Suman Bery writes: NITI Aayog’s role in ensuring collaboration between states and centre

Source: This post is based on the article “Suman Bery writes: NITI Aayog’s role in ensuring collaboration between states and centre” published in The Indian Express on 12th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – Polity – Relations between Centre and States

Relevance: NITI Aayog and improving Centre-State relations

Context: The Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog lists out seven propositions centered around his understanding of NITI Aayog’s role in enhancing alignment between the Centre and states.

How has NITI Aayog helped in improving federalism?

Since its inception in 2015, NITI Aayog has been instrumental in promoting competitive and cooperative federalism.

NITI Aayog organises the annual meeting of the Governing Council (GC) under the leadership of the PM. It brings together chief ministers/Lieutenant-governors of the states/UTs to discuss inter-sectoral, inter-departmental and federal issues. The aim is to accelerate the implementation of the National Development Agenda.

How can NITI Aayog help improve alignment b/w Centre and States?

States must identify their strengths: States are the Indian economy’s growth drivers. They control urban governance, agriculture, power distribution, land records modernisation, labour law simplification and pollution control.

For India to remain one of the fastest-growing major economies, states must identify their strengths. NITI Aayog must ensure productive engagement and dialogue with the states to develop a growth roadmap.

Income convergence across states: Despite country-wide economic growth, the less developed Indian states are not catching up.

NITI Aayog must address this crucial issue through improved governance structures, adequate financial development and infrastructure.

Performance on social indicators is a sound metric for assessing a state’s performance. Social outcomes are de-linked from income in several states. Mizoram’s performance on the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is one example. Despite being a middle-income state, its IMR is the lowest at 3 deaths per 1,000 live births, whereas the national average is 28.

NITI Aayog has developed several social sector indices and dashboards for effectively tracking and monitoring outcomes. Regular monitoring and performance evaluation will incentivize states to achieve better social outcomes.

Growth at the grassroots: We must focus on ensuring that growth originates from the grassroots, while addressing significant inter-state and inter-district variations. The PM launched the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) to address these challenges through data-driven, outcome-based governance. While lauding the ADP during the conference, the PM emphasized the need to convert the Aspirational Districts into “inspirational districts”.

NITI Aayog must focus on guiding state governments in replicating the ADP template at the block level and for districts not categorised as aspirational.

Better managed urbanisation is crucial. Cities face challenges such as affordable housing, water supply and waste management. Further, there is a need to tap into resources other than government budgets, such as monetising land assets and engaging private capital in service delivery.

Efforts to empower and make large urban local bodies atmanirbhar are the needs of the hour.

Sharing of best practices: Several best practices are already being implemented by states across India. NITI Aayog must act as an intermediary between the Centre and states to ensure cross-sharing of these best practices, insights and perspectives.

Some areas that merit particular focus are the use of advanced technology using blockchain and AI, development of social registry and reducing compliance burden etc.

Conversation around climate change challenge: The world has so far witnessed two models of development— the Industrial Revolution and the rise of East Asia. Both depended on cheap, fossil-fuel energy. India aspires to grow equally fast but is now subject to a carbon constraint.

At the state level, it is critical to understand how the challenges facing states might be affected by decarbonisation, both with regard to mitigation and adaptation.

India needs to continue its national debate around this challenge. Using its convening power, NITI Aayog is well-positioned to generate such a conversation and guide states to catalyse climate action.

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