Debating Development Paradigms of Niti Aayog

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 14th April 2015
The advantage of democracy is that people can critically review any government policy or plan of action. The freedom of expression enables people to analyse, reason and explore every option, and they have the option of using media to share their perspectives. Can't we have healthy discussions on the most important issues that are going to affect us and our future generations?

Niti Aayog Vice Chair Mr. Arvind Pangaria says that, "half of the people have to be shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and services sector" ('How will those migrating people get satisfying jobs or create ventures in cities?' remains a question in itself). He says that 49% of agriculture is producing just 14% of GDP and more dependence on farming sector creates problems (Why should the government treat it as a problem?) for government as it is difficult for government to provide relief during hailstorm etc. The Niti Aayog will further provide consultancy to states to move in the right direction. It means similar policies will be followed by states also on advice of Niti Aayog. These are the policies that have been followed by the government in last six decades and the same policies have been responsible for massive unplanned urbanization and massive depreciation in rural life and rural economy. Like the previous Planning Commission, the Niti Aayog is also treating economics over and above sociology, psychology, happiness, human development and non-monetary dynamics of development. What is the difference between Planning Commission and Niti Aayog in terms of policies and fundamental approach?

Can’t we have a healthier discussion on the policies that the government is pursuing?
Niti Aayog
Let me take you to the times of Great Ashoka. Once upon a time, Ashoka used to think that he would become great only through blind expansion of his kingdom. After Kalinga War, he realized that he was wrong. He repented for his mis-deeds. He became great because he realized his mistake and started nationwide developmental work and stopped all kinds of violence. His greatness was not due to his expansionary policies, but due to his benevolence and commitment to non-violence. Ashoka had a reincarnation after Kalinga War. We thought that Niti Aayog would be a reincarnation of Planning Commission, but probably we were wrong.

From the perspectives of Niti Aayog, it is quite clear that GDP is going to dominate their decision making and their only objective is to ensure higher GDP. Is this a desirable approach? Isn't it the blind pursuit of GDP that has brought us to the difficulties that we are facing today and, if this continues we will experience many difficulties in the years to come for sure. People want happiness not earnings. People want to pursue a life of balance, not of production house. The priorities for common people are clear; they want to treat income as means of achievement of higher goals but not the end in itself. Why are then the priorities of common people not the priorities of Niti Aayog? Why doesn't Niti Aayog take up the priority of human development, human happiness and human delight as its goals rather than taking GDP as its goals? If we can infer the policies of the government and project them, it's clear that these policies will shift most people from agriculture, animal husbandry and allied fields to manufacturing and services sector. Are we not creating possibilities of human dissatisfaction?

Visit any village and you'll find tremendous joy and happiness spread around in fields, and people relish their lives with their families and cattle. The focus of government should shift from centralized development to development of village connectivity, enabling villages to have technologies and enabling villagers to engage in other engaging (and interesting) pursuits like social forestry, art and craft work, handicraft production and socialization of new generations.

It's already well known that the people in rural parts of India are experiencing better life (better fitness, better food and air and better social life in spite of poor infrastructure and facilities). The goal of human life is not to contribute to the GDP of the country, but to lead a better life. Who has given the mandate to the government to divest people of their joys of life? Why shouldn’t the government take up rural infrastructure as its priority and consider rural India also as its focus of activities? If Rs. 41,000 Crores can be planned for development of a developed city, can’t the government plan for developing infrastructure and support system of our villages?

Amrita Project of Government of Rajasthan has enabled women to earn good money even in villages through animal husbandry, handicraft, cottage industries and food products (in addition to farming). Such initiatives have not only brought forward inclusive growth, but have also enabled  people to earn, enjoy and participate in their own village’s development. The planner should take a leaf out of such initiatives.
Let us again recall the phrase “Jai Jawan – Jai Kisaan” – the farmers will have a very important role to play and it hardly matters if they are contributing less to the GDP. Let me rephrase the voices of people migrating from villages to cities as below: -  

Witness to daily chores
Hoping to earn my square meal,
Suffering in trains, buses and trams
Searching for identify
I recall my village
The gambol and frolics
The prank and gossips
The dusty air of my fields
The supporting hands of relatives
The banyan tree and the swings
The narratives of friends and
The chores of rituals
Can I again be with my roots?
Can there be a new dawn of hope in my village?
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