Need to accelerate reform pace in energy transition: CEO, Niti Aayog

Stipulating that energy transition will be a key driver of India’s growth in the coming years, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the country should make a strong push for green hydrogen and accelerate the pace of reforms in the energy sector. Kant, who will leave the government think tank at the end of June, after having led the organisation for over six years, also told Soumyarendra Barik in an interview that the government should first assess the success of current production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes before launching the initiative for other sectors. Edited excerpts:

How do you view your six-year long stint heading Niti Aayog?

I’ve had a very satisfying tenure here. I have had a great amount of job content, which you cannot get anywhere else because Niti Aayog cuts across many sectors. I got the opportunity to execute the aspirational districts programme that covers 112 districts and transform the lives of about 80 per cent of India’s population, which is enormous across a whole range of areas, from education to health to nutrition. I could also work on ease of doing business, decriminalisation — we were able to make India move up 79 positions in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings. We started making states compete with each other, which led to competition in education, health, water and many other areas. We broadened the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism.

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Then I was able to drive the electric mobility movement that was very cutting edge, which had a number of new players, it’s picked up a lot of pace, of late. We recently did a tender for 5,500 electric buses, where the price of an electric bus was cheaper than the combustion engine bus. I have driven the PLI schemes across 14 sectors, asset monetisation pipeline, circular economy, improving learning and health outcomes etc. I got a rare opportunity to work for this government and real support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It’s been a very enriching and a very rewarding experience.

What are some areas for which you would have liked to make a further push?

I think one area which we really need to push is green hydrogen. Whatever you do, energy transition will be at the heart of India’s growth story. We need to accelerate the pace of reforms, we need to accelerate energy transition. Both these are very dear to my heart.

Would you recommend PLI schemes for other sectors as well?

I think we should first wait and see the response to the existing ongoing schemes, how successful they are. The PLI scheme is about bringing in scale to manufacturing in the country, making India an integral part of the global value chain, and enhancing investments and outputs because for the $27 billion that you are putting in, you need a product output of worth $540 billion. So, we should wait for some more time and see how the current 14 PLI schemes perform.

We have seen Centre-state relations going through friction. How do you view that trend?

We should work in partnership with the states, we are very strong believers of that — it’s about partnership, cooperation and creating competition. The recent Chief Secretaries’ conference in Dharamshala emphasised all these aspects.

What’s next for you?

I will take a break for some time and then take a call. But I will work in my areas of interest.

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