Governing Council of NITI Aayog
What is its composition?
The Governing Council of NITI Aayog comprises the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of all the States and Union Territories with Legislatures and Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and four Union Ministers as ex-officio members and three Union Ministers as Special Invitees.
What is its role?
It is the premier body tasked with evolving a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States in shaping the development narrative.
How many meetings of GC were held so far? Mention some themes taken up.
The First Meeting was held in February 2015, at which the Prime Minister laid down the key mandates of NITI Aayog such as fostering cooperative federalism and addressing national issues through active participation of the States.
The Second Meeting of the Governing Council took place in July 2015 and the Third Meeting was held in 2017, which laid down milestones in shaping the country’s development agenda through strategy and vision documents.
The Fourth meeting of the Governing Council was held in 2018 and included reviewing measures taken for doubling farmers’ income and progress made under flagship schemes such as the Ayushman Bharat, POSHAN Abhiyaan and Mission Indradhanush.
The current one is the fifth one.
The NITI Aayog has been mandated with fostering cooperative federalism where the centre is interacting with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation. It seeks to design and assist the implementation of strategic, long-term policy frameworks and programme initiatives, and also monitor their progress and efficacy.
The Governing Council, which embodies these objectives of cooperative federalism, presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the national development agenda.
What did the fifth GC meeting discuss?
On the Agenda before the Fifth Council Meeting were the following items:
1. Rain-Water Harvesting
2. Drought Situation and Relief Measures
3. Aspirational Districts Programme – Achievements And Challenges
4. Transforming Agriculture: Need For Structural Reforms With Special Emphasis On:
1. Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act
2. Essential Commodities Act (ECA)
5. Security Related Issues with Specific Focus On LWE Districts
Water was extensively discussed. What issues figured?
The Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of the States towards water conservation and urged all States to streamline and implement innovative water management measures. The creation of the Ministry of ‘Jal Shakti’ is a key step by the Union Government to develop an integrated and holistic perspective on water as a developmental resource.
There was broad consensus on reducing water wastage, promoting efficient water conservation practices across States, with rain-water harvesting to be undertaken at the household and community level with proactive policy and investment support. Various Chief Ministers presented best practices from their respective states which can serve as templates for replication across the country.
Many States such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat and Karnataka have adopted good practices in water conservation and rainwater harvesting. Some innovative steps include the Jalyukt Shivarin Maharashtra which made 11,000 villages drought free, Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavalamban Abhiyaan which resulted in five feet rise in groundwater in 21 districts, and Mission Kakatiya in Telangana which irrigates 19 Lakh Acres. Similarly, Sujalam Sufalam in Gujarat and artificial recharge scheme in Karnataka show that determined action produces good results. The spirit of the meeting was to build on the strength of every State so that each State can learn from the innovation and best practices of other States.
What ideas regarding drought were discussed?
Various Chief Ministers suggested possible short-term and long-term solutions for making India a ‘drought-free’ nation. These included reviewing their district agriculture contingency plans, streamlining provision of inputs such as seeds and making contingency plans for irrigation etc. It has been proposed that the Union Government consider developing a comprehensive drought management plan that can be applicable across States.
Was agriculture taken up as one of the central themes?
The Prime Minister also called upon the Fifth Governing Council Meeting to undertake foundational reforms in the agri-economy, leading to a complete transformation of the agriculture sector in India. The core agenda items included the need to review the implementation of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and possible reform in the form of the Model APMC Act as well as exploring changes in the Essential Commodities Act, to ensure fair remuneration for the farmers, streamlining of supply, driving more investment into the sector and predictability of policy at national and regional levels. The Prime Minister emphasized the need for undertaking structural reforms in agriculture including encouraging corporate investment, strengthening logistics and focusing on food processing.
What did the GC say about the Aspirational districts?
The Governing Council also reviewed the implementation of the Aspirational Districts Programme, which has emerged as a major policy innovation in driving inclusive growth. Rapid progress has been achieved across all Aspirational Districts that have participated in this programme in 49 key performance indicators of human and social development. Chief Ministers discussed possible schemes for extension of the programme to rapidly develop blocks in remote and difficult areas so that the spirit of inclusive development is enforced. The Prime Minister commended the district administration teams on implementing several ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas in the Aspirational Districts resulting in significant transformation in many districts.
It reaffirmed the commitment of the Government to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE), noting that many of the aspirational districts are affected by Naxal violence.
The Prime Minister announced the creation of a high-powered committee on structural reforms in agriculture.
What other items were taken up?
Prime Minister said that States should recognise their core competence, and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level.
The Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog as a platform to inspire cooperative federalism, stressing the need to collectively combat poverty, unemployment, drought, pollution, pockets of under-development and all such factors that constrain India’s progress. He emphasized that the goal of a USD five trillion economy by 2024.
The Prime Minister emphasized the need for every State to focus on increasing its share in the country’s GDP by evaluating the export potential of the State and determining the steps necessary for increasing exports and boosting employment.