The Institution has been set up to serve as a policy think tank providing strategic and technical advice to governments at the federal and state (sub-national) levels as well as disseminating national and international best practices. NITI Aayog recently released a Three-Year Action Agenda covering the years 2017-18 to 2019-20. The Action Agenda addresses the specific challenges facing the country and details measures to fast-track the national development agenda. Reflecting the country’s long-standing federal tradition, this document was prepared with active participation of the state governments.
Another major role of NITI is fostering collaboration between the government at the national and sub-national levels. In this context, indices have been developed to measure the performance of states in health, education and water management and nudge them towards transformative action in these areas. NITI is also co-funding an effort to create best-practice models in education and health followed by dissemination across the country with states that have been selected through a challenge process.
Crucially, with the development of an output-outcome framework, NITI has shifted the focus from tracking financial outlays to the achievement of actual outcomes by the various initiatives launched by the government ministries and departments.
Further, a number of critical governance reforms are being championed by NITI including the formulation of a model act on agricultural land leasing and drafting of the National Medical Commission Bill, 2016 which aims to overhaul the system of medical education in the country.
After the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted, NITI Aayog, with the Prime Minister as its chairperson, was assigned the responsibility of overseeing their implementation in the country. NITI has carried out a detailed mapping of the 17 Goals and 169 targets to federal government ministries, and major government initiatives. Most state governments have carried out a similar mapping of the SDGs and targets to the departments and programmes in their respective states.
Considerable progress has been made in India towards the achievement of the SDGs. Poverty has fallen across all economic, social and religious groups nationally and in all states. This has been enabled by the implementation of several large-scale anti-poverty programmes. Nearly 3.21 million houses were constructed in 2016-17 as part of the “Housing for All by 2022” initiative in rural areas. Ensuring adequate sanitation facilities for the entire population has gained tremendous impetus over the last few years following the Prime Minister’s clarion call to the people of India to ensure that the country becomes open defecation free by October 2, 2019, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. Five states in the country are already open defecation free.
Significant strides have been made in the areas of health and nutrition as well. Stunting among children under 5 years declined from 48% to 38.4% between 2005-06 and 2015-16. During the same period, the percentage of underweight children declined from 42.5% to 35.7%. More than 800 million people are provided food grains at affordable prices through the Public Distribution System. Additionally, the Mid-Day-Meal Programme is providing nutritious cooked meals to 100 million children in primary schools. Further, the Infant Mortality Rate declined from 57 in 2005-06 to 41 in 2015-16 and the under-5 Mortality Rate fell from 74 to 50 over the same period.
A number of indicators pertaining to the status of women in India have also moved in the right direction over the years. For instance, 68.4% of women were literate in 2015-16, as compared to 55.1% in 2005-06. Approximately 53% of women were independently using a bank or savings account in 2015-16, which is a significant improvement from 15.1% in 2005-06.
All forms of transportation – roads, railways, civil aviation and waterways – are being rapidly expanded. Efforts are underway to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to all village councils in the country. Additionally, the installed capacity in non-fossil-fuel sectors has grown by 51.3% and more than doubled in the renewable energy sector (solar, wind, bio- and small hydro power).
Given the size, diversity and complexity of the country, these are no small achievements. As India continues to strive towards attainment of the ambitious SDGs, NITI Aayog will play a crucial role by connecting the different stakeholders, including the governments at the federal and state levels, civil society organizations, private sector as well as the citizens; monitoring the effectiveness of implementation of various government initiatives and disseminating good practices and lessons learned.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are personal.