Lok Sabha TV Insights: NITI Aayog
NITI Aayog recently constituted an expert group to chart out detailed contours of proposed mission relating to promotion of Innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. NITI Aayog was built on promise of cooperative federalism, but states are shying away from taking up meaningful constructive role in the body. Few days back 2nd meet of Governance Council was held and many Non- NDA ruled states chose to stay away.
Erstwhile Planning Commission was a decaying body which was turning into just another bureaucratic wing of the government. All the main policy and finance decisions regarding different ministries and different states (horizontal and vertical) were taken at this level. It was often alleged that planning commission is out of sync with ground realities. About 80% of total center’s assistance to states went through PC determined Centrally Sponsored Schemes.
Now NITI Aayog is more of a think tank and a platform where representatives of different states and central ministries can meet decide future discourse. Earlier this job was meant to be done by National Development Council, which failed miserably. It was often lamented by Chief Ministers that they were made to sit as audience in NDC meets.
Having said this, NITI aayog as of now too lacks internal subject expertise and domain specialists. It relies on external expertise which will be recruited as and when needed, as recently Expert Group of domain specialists was constituted for Atal Innovation Mission. Internal expertise is imperative for long term success of the institution.
This year Government accepted recommendations of 14th F.C. under which states will get 42% of total divisible pool. This is the spirit of cooperative federalism and envisioned Team India. Through this states are supposed to chart out plans as per their own supposed needs. However, time and again central schemes are still being launched like Swacchh Bharat Mission, PM Jan Dhan Yojna and Smart City project. Further, P.M. recently reaffirmed its commitment to give Bihar a special package and special status. This all doesn’t fit well with cooperative federalism. It seems central government through its schemes is focusing to rationalize subsidies, improve infrastructure etc. Swacchh Bharat Mission and Beti Bachao Beti padhao andolan are more of attempts toward moral revival of Indian masses. These are much necessary missions, have less to do with money spent and more with change in societal values.
Government has so far not made clear that whether Five Year Plans will be continued or not. 12th FYP will expire in 2017, in case there will be 13th FYP then this is the best time start preliminary work. Five Year Plans are reminiscent of Planning Commission’s centralized planning. It seems unlikely that NITI Aayog will take up such work. Further, when more untied funds are with states, center’s role to direct them is curtailed automatically.
Notwithstanding noble intentions behind cooperative federalism, there are some serious concerns. State politics is much parochial and polarized in comparison to national politics. State governments are much more vulnerable to falling prey to populism. For some states fiscal management is something alien and they rampantly distribute laptops, mobile phones and other freebies. Center must frame some minimum rules regarding utilization of this money. For this problem, Center is planning to inculcate competitive spirit among the states. States will be ranked on basis of their performances on various indicators, and this report card will have implications for the future political prospects of ruling party, as well as future financial support from the Center.
There are two initiatives by NITI Aayog having bearing on innovation –
Atal Innovation Mission
The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is being set up under NITI. AIM will be an Innovation Promotion Platform involving academics, entrepreneurs, and researchers drawing upon national and international experiences to foster a culture of innovation, R&D in India. The platform will also promote a network of world-class innovation hubs and grand challenges for India.
Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU)
The Government has established a mechanism to be known as SETU (Self-Employment and Talent Utilization) under NITI Aayog. SETU will be a Techno-Financial, Incubation and Facilitation Programme to support all aspects of start-up businesses, and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology-driven areas.