The government on Thursday announced that the Planning Commission had been revamped and rechristened as the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog, with a multi-tiered structure including a governing council that comprises the chief ministers of all states and lieutenant governors of union territories.
To be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the revamped institution will serve as a government “think tank” with the mandate to provide strategic and technical advice on issues of “national and international importance” to the Centre and states.
“Having served as a CM in the past, I am very much aware of the importance of actively consulting the states. NITI Aayog does precisely that,” tweeted Modi, who had in his Independence Day speech mooted the idea of replacing the Planning Commission, which was set up in 1950 and seen as a vestige of the socialist era. He also held consultations with state governments on December 7 on this issue.
“A pro-people, proactive & participative development agenda stressing on empowerment & equality is the guiding principle behind NITI Aayog… Through NITI Aayog, we bid farewell to a ‘one size fits all’ approach towards development. The body celebrates India’s diversity & plurality,” he tweeted.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that the centre-to-state one-way flow of policy, that was the hallmark of the Planning Commission era, is now sought to be replaced by a genuine and continuing partnership of states.
The NITI Aayog, set up by a resolution of the Union Cabinet, will have a multi-tiered structure, with the PM as the chairperson, a governing council comprising the chief ministers of all states and lieutenant governors of union territories, regional councils to be set up on region and state specific issues, and experts and specialists as the PM’s special invitees.
“The regional councils will be convened by the Prime Minister and will comprise the chief ministers of all the states and lieutenant governors of union territories in the region. These will be chaired by the chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee,” said an official statement.
In addition, the full-time organisation framework of the NITI Aayog will comprise the PM as its chairperson, who will appoint a CEO and vice-chairperson. It will also have some full-time members and two part-time members, while four union ministers will serve as ex-officio members.
While the two part-time members will be from leading universities and research organisations, the number of full-time members has not been specified as yet. Sources said the names of the members are likely to be announced over the next few days.
While the Planning Commission was primarily responsible for deciding on plan spending of the Centre and allocation to state governments, the NITI Aayog will provide a “national agenda framework for the Prime Minister and the chief ministers” after evolving “a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of states”.
Invoking the words of national and spiritual leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and BR Ambedkar, the government said the new agency will also “foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with states” as well as develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level.
The revamp however, did not go well with Opposition parties who said it was mere “fluff” and “gimmickry”. “If the government wants to greet people with fluff and not substance on the first day of 2015, then there is nothing more that can be said…,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury termed the renaming of the Planning Commission as “aniti and durniti” (no policy and bad policy).