The fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog was held under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan today. Naxal Violence, Water, Drought, Agriculture and Health were the primary issues discussed in the council.
It was attended by the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, 26 Chief Ministers and the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, apart from Union Ministers, who are ex-officio members and special invitees. Vice Chairman, Members, CEO and senior officers of NITI Aayog also attended the meeting .
Setting the tone of the meeting, the Prime Minister emphasized that this is the meeting of Team India. The PM said that States should recognise their core competence, and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level.
The Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog as a platform to inspire cooperative federalism, stressing the need to collectively combat poverty, unemployment, drought, pollution, pockets of under-development and all such factors that constrain India’s progress. He emphasized that the goal is to realize the potential of this great country, to create a New India by 2022 and a USD five trillion economy by 2024.
The Prime Minister emphasized the need for every State to focus on increasing its share in the country’s GDP by evaluating the export potential of the State and determining the steps necessary for increasing exports and boosting employment.
Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog urged all States to offer their suggestions on the policy recommendations contained in NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ so that they can be tweaked to suit the ground realities in individual States.
Welcoming the constructive discussion and suggestions made by various Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister assured the Council that these suggestions would be seriously considered in the course of decision-making. On the Agenda before the Fifth Council Meeting were the following items:
- Rain-Water Harvesting
- Drought Situation and Relief Measures
- Aspirational Districts Programme – Achievements And Challenges
- Transforming Agriculture: Need For Structural Reforms With Special Emphasis On:
- Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act
- Essential Commodities Act (ECA)
- Security Related Issues with Specific Focus On LWE Districts
Water Conservation: Aim to provide piped water to every rural home by 2024
The Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of the States towards water conservation and urged all States to streamline and implement innovative water management measures. The creation of the Ministry of ‘Jal Shakti’ is a key step by the Union Government to develop an integrated and holistic perspective on water as a developmental resource. He said management of available water resources is a vital imperative. He said that the aim is to provide piped water to every rural home by 2024.
There was broad consensus on reducing water wastage, promoting efficient water conservation practices across States, with rain-water harvesting to be undertaken at the household and community level with proactive policy and investment support. Various Chief Ministers presented best practices from their respective states which can serve as templates for replication across the country.
Many States such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat and Karnataka have adopted good practices in water conservation and rainwater harvesting. Some innovative steps include the Jalyukt Shivarin Maharashtra which made 11,000 villages drought free, Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavalamban Abhiyaan which resulted in five feet rise in groundwater in 21 districts, and Mission Kakatiya in Telangana which irrigates 19 Lakh Acres. Similarly, Sujalam Sufalam in Gujarat and artificial recharge scheme in Karnataka show that determined action produces good results. The spirit of the meeting was to build on the strength of every State so that each State can learn from the innovation and best practices of other States.
The Council also deliberated upon a closely related and deeply important issue of drought management and associate relief measures. The need to safeguard Indian agriculture and protect farmers from the vagaries of unpredictable monsoons was highlighted in the meeting, with various Chief Ministers suggesting possible short-term and long-term solutions for making India a ‘drought-free’ nation. These included reviewing their district agriculture contingency plans, streamlining provision of inputs such as seeds and making contingency plans for irrigation etc. It has been proposed that the Union Government consider developing a comprehensive drought management plan that can be applicable across States.
Agriculture: Implementation of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee
The Prime Minister also called upon the Fifth Governing Council Meeting to undertake foundational reforms in the agri-economy, leading to a complete transformation of the agriculture sector in India. The core agenda items included the need to review the implementation of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and possible reform in the form of the Model APMC Act as well as exploring changes in the Essential Commodities Act, to ensure fair remuneration for the farmers, streamlining of supply, driving more investment into the sector and predictability of policy at national and regional levels. The Prime Minister emphasized the need for undertaking structural reforms in agriculture including encouraging corporate investment, strengthening logistics and focusing on food processing.
Reiterating the Union Government’s commitment to double incomes of farmers by 2022, he said this requires focus on fisheries, animal husbandry, horticulture, fruits and vegetables. He said that the benefits of PM-KISAN – KisanSammanNidhi – and other farmer centric schemes should reach the intended beneficiaries well within time.
Aspirational Districts Programme
The Governing Council also reviewed the implementation of the Aspirational Districts Programme, which has emerged as a major policy innovation in driving inclusive growth. Rapid progress has been achieved across all Aspirational Districts that have participated in this programme in 49 key performance indicators of human and social development. Various Chief Ministers noted the success of the programme in their respective States, and discussed possible schemes for extension of the programme to rapidly develop blocks in remote and difficult areas so that the spirit of inclusive development is effectively enforced. The Prime Minister commended the district administration teams on implementing several ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas in the Aspirational Districts resulting in significant transformation in many districts.
