Niti Aayog meeting: PM Narendra Modi promises states more funds, greater utilisation powers

By: | Updated: February 8, 2015 7:21 PM

Exhorting Chief Ministers to bury differences to help India achieve high growth and create jobs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi...

Narendra Modi, Devendra Fadnavis, Niti AayogPrime Minister Narendra Modi, Haryana CM ML Khattar, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chauhan during the first meeting of Governing Council of NITI Aayog in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI

Exhorting Chief Ministers to bury differences to help India achieve high growth and create jobs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today promised more funds to states with greater powers on their utilisattion, even as he asked them to address issues delaying projects.

Keen to revive investment cycle, Modi at the first Governing Council meeting of the newly-constituted NITI Aayog asked Chief Ministers to personally monitor factors impacting project execution and suggested that an officer be identified in each state to monitor and resolve pending issues.

He offered to transfer some of the 66 centrally sponsored schemes, for which Rs 3,38,562 crore was provided in 2014-15, to states. A sub-group of Chief Ministers would be set up under NITI Aayog to look into rationalisation of these 66 schemes and recommend which ones “to continue, which to transfer to states, and which to cut down”.

“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.

Modi also announced setting up of two more such sub-groups — one for skill development and creation of jobs within states and the other to create an institutional framework to make ‘Swachh Bharat (Clean India)’ a continuous initiative.

Identifying poverty elimination as the biggest challenge, he said the new body, which replaced the long-standing socialist era plan body Planning Commission, will forge a model of “co-operative and competitive federalism”.

“Forgetting all our differences, let us focus on the cycle of investment, growth, job creation and prosperity,” he said at the meeting attended by Chief Ministers and representatives of 31 states and Union Territories, addressing them as ‘Team India’

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’.

Later briefing reporters, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that Modi told CMs that “the priorities are growth, investment, jobs, poverty alleviation, decentralisation, efficiency and no delay in execution of projects”.

The Prime Minister, Jaitley said, also highlighted that the economic activity really is to take place in states and therefore states have an important role to play.

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. States like Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh demanded more funds for states, while Kerala sought greater flexibility in central allocations.

Those who attended the meeting included Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Parkash Singh Badal, O Panneerselvam (Tamil Nadu), Oommen Chandy (Kerala), Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh) and N Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), as well as Chief Ministers from BJP-ruled states like Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.

The interaction during the Governing Council meeting was co-ordinated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while opening remarks were made by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya. The Prime Minister is the Chairperson of the new institution.

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.

The Prime Minister 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”.

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 eliminated 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, Modi said the Cabinet Resolution setting up NITI Aayog provides for appointment of Regional Councils with specific mandates for specific time periods.

These councils, he hoped, could help forge co-operation 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.

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 forces in each state on pursuing economic programmes for poverty elimination and measures to push agriculture productivity in every state.

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