NITI Aayog replaces Planning Commission; Narendra Modi assures more say for states

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government began the New Year replacing the 65-year- old Planning Commission with a new institution named NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog, where the prime minister would continue as chairperson of the revamped body and have state chief ministers as part of the governing council.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

"The institution will serve as a 'think tank' of the government - a directional and policy dynamo. NITI Aayog will provide governments at the central and state levels with relevant strategic and technical advice across the spectrum of key elements of policy," a union cabinet release here said.

Modi, in a series of tweets, said with the NITI Aayog the government would bid "farewell to a 'one size fits all' approach towards development while the body also "celebrates India's diversity". "A pro-people, pro-active and participative development agenda stressing on empowerment & equality is the guiding principle behind NITI Aayog," he said.

Noting that NITI Aayog "has been formed after a wide range of consultation with the various stakeholders including the chief ministers", he said it will "provide key inputs on various policy matters". "A landmark change is the inclusion of all State CMs & LGs of UTs in the NITI Aayog. This will foster a spirit of cooperative federalism.

"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," he said. Modi had indicated in his Independence Day speech that the Planning Commission was on its way out.

The NITI Aayog will have regional councils to "address specific issues and contingencies impacting more than one state or a region. These will be formed for a specified tenure," the statement added. Elaborating on the rationale for the revamping the planning body as the many forces transforming India, the government said the industry and service sectors have developed and are operating on a global scale now.

"To build on this foundation, new India needs an administration paradigm in which the government is an 'enabler' rather than a 'provider of first and last resort'. The role of the government as a 'player' in the industrial and service sectors has to be reduced," the statement said.

Earlier this month, in a meeting with chief ministers here, Modi said the Planning Commission should be replaced by an organisation that thinks creatively, strengthens the federal structure, and is able to energize governance at the state level. Congress chief ministers had opposed the government's move to replace the Planning Commission with a new body. The Congress slammed the move.

Party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: "The real issue is do you have a substantive meaningful program to reform the Planning Commission. If you simply want to abolish it because it is something which (first prime minister Jawaharlal) Nehru created for this country and you don't like Nehru or simply something which is run by the Congress for 60 years or you don't like the Congress, that is pitiable."

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said: "Mere changing this nomenclature, and this sort of gimmickry is not going to serve the purpose. Let's wait and see what the government is eventually planning." A Janata Dal-United leader said that his party will not support the move as they feared that weaker states would be left behind in the development process.

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