The National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.
The Government of India, in keeping with its reform agenda, constituted the NITI Aayog to replace the Planning Commission instituted in 1950. This was done in order to better serve the needs and aspirations of the people of India. An important evolutionary change from the past, NITI Aayog acts as the quintessential platform of the Government of India to bring States to act together in national interest, and thereby fosters Cooperative Federalism.
At the core of NITI Aayog’s creation are two hubs – Team India Hub and the Knowledge and Innovation Hub. The Team India Hub leads the engagement of states with the Central government, while the Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds NITI’s think-tank capabilities. These hubs reflect the two key tasks of the Aayog.
Functions of NITI Ayog will be:-
1. Cooperative and Competitive Federalism: Be the primary platform for operationalizing Cooperative Federalism; enabling States to have active participation in the formulation of national policy, as well as achieving time-bound implementation of quantitative and qualitative targets through the combined authority of the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers. This will be by means of systematic and structured interactions between the Union and State Governments, to better understand developmental issues, as well as forge a consensus on strategies and implementation mechanisms. The above would mark the replacement of the one-way flow of policy from centre-to-state, with a genuine and continuing Centre-State partnership.
This Cooperation would be further enhanced by the vibrancy of Competitive Federalism; with the Centre competing with the States and vice versa, and the States competing with each other, in the joint pursuit of national development.
2. Shared National Agenda: Evolve a shared vision of national development priorities and strategies, with the active involvement of States. This will provide the framework ‘national agenda’ for the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers to implement.
3. State’s Best Friend at the Centre: Support States in addressing their own challenges, as well as building on strengths and comparative advantages. This will be through various means, such as coordinating with Ministries, championing their ideas at the centre, providing consultancy support and building capacity.
4. Decentralized Planning: Restructure the planning process into a bottom-up model, empowering States, and guiding them to further empower local governments; in developing mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level, which are progressively aggregated up the higher levels of government.
The maturing of India’s governmental institutions has enabled increasing the specialization of their functions. There is thus a need to separate as well as energize the distinct ‘strategy’ element of governance from the usual ‘process’ and ‘implementation’ element. As a dedicated Think Tank of the Government, NITI Aayog will carry out this ‘directional’ role, strategically charting the future of the nation. It will provide specialised inputs – strategic, functional and technical – to the Prime Minister and the Government (Centre as well as State), on matters critical to the fulfilment of the national development agenda.
5. Vision & Scenario Planning: Design medium and long-term strategic frameworks of the big picture vision of India’s future – across schemes, sectors, regions and time; factoring in all possible alternative assumptions and counterfactuals. These would be the drivers of the national reforms agenda, especially focussed on identifying critical gaps and harnessing untapped potentialities. The same would need to be intrinsically dynamic with their progress and efficacy constantly monitored for necessary mid-course recalibration; and the overall environment (domestic and global) continuously scanned for incorporating evolving trends and addressing emerging challenges.
This emplies a fundamental transition from merely planning for where the Nation’s money goes, to planning where we want the Nation to go. And given its unique position as the aggregator and integrator of all developmental initiatives of the Government of India and States, the NITI Aayog would be ideally suited for the same.
6. Domain Strategies: Build a repository of specialized domain expertise, both sectoral and cross-sectoral; to assist Ministries of the Central and State governments in their respective development planning as well problem solving needs. This will especially enable the imbibing of good governance best practices, both national as well as international; especially with regards to structural reform.
7. Sounding Board: Be an in-house sounding board whetting and refining government positions, through objective criticisms and comprehensive counter-views.
8. Network of Expertise: Main-stream external ideas and expertise into government policies and programmes through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners. This would entail being Government’s link to the outside world, roping in academia (universities, think tanks and research institutions), private sector expertise, and the people at large, for close involvement in the policy making process. As is said we should welcome noble thoughts flowing in from all directions.
9. Knowledge and Innovation hub: Be an accumulator as well as disseminator of research and best practices on good governance, through a state-of-the-art Resource Centre which identifies, analyses, shares and facilitates replication of the same.
NITI Aayog’s mandate will have to go beyond mere planning and strategizing, to facilitating Implementation of the development agenda as well. This would involve making implementation central to the planning process, through an emphasis on tangible outcomes, realistic targets, strict time lines and robust monitoring and evaluation – a transition from the isolated conceptualisation of merely ‘planning’, to ‘planning for Implementation’. Niti Aayog will also act as a catalyst to the government machinery at large; filling gaps, enhancing capabilities and de-clogging bottlenecks, as and where required
10. Harmonization: Facilitate harmonization of actions across different layers of government, especially when involving cross-cutting and overlapping issues across multiple sectors; through communication, coordination, collaboration and convergence amongst all stakeholders. The emphasis will be on bringing all together on an integrated and holistic approach to development.
11. Conflict Resolution: Provide a platform for mutual resolution of inter-sectoral, inter-departmental, inter-state as well as centre-state issues; facilitating consensus acceptable and beneficial to all, to bring about clarity and speed in execution.
12. Coordinating interface with the World: Be the nodal point for strategically harnessing global expertise and resources coming in from across nations, multi-lateral institutions and other international organisations, in India’s developmental process.
13. Internal Consultancy: Offer an internal consultancy function to central and state governments on policy and program design; providing frameworks adhering to basic design principles such as decentralization, flexibility and a focus on results. This would include specialised skills such as structuring and executing Public Private Partnerships.
14. Capacity building: Enable capacity building and technology up-gradation across government, benchmarking with latest global trends and providing managerial and technical knowhow.
15. Monitoring and Evaluation: Monitor the implementation of policies and programmes, and evaluate their impact; through rigorous tracking of performance metrics and comprehensive program evaluations. This will not only help identify weaknesses and bottlenecks for necessary course correction, but also enable data-driven policy making; encouraging greater efficiency as well as effectiveness.
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