Functions of NITI Aayog: Overview

All the functions of NITI Aayog can be suitably divided into four categories as follows:

  1. To act as a resource centre & knowledge hub
  2. To design policy & programme framework
  3. To foster cooperative federalism
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation

An overview and evaluation of these functions is as follows: {Information is updated in December, 2017}

To act as a Resource Centre & Knowledge Hub

The first and foremost mandate of the NITI Aayog is to work as a “Think Tank” of the Union Government and develop itself as a State of the Art Resource Centre, with the necessary resources, knowledge and skills, that will enable it to act with speed, promote research and innovation, provide strategic policy vision for the government, and deal with contingent issues.

Towards this, initially two hubs viz. Team India Hub (TIH) and Knowledge and Innovation Hub (KIH) were established in NITI Aayog. These hubs reflect the two key tasks of the Aayog.

  • Team India Hub leads the engagement of states with the Central government.
  • Knowledge and Innovation Hub builds NITI’s think-tank capabilities.

The above were created in 2015 but soon paucity of Human Resources started showing its impacts. To further rationalize the works of NITI Aayog as per demands of its mandate, the Sindhushree Khullar-led task force {on restructuring NITI Aayog secretariat} had in 2015 suggested three divisions under the Aayog’s chief executive. These include the Team India hub (TIH), a flexi pool and a Knowledge and Innovation Hub (KIH). The Aayog is currently in process of developing its flexipool of officers.

The Think Tank cannot be built without efficient human resources. Towards this, NITI Aayog has taken some out of the box initiatives in last three years of its existence to prove its mandate as Think Tank of Government of India. Some of these initiatives include:

  • To hire best quality research associates and assistants from academia and industry.
  • To hire Consultants and Sr. Consultants from outside the government to draft policy documents and carry out specialized tasks.
  • To provide unparalleled exposure to public policy and planning to hired young professionals, graduate and post graduate students.

In 2016, NITI Aayog also launched a programme called NITI Non-Resident Fellows and NITI Non-Resident Sr. Fellows to involve best minds from various economic / industrial sectors. The efforts of NITI Aayog specific with Policy Making and Programming are discussed in brief here to provide you inputs to answer a question on how NITI Aayog is actually helping the government.

To Design Policy & Programme Framework

In last three years, NITI Aayog has actively participated in the not only designing the policies and programme framework but also drafting laws. Some of the specific examples to cite here are as follows:

Policy Design on Sick PSUs

A NITI Aayog committee headed by its CEO reviewed the 74 sick CPSEs in the country and recommended closure of 8 and revival plan for rest. Union Cabinet accepted these recommendations.

Policy Design in Strategic Disinvestment of CPSEs

A NITI Aayog panel under its Vice-Chairman was mandated to provide recommendations on Strategic Disinvestment of the CPSEs. The report was presented in 2016 and acting fast on it, the CCEA approved 17 recommendations. This led to establishment of a core group of secretaries on disinvestment (CGD) under the Alternative Mechanism.

Innovative Initiatives under Atal Innovation Mission

To make Atal Innovation Mission successful, NITI Aayog has implemented out of the box initiatives such as Grand Challenges to find low cost solutions to India’s most pressing problems; Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs), Atal Incubation Centres (AICs) etc. Various schools, higher academic institutions / universities, individuals and corporate were encouraged to apply in these initiatives.

Drafting National Medical Commission Bill

Towards health sector, NITI Aayog examined all options for reforms in the Medical Council of India proposed replacing MCI with a new National Medical Commission (NMC), outlined in National Medical Commission Bill of 2016. On 15 December 2017, the Union Cabinet had given its approval to introduce the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017. It is working on such legislative and policy framework for reforms in Ayurveda and Homeopathy also.

Launch of High Speed Railways

NITI Aayog worked with Japanese counterparts to help launch first of its kind High Speed Railway Project in India.

Digital Payments Movement in India

A committee of secretaries was created under Vice-chairman of NITI Aayog identify and operationalised in the earliest possible time frame user-friendly digital payment options in all sectors of the economy. NITI Aayog also created a committee of Chief Ministers under CM of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu to promote transparency, financial inclusion and a healthy financial ecosystem nationwide. The NITI Aayog also took advise and support of Ratan Wattal, who headed the committee of Finance ministry to promote digital payments in India.

