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Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability

Mr. Vivek Rai

Quality Council of India

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Vivek Rai works with the Quality Council of India- a leading institution based in Delhi, India. A former journalist of a leading media house, his areas of interest include policy issues, sustainability and solution innovation. He wrote a book on the governance issues titled - A Portrait of Rural India

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NITI Aayog in India: Emerging from the Shadow


In 2015, the Government of India constituted the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) while replacing the Planning Commission of India - an enduring legacy of the Planning Era. It was the end of an era. The Planning Commission was started in 1950 which formulated and implemented the Five-Year Plans and allocated funds to Indian states for the state plans. According to the official document, the NITI Aayog designs strategic and long-term policy and programme frameworks and initiatives and monitors their progress and their efficacy regularly. It uses the lessons learnt from monitoring and feedback to make innovative improvements, including necessary mid-course corrections, as the official document stated.


The NITI Aayog seeks to provide critical and strategic inputs to the Government of India and the state governments. Under the guidance from the political leadership, the NITI Aayog has emerged as an apex institution for the public policy in India. It is evident that NITI Aayog is collaborating with a wide range of entities namely multilateral institutions, various ministries, multinationals, major foundations, start-ups and many more.  


Since its inception, the NITI Aayog prepared a series of important documents including working papers, concept notes, policy briefs, budget papers etc. on various important aspects of Indian economy. Inspired by the phenomenon of the cooperative federalism, the NITI Aayog launched the Three Year Action Agenda which is based on extensive discussions with and inputs from the union ministries and state governments. 


Writing in the Agenda, Arvind Panagariya, the then Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog argued, “The Vision, Strategy and Action Agenda exercise represents a departure from the Five Year Plan process, followed with a handful of discontinuities until the fiscal year 2016-17. The 12th Five Year Plan was the last of these plans. It has been felt that with an increasingly open and liberalized economy, we needed to rethink the tools and approaches to conceptualizing the development process.”  


Aiming at enhancing and empowering the human capabilities, NITI Aayog is entrusted with a role to coordinate in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  As NITI Aayog is overseeing the SDGs in India, the government-run think tank partnered with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) – a leading industry body which represents the Indian businesses, to work on the SDGs.


In the last couple of years, the policymakers acknowledge the need for an effective roadmap to promote innovation in India. Keeping this in mind, they roll out an intervention which is known as the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).             


NITI Aayog’s AIM envisions the creation of a collaborative ecosystem, where students, teachers, mentors and industry partners work to facilitate innovation, foster scientific temper and an entrepreneurial spirit in the children. As the AIM intends to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in India, NITI Aayog collaborated with SAP Global to foster innovation across 100 Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across India. In March 2018, the AIM announced that it selected 2441 schools across India to establish ATLs.


The NITI Aayog came up with Aspirational Districts. In order to transform the aspirational districts, the NITI Aayog partnered with Piramal Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Piramal Group. Under the auspices of the collaboration, both institutions work on health care, nutrition, and education in identified districts of India.

In July 2018, NITI Aayog partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to advance rapid improvements in the scale and quality of electricity access in India. As the Press Communiqué stated, it will be achieved through the exchange of knowledge and expertise, collaborative research, and by advancing rural electricity access models with the public and private sector stakeholders.


Few Selected Collaborations:
# NITI Aayog inked Statement of Intent (SoI) with Government of Telangana (a newly formed  Indian state) to collaborate on frontier technology policy & Proof of Concepts (PoCs) in AI, Blockchain, and FinTech
# NITI Aayog signed SoI with AI solutions provider Poletus.
# NITI Aayog and ABB India partnered to make India AI-Ready. Both institutions signed SoI to support the Indian government to realize its ambitious vision of “Make in India” through advanced manufacturing technologies that incorporate the latest developments in robotics and artificial intelligence.
# NITI Aayog collaborated with Google India for AI and ML training, hackathons, mentoring and incubating startups and providing research grants.
# NITI and IBM India inked SoI to develop an AI model for precision agriculture. It aims to deliver real-time advisory to farmers in the Aspirational Districts to improve crop yields and their income.
# NITI Aayog and International Energy Association (IEA) partnered to promote co-operation relating to the energy sector.


Similarly, the NITI Aayog worked with the Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) and Indian states to prepare a roadmap for the Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E). 


Recently, the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHF) released a comprehensive Health Index for India which ranks Indian states based on various health indicators. In order to work on such complex policy issues, the Aayog hires and engages a huge number of the Young Professionals and consultants for various schemes and initiatives. It is evident that NITI Aayog is collaborating in strategically important sectors like agriculture, innovation, healthcare, etc. Aligning the national policy framework with the global trends, the NITI Aayog is playing a leadership role in the public policy in the short time span. It is a laudable intent indeed though its full potential is yet be realised. 
 
 

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