Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 21 September 2018


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. The NITI Aayog was created not only as an alternative to the Planning Commission but also with a wide range of objectives including preparing India to sustain growth, jobs and living standards etc. Critically examine how far the NITI Aayog is relevant today. (250 words)

Model Answer:

Approach:

  • Why in news?
  • Introduction
  • Argument in Favour
  • Argument in Against
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

Ever since the government has replaced the planning commission with NITI Aayog, all eyes are on the later so as to find out how it is performing as compared to the former.

The NITI Aayog announced an ambitious National Health Stack project in June this year and there was an announcement that pilots had begun in some states to implement the project under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana.

Introduction

  • NITI is short for National Institution for Transforming India.
  • It replaced the old planning commission that started in 1950 on 1 January 2015.
  • This new economic think-tank has been constituted to provide strategic and technical advice to the Centre and the State governments on key policy matters. 
  • NITI Aayog will seek to provide a critical directional and strategic input into the development process.
  • It focuses on co-operative federalism.

Argument in Favour

  • Initiatives like Ayushmaan Bharat, approach towards artificial intelligence and water conservation measures, and the draft bill to establish the National Medical Commission to replace the Medical Council of India have all been conceptualized in NITI Aayog, and are being taken forward by the respective Ministries. In that sense, NITI Aayog is acting more like an action tank rather than just a think tank.
  • By bringing in fresh and innovative ideas, NITI Aayog can emerge as an agent of change over time and contribute to the improvement of governance and implementing innovative measures for better delivery of public services.
  • To push forward an agenda, a huge degree of convergence across a number of Ministries, and between Central and State governments, is required. NITI Aayog works to cut across the silos within the government.
  • NITI Aayog is also bringing about a greater level of accountability in the system. Erstwhile Five-Year Plans were mostly evaluated long after the plan period had ended. Hence, there was no real accountability.
  • NITI Aayog collects data on the performance of various Ministries on a real-time basis and uses it at the highest policymaking levels to establish accountability and improve performance. This monitoring and evaluation of government work can have a significant impact on improving the efficiency of governance.
  • Using such data, it also comes up with performance-based rankings of States across various verticals to foster a spirit of competitive federalism. That is another big mandate of NITI Aayog.
  • Aayog identifies the best practices in different States in various sectors and then try to replicate them in other States.
  • It also plays an important role of being the States’ representative in Delhi, and facilitate direct interactions with the line ministries, which can address issues in a relatively shorter time.
  • The Atal Innovation Mission, established under NITI Aayog, has already done commendable work in improving the innovation ecosystem in India by establishing more than 1,500 Atal Tinkering Labs in schools across the country and this number is expected to go up to 5,000 by March 2019.

With its current mandate that is spread across a range of sectors and activities, and with its unique and vibrant work culture, NITI Aayog remains an integral and relevant component of the government’s plans to put in place an efficient, transparent, innovative and accountable governance system in the country.

Argument in Against

  • The replacement of planning commission by NITI Aayog looks more apologetic than substantial for the task of transforming a deeply unequal society into a modern economy that ensures the welfare of all its citizens, irrespective of their social identity.
  • It has no role in influencing public or private investment.
  • It does not seem to have any influence in policymaking with long-term consequences. For instance, demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax.
  • NITI Aayog is supposed to be a think tank. This implies that while generating new ideas, it maintains a respectable intellectual distance from the government of the day. Instead, what we see is uncritical praise of government-sponsored schemes.
  • It regards the private corporate sector as the savior of the Indian economy without realizing the foundational and socially oriented contribution of India’s vast public sector.
  • A country like India cannot transform itself with new ideas and strategies if it doesn’t have a paradigm of planning for development.
  • Ideas alone cannot answer why –
    • It cannot be ensured that every working member of the Indian population has a decent job with at least a minimum wage and social/employment security.
    • more than 90% of those in the workforce slog in the unorganized sector — in small farms and tiny non-farm establishments — with two-thirds of the total being working poor.
    • Answer why more than half the workers in the organized sector end up as ‘insecure’ or ‘informal’ labour.
    • why the labour force participation rate of women is so low and declining when neighbours like Bangladesh have registered an increasing trend.
    • why the Dalits and Adivasis continue to be at the bottom of the ladder in every conceivable social and economic indicator of well-being.
    • why regional, gender and other inequalities based on social identity keep increasing.

India requires planning that addresses social justice, reduces regional and gender inequalities, and ensures environmental sustainability.

Conclusion

  • For a complex country like India that became an industrial economy, late planning would, and should, remain a central function of the state in the medium run. The Planning Commission did not fulfill its function adequately. NITI Aayog will need to evolve into a much stronger organization than it is.
  • If NITI Aayog is to adopt a planning framework in India, two major changes in governance structures are needed. First, planning will have to become more decentralized, but within a five-year plan framework. Second, the bureaucracy will need to change from generalist to specialist, and its accountability will have to be based on outcomes achieved, not inputs or funds spent.

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