In his first interview after taking over as Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman, Suman Bery tells Indivjal Dhasmana and Sanjeeb Mukherjee that his important job will be to ideate a medium-term roadmap for revival of economic growth. The conversation ranged from cooperative federalism to growth-inflation trade off and more. Edited excerpts:
A successor to the Planning Commission with a difference
NITI AAYOG (National Institution for Transforming India) is a successor to the Planning Commission of India.
Though it drew its manpower from the planning body and is housed in the erstwhile Yojana Bhawan in Lutyens’ Delhi, it can at best be introduced as a distant cousin of the Soviet-era behemoth.
Unlike the Planning Commission, the Niti Aayog has no powers to allocate funds to Union ministries or craft schemes for states. However, it has been able to create a niche, thanks to its regular manoeuvring in the policy space, intervening in areas such as asset monetisation, divestment, electric mobility, hydrogen fuel, start-up ecosystem, innovation labs et al.
The Aayog is structured in a way that its Vice-Chairman holds the rank of a Cabinet Minister whereas the CEO, a Secretary-level officer, draws power from an arrangement that all heads of 27 verticals, for instance, education, agriculture, water and land resources, industry, infrastructure, rural development, public private partnership etc., report to the officer. There are three full-time members.
Then there is a Governing Council comprising CMs and Lt-Governors, a mechanism tasked with evolving a shared vision by the Centre and states. Its gamut of activities, according to its annual report 2021-22, is divided into four broad segments — policy and programme framework, cooperative federalism, monitoring and evaluation and finally, think-tank, knowledge and innovation hub.
As the mandate is wide, it at times ends up infringing on other departments’ turf. However, since the Prime Minister heads it and its policy directives come straight from the PMO, the question of any ministry objecting to Niti Aayog’s overreach doesn’t arise.