NITI AAYOG repalces Planning Commission; Indian American Arvind Panagariya appointed vice-chairman

NEW YORK (TIP): Columbia University economist Arvind Panagariya will be the first vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog, which will have two full-time members — economist Bibek Debroy and former DRDO chief VK Saraswat, a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said Monday, January 5.

Panagariya, 62, is a professor of economics at New York’s Columbia University, a former chief economist at the Asian Development Bank and has also worked with the IMF, WTO and World Bank in various capacities.

A staunch advocate of free-market economics, Panagariya has over the last two years been writing advisories to the BJP about how to manage the fiscal situation, sources said.
The PMO also nominated home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley, railways minister Suresh Prabhu and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh as ex officio members.

Transport minister Nitin Gadkari, HRD minister Smriti Irani and social empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot will be special invitees of the Niti Aayog that replaces the 65-year-old Socialist-era Planning Commission.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will head the body and its governing council will include all chief ministers and lieutenant governors, in line with the PM’s thrust on cooperative federalism that advocates involving states in the Centre’s decision making.

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However, two elected chief ministers — of Delhi and Puducherry — will not be members of the new Niti Aayog.

The Article 239 of the Constitution defines both Delhi and Puducherry as Union Territories and therefore, their administrators — lieutenant governors — will be members of the panel.

Under the article, a law providing for assembly in Delhi was enacted in 1991. “As per law, Delhi is a Union Territory. It has been rephrased as National Capital Territory,” said SK Sharma, former secretary of Delhi Legislative Assembly.

Government sources said that three more members will be appointed to the Niti Aayog soon. In all, the government plans to appoint five full-time members and two part-time members, who are expected to be representative for the academic world.

Panagariya and other full-time members are expected to join office at Niti Bhawan,erstwhile Yojana Bhawan, in a couple of days.

Officials could be seen Monday sprucing the rooms, lying vacant for the last eight months, for the new members.

The government, meanwhile, archived the website of the Planning Commission, and an announcement on Twitter handle Niti Aayog said: “Administrative reforms are underway.

The NITI Aayog website will be ready in a few days. The process for Transforming India has begun!”

A new website of Niti Aayog will be launched once the new vice-chairman joins office as officials in Yojana Bhawan does not have authority to issue directions, sources said.

The reason is that the government has not notified new business of transaction rules for Niti Aayog.

Officials said Niti Aayog will primarily be an advisory body without having power to allocate funds. The government has allocated the fund disbursement job to the finance ministry, which is also mandated to generate revenue.

Before the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power, the Planning Commission used to allocate funds to all central ministries and the state governments.

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