ICE 360 ͦ survey) only the top 20% earn close enough to the present per capita income and they hold the net share of 44.9% in terms of the national household disposable income. The lowest 20% earn around Rs. 14,850 which amounts to almost 1/10th of the per capita income.[Pramit Bhattacharya, India’s richest 20% account for 45% of income, Live Mint, December 02nd, 2016]. In instances of such grave income disparity, making claims and goals of a threefold increase in general and availability of “white” goods seems a little too farfetched and based on assumptions.
NITI Aayog was also to formulate a 7 year strategy along with the vision for 15 years and an action plan for three years. Although, the action plan and vision have been floated, the strategy is yet to be formulated or publically announced. The necessity of the strategy cannot be undermined as for any plan to become successful, there needs to be a strategy and an action plan in place, which however is lacking in the present scenario.
The proposed three year plan was to replace the planning commission and take effect from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The plan has turned out to be a plan for expansion in every region named under it be it agriculture or jobs, making it more of a “wishful document”. According to Rajesh Mahapatra, perhaps the lack of the strategy has led to the first of the blunders i.e. “putting the cart before the horse.” [Rajesh Mahapatra, PM Modi’s vision of a ‘new India’ needs substance not NITI Aayog’s ‘goodie bag’, The Hindustan Times, May 01st, 2017].
According to Pranob Sen, an economist who has spent 15 years in the Planning Commission, the ‘sabka sath sabka vikas’ slogan of the Modi government is similar to that of Indira Gandhi’s ‘garibi hatao’. Although both are overreaching, in case of Indira Gandhi the policy makers defined the term poverty before going on to plan a model for reaching a specific target; while in the present case much to the contrast the NITI Aayog has failed in providing substance to Modi’s vision. [Rajesh Mahapatra, PM Modi’s vision of a ‘new India’ needs substance not NITI Aayog’s ‘goodie bag’, The Hindustan Times, May 01st, 2017].
The plans and goals made by the NITI Aayog are by all measures very important for development of the nation as a whole; they touch upon each area of importance and provide for the necessary levels which should be reached within a specific time limit. However it can also not be denied that the same goals were and will be pursued by the governments which have come in the past and will come in the future. The action of the previous governments failed due to lack of strategy and proper execution, for the plans to succeed these lacunas should be avoided and treated. The lack of the 7 year strategy is also one of the major concerns, which needs to be corrected soon; otherwise, in spite of perfect execution, it will lack the necessary precision and quality required for successful implementation of the plan. Nevertheless, only time will tell that what the future holds for these plans.