India , right from the its birth to independence and further towards its growing stages has incorporated what Mahatma Gandhi had rightly said , “Constant Developmeant is the law of life and a man who tries to maintain his position in order to be consistent , drives himself to false position”. The cabinet resolution on Niti Aayog has approvingly cited this statement.The Planning Commision set up in 1950 on the vision of Nehruvian model inspired by socialist Stalin of Russia served India in many ways than one. Modi’s Niti Aayog tries to scrap this plan panel to emphasize more on the ‘Niti’ i.e. the policy than the projects and programmes , more on the ‘how’ than on the ‘what’ .
The most important change which the Niti Aayog offers is the departure from the completely centrally constituted Planning Commision to a more federal plan panel where the states will have a voice in the planning of the government policies. This will discard the ‘one size fits all’ model to a flexible model accomodating the needs of the units of this Union of States called India. This role was previously played by the National Development Council which acted as an interface between the civil society and the government. The involvement of states will make the people more attuned and involved with the planning process . This is a welcome step towards covering the gap between people and its government probably making it more transparent and accountable.
Secondly , the aspect of financial allocation of funds will be transferred to the Finance Ministry. This will require up-gradation of the the skills and manpower linked with the ministry . While proper target and beneficiary oriented allocation of funds can be made through this , it can also leave many gaps where corruption can breed. Modi has to be strict and upright with the financial aspects of the Aayog as this is the sphere where the mettle of the BJP government can be proved , given the backdrop of scammed NDA rule. A tough task to tread on but the entire success of the rebirth of the plan- panel is dependent on how well the accounting and auditing of the funds is done.
Niti Aayog has a history of 65 years of planning to learn lessons from and adopt measures that can discard the obsolete and incorporate the new. Involvement of international think tank will be a departure from the Indian bureaucracy . Emphasis should be laid on special aspects like gender based planning ( like that of gender budgeting ) for increase in women safety and youth empowerment especially the rural youth and fixing prices of natural resources . How differently and quickly the Niti Aayog will offer the changes to the people of this country will be a measurement of the promises the BJP government has made.
Inspite if the long history of monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes , a proper evalution policy is yet to be formulated. We lack not in the intellectual capacities and abilities of our manpower but motivation to direct the vision in the proper direction . Implementation of the policies will be more important . We have to make our manpower deliver and achieve targets and for this a proper evaluation and monitoring is required. For the same reason scrapping the Five Year Plans might prove to be bad idea because it is through these plans that the growth can be measured as they act as the report-card of the country . Whether the new plan panel will help to deliver what Modi and his cronies have promised or will it just be a rechristening ceremony of the already existing ideas is yet to be seen .
Keeping together the myriad threads on which our country treads without losing its essence and delivering results on the challenges which contemporary India faces in a global environment will be the biggest challenge Niti Aayog has in front of it. While the change is welcome , it also reminds me of one of Gandhiji’s sayings , “Let the windows of my mind be open to the winds from across the world , but let me not be blown away by them .” Like all new institutions , the Niti Aayog also has tough challenges to live up to it high objectives.