States may have NITI Aayog-like bodies soon

The NITI Aayog — the think-tank at the Central level — will handhold each state to set up similar bodies, replacing their planning boards for faster and inclusive economic growth, in tandem with the vision of becoming a developed nation by 2047.

The move is in recognition of the fact that except for sectors like defence, railways and highways, the national gross domestic product (GDP) growth is an aggregation of states’ rates of growth. Health, education and skilling are primarily with the state government. The NITI Aayog notes that state governments’ role is critical to improving ease of doing business, land reforms, infrastructure development, credit flows and urbanisation, all of which are vital for sustained economic growth.

In his Independence Day speech last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set an ambitious target of making India a developed nation by 2047. The NITI Aayog has already initiated the “state support mission” by holding a meeting of state planning secretaries on September 6. The think-tank, which will likely extend support to states including experts from IIMs and IITs, has received positive responses from states, according to sources.

Initially, it aims for 8-10 states to set up such bodies, before reaching out to all by March 2023. Four states — Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam — have already begun work in this regard while Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat will likely begin work soon, sources said.

It has been seven years since the 65-year-old Planning Commission was replaced with the NITI Aayog by the Modi government in January 2015, mainly as a think-tank for forging a national vision on development. The Centre has since given the plan fund allocation powers to the Finance Ministry.

However, most states so far have done little to rejuvenate their planning departments/ boards, which earlier dealt with the Planning Commission and prepared parallel state five year-plans with the Centre. “Most states’ planning departments, with huge manpower, are almost defunct and have no clarity what work they will do,” said a senior official said. “A plan has been chalked out by NITI Aayog to help in the creation of teams that will examine the existing structure of state planning boards, and in the next 4-6 months conceptualise the State Institution for Transformation (SIT).”

Lateral entry of professionals will be encouraged in SITs to undertake high-quality analytical work and policy recommendations. Besides reorienting state planning boards as SITs, a blueprint will be made on how it will guide states in policy formulation, take up monitoring and evaluation of government policies and programmes, and suggest better technology or models for delivery of schemes.  FE

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