NEW DELHI(PTI): Exhorting Chief Ministers to personally monitor factors slowing projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked states to bury differences to boost growth, create jobs and revive investment cycle.
He also suggested that an officer be identified in state governments to monitor and ensure a smooth resolution of pending issues so as to expedite projects implementation.
Addressing the first meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, the Prime Minister identified “alleviation of poverty” as the biggest challenge before the county and said the newly formed body will forge a model of co-operative and competitive federalism”.
The recently constituted National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) has replaced over six-decade old Planning Commission as a think-tank for Centre and state governments as also to suggest policy directions.
The Prime Minister is the chairperson of the new body. “Forgetting all our differences, let us focus on the cycle of investment, growth, job creation and prosperity,” he said at the meeting attended by several Chief Ministers and representatives of 31 states and Union Territories.
The Prime Minister announced constitution of three sub-groups comprising Chief Ministers to suggest rationalisation of 66 central schemes, on skill development and to make Clean India a continuous programme.
The first sub-group will suggest which of the central schemes should be continued and those which need to be curtailed or transfered to states for better implementation. “We will move away from ‘one size fits all’ schemes and forge a better match between the schemes and the needs of states,” Modi said.
Noting that projects are often held up for want of timely decisions, Modi asked Chief Ministers “to give personal attention” to factors slowing down projects and asked them to “focus on the cycle of investment, growth, job creation and prosperity”. He also asked states to set up two task forces each to help the country get out of problem of poverty and increase agricultural production.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped the meet, but Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Manjhi, who is facing a political turmoil back home, was present.
Others who attended the meeting included Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Prakash Singh Badal, O Panneerselvam (Tamil Nadu), Oommen Chandy (Kerala) and Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), as well as Chief Ministers from BJP ruled states.
Modi called upon Chief Ministers to work with the Centre to forge a model of co-operative federalism where the two work as Team India and “come together to resolve differences, and chart a common course to progress and prosperity.”
Describing the meeting as one that has the potential to bring about historic changes, he said the Governing Council of NITI Aayog would help advance the national cause “as we jointly define it”.
Noting that India cannot advance without all its states advancing in tandem, the Prime Minister said the idea was to bring up all states together in the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.
He added that he envisioned different states competing with each other in promoting governance initiatives, in a spirit of “co-operative, competitive federalism.” Stating that the world has started looking at India differently, he said “our biggest challenge still is how to eliminate poverty”.
Jobs, he said, cannot be created, and poverty cannot be alleviated without growth. “First and foremost we should aim at a high rate of growth.”
Emphasising that the Centre wanted to empower the states with finances, technology and knowledge so that they are able to plan better and execute even better, he said the Cabinet Resolution setting up NITI Aayog provides for the appointment of Regional Councils with specific mandates for specific time periods.
These councils, he hoped, could help forge cooperation among two or more states facing a common set of problems or amicably settle disputes that delay progress.
Also, these councils could catalyse joint projects involving travel, transportation and tourism across member states. For federalism to work well, states must also fulfil their role in promoting the shared national objectives, he said as he saw great scope for states to learn from each other, work together among themselves and with the Centre.
Modi said best practices can be shared among states, and a portal can be created through which state functionaries share their experiences.
Stating that the Indian economy over the past two decades has been transforming itself from a planned to a market economy, Modi called upon the gathering to deliberate on how the planning process should be reshaped. “Our focus on Good Governance is the need of the hour,” the Prime Minister said, adding that “whatever we do it should be well thought, it should be well-executed and it should have desired outcome”.
The interaction was coordinated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and the opening remarks were made by Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog.
Later briefing reporters, Jaitley said the thrust of the comments of Modi in the meeting were in the context of the governance model. “He (Modi) mentioned that the priorities are growth, investment, jobs, poverty alleviation, decentralisation, efficiency and no delay in execution of projects,” the Finance Minister said.
The Prime Minister, he said, also highlighted that the economic activity really is to take place in states and therefore states have an important role to play.
On the constitution of three sub-groups of Chief Ministers, Jaitley said the first group will look into which amongst the 66 centrally sponsored schemes are required to continue and which can be cut down or transfered to states.
The second sub-group relates to human resource development, on the activities to be carried out in states for developing skilled manpower. “The third sub-group will deal with what is the institutional mechanism and technological knowhow to be evolved so that the Clean India campaign becomes a part our lives,” he said
Prime Minister, he said, has instructed states to constitute two task force each in every state on pursuing economic programmes for poverty alleviation and measures to push agriculture productivity in every state.