The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Thursday issued an order granting the rank and status of Cabinet Minister to Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya and that of Minister of State to its two full-time members, economist Bibek Debroy and former bureaucrat V K Saraswat.
The latest order overrides an earlier directive from the Cabinet Secretariat that fixed the Vice Chairman’s pay at the Cabinet Secretary’s level and stated that his Cabinet Minister rank was only for ‘warrant of precedence’ purposes.
The Indian Express had reported on June 11 that the Niti Aayog, which was set up six months ago to replace the Planning Commission, was facing a number of challenges ranging from confusion about its members’ position on the establishment’s power map to a lack of clarity on what they need to focus on.
According to government sources, the PMO’s order will be followed by a fresh notification from the Cabinet Secretariat. Panagariya will be invited for Cabinet meetings too, they added. “That order will come separately from the PMO,” said sources.
The Vice Chairman, meanwhile, is planning to travel across the country to push for education and labour reforms in states to complement the Centre’s efforts in these sectors.
Panagariya was appointed as Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog in early January. Author of the book ‘Why Growth Matters’, which was described by The Economist as a manifesto for policymakers and analysts, Panagariya was also the former Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank and an economics professor at Columbia University.
At the Niti Aayog, meanwhile, work allocation among members have been identified with various ministries and states divided between Panagariya, Debroy and Saraswat.
A decision is also likely on inducting two new members – Sanjeev Sanyal, global strategist, Deutsche Bank; Tushar Poddar, Chief India Economist, Goldman Sachs; Ashok Gulati, who is with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER); and agriculturist Ramesh Chand are among the names being considered.