Indian Polity - Centre state Relations - Niti Aayog September 10, 2017 NITI AAYOG NITI Aayog, The National Institution for Transforming India, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015. NITI Ayog has emerged as the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India fostering the spirit of cooperative federalism. NITI Aayog as the Forum for Cooperative Federalism One of the key mandates of NITI Aayog is to foster co-operative federalism through structured support initiatives. The key functions which refer to ‘Cooperative Federalism’ are: 1) To evolve a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of States in the light of national objectives 2) To foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognising that strong States make a strong nation. Difference with Planning Commission: 1) It has a structure similar to the Planning Commission, but its functions will be limited to only acting as a policy think -tank relieving it of the two more functions viz. formation of five year plans and the allocation of funds to the States. 2) The major difference in approach to planning, between NITI Aayog and Planning Commission, is that the former will invite greater involvement of the approach with a one-size-fits-all plan. Following steps have been taken in this direction: 1) Constitution of three sub-groups of Chief Ministers to advise the central government on Rationalization of Centrally Sponsored Schemes, Skill Development and Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. All three sub-groups of Chief Ministers have submitted their reports. While some recommendations have been implemented, others are under consideration. 2) Reform in social sector through Indices Measuring States’ Performance in Health, Education and Water Management: NITI has come out with indices to measure incremental annual outcomes in critical social sectors like health, education and water with a view to nudge the states into competing with each other for better outcomes, while at the same time sharing best practices & innovations to help each other - an example ofcompetitive and cooperative federalism. 3) Facilitating the resolution of issues involving states and central ministries by bringing the two sides together on a single platform. For eg NITI Aayog recently took the initiative to seek resolution of several pending issues of the State of Telangana with different central ministries. Similarly there are symmetrical problems that central government projects face in the states and there is scope for taking up those as well. NITI Aayog must be ready to serve as the forum for similar future consultations to resolve two-way issues between other states and the central ministries. Challenges The Aayog is expected to serve as a source of new ideas and achieve convergence between the Centre and States for evolving a long-term vision for India. At the same time it is expected to coordinate among the various departments. In discharging these two assigned tasks, the Aayog will overlap with the Inter-State Council, which is a constitutional body, and the office of the cabinet secretary that at present strives to achieve inter-departmental coordination. This could be tricky. Way ahead Moving beyond cooperative federalism it is now ‘competitive cooperative federalism’ that defines the relation between Centre and states as NITI Aayog puts onus on states to drive transformation in India. India is facing many challenges in its path to SDGs 2030. The central government has initiated many mission mode programs viz Smart City, Skill India, Swach Bharat, Housing and Electricity for All etc. Success of all these depends on active cooperation and healthy competition among states and centre. NITI Ayog is poised to play the role of catalyst in achieving this cooperation.