The Modi government has appointed Sindhushree Khullar as the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the newly constituted NITI Aayog. NITI Ayog replaces the Planning Commission as a premier think tank of the government. The acronym NITI stands for National Institution for Transforming India.
She will serve for one year starting January 1. She is a 1975 batch IAS officer and was earlier a Secretary in the erstwhile Planning Commission. With this appointment, the full time executive structure of the new body is in place. Earlier, the government had appointed the noted free market economist Arvind Panagariya as its Vice Chairman besides Bibek Debroy and V K Saraswat as Members. The Prime Minister is the head of the body.
The Aayog has on board the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh as ex officio members while the Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and HRD Minister Smriti Irani will be special invitees.
The new body has a three-layered structure. First, there will be Governing Council comprising all Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors of Union Territories. Second, there will be Regional Councils to address specific issues and contingencies affecting more than one state or a region. These will be created for a specified tenure. The Regional Councils will be convened by the Prime Minister and will have all Chief Ministers and Lt. Governors of Union Territories in the region. These will be chaired by the Chairperson of the NITI Aayog or his nominee. Both these councils will have a number of domain experts, specialists and practitioners to serve as special invitees nominated by the Prime Minister. The third fold will be the full-time organisational framework.
The new body will serve as ‘Think Tank’ of the Government- a directional and policy dynamo to provide the central and state governments with relevant strategic and technical advice across all key elements of policy making and implementation. This includes matters of national and international importance on the economic front, dissemination of best practices, infusion of new policy ideas and specific issue-based support.
One of the critical differences from its previous avatar is a change in approach i.e. ‘Bottom Up’ rather than ‘Top Down.’ This change is also reflected in the approach which says, “To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of Government.”