Fewer number of centrally sponsored schemes cited as reason for fall in allocation.
New Delhi: NITI Aayog, which replaced the erstwhile Planning Commission, is slowly and steadily losing its prominence as the country’s premier think-tank. Not just that it has a limited role in its new avatar, funds to Aayog has also been declining ever since its inception in 2015. The sharpest drop of 86.74 per cent came in FY17 when its budgetary allocation fell to mere Rs 293.14 crore against Rs 2,211.63 crore in the previous year.
Though the fall has largely been on account of fewer number of centrally sponsored schemes (CSS) and separation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) from Aayog, it is a fact that the NDA government has limited its role as a mere advisory body and also cut its extensive manpower and pan-India offices.
"Niti Aayog is a lot different from erstwhile Planning Commission that followed ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning in a command economy structure. The states are a lot diversified now and following different models for development and growth. In this scenario, planning itself has limited role so a smaller Aayog can fit the bill," said an economist connected with the commission earlier.
Whatever may be its role, after the change of name from Planning Commission to NITI Aayog or National Institution for Transforming India, the government's disinterest for command planning has seen sharp cuts in allocation for the new body. In the period before its beginning, the Planning Commission's allocation increased to Rs 2,607 crore in FY15 from Rs 1,676 crore in 2011-12.
But since its start in 2015, Aayog has got a lot lesser funds with a mere Rs 339.65 crore allocated for current fiscal year FY19 as against Rs 2,211.63 crore given in FY16.
According to an RTI reply, before the NITI Aayog came into force in 2015, the annual allocation for erstwhile Planning Commission was very high. The allocation increased to Rs 2,607 crore in 2014-15 from Rs 1,676 crore in 2011-12. In 2015-16, it stood at Rs 2,211.63 crore but since then allocation has seen a dramatic fall with Rs 293.14 crore given in FY17, Rs 252.52 crore in FY18 and Rs 339.65 crore in FY19, the RTI reply has revealed.
It added that allocation for Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Public Finance Management System (PFMS) formed a part of Planning Commission’s and Niti Aayog's overall allocations till FY16. With these bodies getting separated from Aayog now, the allocations has also seen a fall.
NITI Aayog, as the premier ‘think-tank’ of the Government of India has been crucial in navigating and charting the course of the country in matters of national and international importance on the economic front, dissemination of best practices from within the country and from other nations, the infusion of new policy ideas and specific issue-based support. India’s first chief statistician and economist Pronab Sen said that from FY12 to FY16, there were many factors involved in the allocations in the Planning Commission-turned NITI Aayog. “For last three years, from FY17 to FY19, the annual allocation does not include UIDAI, PFMS and others.
Hence, the allocation figure would be obviously much lower than earlier previous years,” Sen said. He added that the government has already cut the size of staff drastically, from over 1,200 earlier in Planning Commission to less than 350 in NITI Aayog now,” he added.
Its not only funds that has seen a fall, but Niti Aayog's shrinking domain is also evident from its move last year when 15 of its regional offices, spread across the country shut down their shutters. With central schemes now being given to states for implementation and monitoring wirth funds being released directly by finance ministry, need for monitoring by a centralised agency (earlier the role played by Planning commission ) has become needless.
Though NITI Aayog has no powers for fund allocation to states like the erstwhile Planning Commissi-on, the think-tank has been playing a role in policy making, the latest among them being expansion of the minimum support price scheme for crops and the national health protection scheme.
Since its inception on August 2015, Aayog has occupied a space in India’s policy environment. Thro-ugh ambitious recommendations and dynamic initiatives, NITI has mobilised its expertise as the ‘think-tank’ of the government, in areas such as, envisaging a roadmap for revitalising Indian agriculture and doubling farmer’s income, framing of new guidelines for devolution of dedicated funds for SC/ST community, national energy policy, national nutrition strategy, national medical council bill, national medical strategy, recommendations on strategic disinvestment of CPSEs among others.