Holistic Development of Islands

NITI Aayog had short-listed 10 islands for holistic development in the first phase viz. Smith, Ross, Long, Avis, & Little Andaman in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Minicoy, Bangaram, Tinnakara, Cheriyam & Suheli in Lakshadweep. The institution has been mandated to steer the process of holistic development of the identified islands as unique models of sustainable development and prepare a comprehensive development plan for each island with a focus on sustainability.

Coastal Employment Zones

For holistic developments of Coastal Areas, NITI Aayog has mooted the idea of coastal economic zones and recommended that any firm that would like to be part of the CEZs will benefit from a 10-year tax holiday, along with world-class infrastructure and ease of doing business, on employing 20,000 people. This strategy is based on the Shenzhen agglomeration model for the development of CEZs in the country.

To Foster Cooperative Federalism

One of the key objectives to establish NITI Aayog was to actualize the goal of cooperative federalism, competitive federalism and enable good governance in India. NITI Aayog has focussed on two important aspects of Cooperative Federalism as follows:

  • Joint development of National Development Agenda with centre and states
  • Advocate the states’s views and grievances with Union Ministries.

Some of the crucial initiatives taken by NITI Aayog to ensure that States are equal partners in the policy making and implementing process are as follows:

Reforms In Agriculture

Agriculture is a state subject and to foster sector’s development, NITI Aayog has come out with several initiatives. It has drafted a model land leasing law to recognize the rights of tenants and safeguard the interest of land owners at the same time. Another bill was drafted with reforms in APMC act. NITI Aayog has also developed first ever ‘Agriculture Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index’ to sensitise states about the need to undertake reforms in the three key areas of Agriculture Market Reforms, Land Lease Reforms and Forestry on Private Land (Felling and Transit of Trees). The index carries a score with a minimum value “0” implying no reforms and maximum value “100” implying complete reforms in the selected areas. The states and UTs have been reformed and a comparison has been drawn to promote competitive federalism.

Indices Measuring States’ Performance in Health, Education and Water Management

To promote competitive and cooperative federalism, NITI Aayog has undertaken the crucial task of developing three indices that will drive competitive, cooperative federalism in India. These indices are as follows:

  • Performance on Health Outcomes Index: This index has been launched to assess quality of healthcare services by states and nudge them towards taking transformative action in the health sector.
  • School Education Quality Index (SEQI): This index has been launched to measure annual improvements of States on key domains of education quality.
  • Composite Water Management Index: NITI Aayog is developing this index with the active engagement of states and Union Territories. It would measure total 33 key performance indicators covering irrigation status, drinking water and other water related indicators.
Conference of Chief Secretaries and Planning Secretaries of States/Union Territories

NITI Aayog conducts National Conference of Chief Secretaries and Planning Secretaries of States and Union Territories to gather critical inputs from states of key matters of collaboration between the States and the Centre.

Capacity Building of Urban Local Bodies

Under the AMRUT Mission, NITI Aayog has signed an MOU with Singapore Cooperation Enterprise to launch a capacity building programme of local bodies in terms of urban planning and governance, water and waste management and PPP.

Apart from the above, NITI Aayog has established a States Coordination & Decentralized Planning division entrusted with the responsibility of fostering cooperative federalism. Its recent activities include – a report on North Eastern and Hill States; National Conference on Good Practices in Social Sector Delivery; Development Support Services to States (DSSS) for execution of infrastructure projects in the PPP mode and for transforming the Health and Education Sectors. The key objective of this policy is to support State Governments in the implementation of projects that are critical for the development of a state/region in a timely and cost effective manner. Further, it is also engaged in an exercise for establishing an outcome monitoring framework in critical economic and social development sectors including Healthcare, Education and Water.

Monitoring and Evaluation

This is another crucial function of NITI Aayog because eefficient and independent evaluation is key effective implementation of policy/programmes. Towards this, the Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO) was established as an attached office of the NITI Aayog, by merging the erstwhile Programme Evaluation Organization and the Independent Evaluation Office by the Government in 2015. This office has been mandated to evaluate the implementation of the Centre’s programmes/initiatives, and identify necessary resources to strengthen service delivery.

To ensure that DMEO is able to function independently, it has been given separate budgetary allocations and manpower in addition to complete functional autonomy.

Conclusion

The above discussion has provided you basic information on various functions and activities of NITI Aayog. Obviously each of them has some hits and misses which we shall discuss in sector specific documents.

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