Former finance secretary and ex-Finance Commission chairman, Vijay Kelkar, has suggested a revamp of Niti Aayog and creating a new organisation which, unlike the present avatar, can allocate capital and revenue grants to the states. Interestingly, the suggestion has come less than five years after the government replaced the Planning Commission with the Niti Aayog, which was deliberately designed to differ from its predecessor the Planning Commission.
According to sources, Mr Kelkar has argued in a paper that the proposed new entity be used to do the job at hand related to structural issues including removal of regional imbalances in the economy. He has noted that replacing the Planning Commission, which was promoting regionally balanced growth in India, by the Niti Aayog, a think tank, has reduced the government’s policy reach. The think tank does not have powers to allocate funds and can only make recommendations to the government. Funding is the sole purview of the Finance Ministry, unlike with the Planning Commission, which could also allocate funds. Secondly, it cannot impose policies for state governments to follow, again something where the Planning Commission had a strong say. Mr Kelkar has suggested that the Niti Aayog can be more effective if it is empowered to be part of the highest decision-making in the government. His version of the new Niti Aayog will provide the highest-level knowledge-based advice and provide a long-term perspective on policy proposals. Will the government take the view of an eminent economist and ex-bureaucrat on board?
Lies and statistics
Two non-government members of the National Statistical Commission, including its acting chief, quit over “disagreements” with the Modi sarkar on the release of jobs data and concerns about it being buried in election season. With the resignation of P.C. Mohanan, the acting chairperson of the autonomous body, and a former member of the Indian Statistical Service, and J.V. Meenakshi, a professor at the Delhi School of Economics, the commission ended up with no external members. The panel is left with only two other members — chief statistician Pravin Srivastava and the Niti Aayog’s Amitabh Kant.
Apparently, both Mr Mohanan and Ms Meenakshi were unhappy with the government over the publication of last year’s employment survey and over Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data pertaining to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) — showing that the economy had performed much better under the NDA than it did during the UPA. The resignations will surely aid Opposition parties that have been alleging that the government fudged employment and GDP data since it did not suit its political agenda.
Bolting the stable door
The CBI is on to another UPA-era scam investigation. The nation’s top investigating agency has booked former Air India chairman and managing director, Arvind Jadhav, and four other former officials of Air India for allegedly violating procedures while making various promotions and appointments in 2010.
Along with Mr Jadhav, the CBI has booked L.P. Nakhwa (now retired), then general manager (medical services) and then additional general managers A. Kathpalia, Amitabh Singh, and Rohit Bhasin. They have been charged under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly violating norms in appointing general manager rank officers in 2009-10. According to the FIR, Mr Jadhav constituted an “illegal” three-member selection panel to recommend suitable candidates for promotion to the post of general manager operations. He allegedly granted promotions to officials facing criminal cases and vigilance complaints.