Naxal Violence: Combating Left Wing Extremism
The Prime Minister also reaffirmed the commitment of the Government to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE), noting that many of the aspirational districts are affected by Naxal violence. He assured the Council that the Ministry of Home Affairs will coordinate with all affected States to decisively end LWE violence and drive the agenda of development in these regions.
The Union Home Minister highlighted the initiatives taken by the Central Government over the last five years for ensuring development and security in LWE affected areas, with achievement of significant success through the steadfast implementation of National Policy & Action Plan of 2015. Essential steps such as deployment of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) have helped carry out sustainable operations against Maoists.
The Prime Minister said that many aspirational districts are affected by Naxal violence. He said the battle against Naxal violence is now in a decisive phase. He said violence will be dealt with firmly, even as development proceeds in a fast-paced and balanced manner.
He also informed the Council that there has also been an equally strong focus on developing road and telecom infrastructure in these areas. About 11,000 km of roads are being constructed at the cost of Rs 18,000 crore of which 5,500 km of road has already been completed. In order to improve telecom connectivity, 2335 mobile towers have also been installed and in next phase, 4072 towers costing Rs 11,000 Crore will be installed.
The Union Finance Minister appreciated the positive engagement and cooperation between the Centre and the States in the GST Council. She also highlighted the unprecedented devolution of a large share of funds from the Centre to the States over the last four years, noting that there has been massive increase in funds transfers under tax devolution, Finance Commission Grants and through other transfers such as under Centrally Sponsored Schemes. She stated that total transfers under various headings between 2011-12 and 2014-15 amounted to about Rs 20 lakh crore, but in the last four years this has increased to nearly Rs 41 lakh crore.
Health sector: Eliminating TB by 2025 and implementation of Ayushman Bharat
On the health sector, the Prime Minister said that several targets are to kept in mind, to be achieved by 2022. He also mentioned the target of eliminating TB by 2025. The Prime Minister urged those States who have not implemented PMJAY under Ayushman Bharat so far, to come onboard this scheme at the earliest. He said health and wellness should be the focal point of every decision.
Elaborating on the Union Government’s guiding principle of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwaas, the Prime Minister said the schemes of the Union Government are no longer limited to certain people, or to certain regions, and are reaching everyone without discrimination, in a balanced way.
Structural reforms in agriculture
The Prime Minister announced the creation of a high-powered committee on structural reforms in agriculture. He further said that global circumstances currently offer a unique opportunity to India. He said India is establishing itself on global benchmarks such as Ease of Doing Business. To achieve the goal of becoming a five trillion dollar economy by 2024, the Prime Minister urged States to aim to increase their economy by 2 to 2.5 times, which would also increase the common man’s purchasing power. He called upon Chief Ministers to study their State’s export potential and work on export promotion.
The Prime Minister said that the mining sector can provide significant employment opportunities. He said that bottlenecks in operationalization of mines continue to exist in several States. He said the NITI Aayog is working on these issues.
The Prime Minister thanked the Chief Ministers for their suggestions and reiterated that that the Union Government is keen to partner with the States, and work together for India’s development.
About the Governing Council of NITI Aayog
The Governing Council of NITI Aayog comprises the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of all the States and Union Territories with Legislatures and Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and four Union Ministers as ex-officio members and three Union Ministers as Special Invitees. It is the premier body tasked with evolving a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States in shaping the development narrative.
The First Meeting was held on 8 February 2015, at which the Prime Minister laid down the key mandates of NITI Aayog such as fostering cooperative federalism and addressing national issues through active participation of the States.The Second Meeting of the Governing Council took place on 15 July 2015 and the Third Meeting was held on 23 April 2017, which laid down milestones in shaping the country’s development agenda through strategy and vision documents.
The Fourth meeting of the Governing Council was held on 17 June 2018 and included reviewing measures taken for doubling farmers’ income and progress made under flagship schemes such as the Ayushman Bharat, POSHAN Abhiyaan and Mission Indradhanush.
The NITI Aayog has been mandated with fostering cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation. It seeks to design and assist the implementation of strategic, long-term policy frameworks and programme initiatives, and also monitor their progress and efficacy.
The Governing Council, which embodies these objectives of cooperative federalism, presents a platform to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the national development agenda, in the spirit of Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat.