HAVING ACHIEVED a growth of 7.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017-18, India now has a challenge to take the economic growth rate to double-digits, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, adding that many more steps need to be taken for that. Modi was speaking at the Niti Aayog’s fourth governing council meeting, which was attended by chief ministers of 23 states and the Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
“The Prime Minister said that schemes such as Mudra Yojana, Jan Dhan Yojana and Stand Up India, are helping in greater financial inclusion. He emphasised the need for tackling economic imbalances on priority. He said that all aspects and parameters of human development need to be addressed and improved upon in the 115 aspirational districts,” an official statement said.
Modi stressed on the fact that the world expects India to become a $5 trillion economy soon, it said.The Prime Minister also urged chief ministers to “give fresh ideas” to the 15th Finance Commission for incentivising outcome-based allocations and expenditure correction, amid demands by some states to revisit panel’s terms of reference. Modi said India has no shortage of capabilities, capacities and resources and in the current financial year, the states would receive over Rs 11 lakh crore from the Centre — an increase of about Rs 6 lakh crore from the last year of the previous government.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar said some of the issues raised by the chief ministers included the Centre meeting the provisions of bifurcation for states that were separated such as Jharkhand from Bihar, Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh. To this, Kumar said, the PM assured that the provisions would be met in “letter and spirit”. Some of the CMs, Kumar said, also sought interaction with the Aayog on a more regular basis. The vice-chairman said that while the role of Niti Aayog was different from that of its predecessor — the Planning Commission — more efforts would be made to interact with the states.
He said that the Prime Minister has asked the Niti Aayog, of which he is the Chairman, to call a meeting with all states to provide a further impetus to ease of doing business. The main items on the agenda of the fourth governing council meeting were discussions about doubling of farmers’ income, development of aspirational districts, Ayushman Bharat, Mission Indradhanush, Nutrition Mission and celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Kumar said that the PM suggested that there should be a coordinated policy approach on the agricultural sector and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA). For this, a committee of seven chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Sikkim, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh was constituted, headed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan. In the agricultural sector, the Prime Minister stated that corporate investment in the sector was “very low” and said that the “states should formulate policies that promote corporate investment in areas such as warehousing, transportation, value addition and food processing etc”.
One of the issues raised by Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, according to Kumar, was not enough private participation in the hydroprojects set up in the state, due to which 19 hydro power projects were cancelled. Kumar added that a committee was set up under Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to look into the development of hydro power sector in India. He also said that discussions happened on establishing hydro projects in various rivers of India barring Ganga and Bhagirathi.
Some of the chief ministers also raised the issue of environment, to which Modi urged all states to use LED bulbs in their government buildings, official residences and street lights. As per the statement, the Prime Minister said that mining blocks which have been successfully auctioned, should start production at the earliest and urged upon the states to take steps in this regard. He said District Mineral Foundations will help the poor and the tribals in a big way.