Unveiling the Union Budget four days ago, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed to the role that the NITI Aayog would play in schemes on the government’s priority list. These include the development of a mechanism to ensure adequate price for farm produce, the ambitious National Health Protection Scheme and a national programme on artificial intelligence. And to shine light on the NITI Aayog’s role in these schemes and what the last full Budget of the Modi government before the next Lok Sabha elections hopes to achieve, Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, will be the guest at the Express Adda in Mumbai on Tuesday. He will be in conversation with National Editor (Policy) Shaji Vikraman and National Bureau Chief Ravish Tiwari.
For long a proponent of the ‘Bharatiya model’ of development, Kumar maintains that the NITI Aayog is not a replica of the Planning Commission, that it is designed to be an ‘action tank’, and not just a think tank. He has said that it is his and his team’s job to provide a feedback mechanism to the government and the Prime Minister, and to bring the states on the same page on subjects such as primary health. The National Health Protection Scheme, announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech, has been developed in close coordination with NITI Aayog whose member Dr V K Paul is one of the key policy advisors for the scheme.
In his speech, the Finance Minister said the NITI Aayog, in consultation with governments at the Centre and in states, would put in place a foolproof mechanism so that farmers get adequate price for their produce. The minister also mentioned that the NITI Aayog would “initiate a national programme to direct our efforts in the area of artificial intelligence, including research and development of its applications”. Dr Rajiv Kumar has considerable experience in the government. He has held several senior advisory positions in the ministries of Industry and Finance and has in-depth knowledge of the private sector, having served as Secretary General, FICCI and Chief Economist, CII.