NITI Aayog ineffective in curbing inequality: Report

Latest India Exclusion Report flags several areas of concern

By Jitendra
Published: Tuesday 04 December 2018
Exclusion from financial institutions has both social and economic consequences. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Exclusion from financial institutions has both social and economic consequences. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Exclusion from financial institutions has both social and economic consequences. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to replace Planning Commission with NITI Aayog has not been effective. In fact, the functioning of the new agency has only increased exclusion in the Indian society, according to the India Exclusion Report 2017-18 released December 4 by Centre for Equity Studies (CES).

“This report look into evidences which shows whether Indian states succeeded or failed in fulfilling the constitutional mandate established by the country’s founding fathers,” Harsh Mander, Director of CES, says.

The dismantling of the Commission and the merger of planned and non-planned budget has proved non-effective, according to the fourth edition of the report brought out by the New Delhi-based not-for-profit engaged in research and advocacy on issues of social justice.

 “NITI Aayog’s agenda so far has been to advocate privatisation in provisioning public goods and services which consequent to exclusion in the society” says Jawed Alam Khan, one of the writer of this report.

“The erstwhile Planning Commission was engaged in planning and budgetary process and planning of target scheme for weaker section of the society like Schedule caste (SC) and schedule tribes (ST) sub plan,” he adds.

The report deals with how much the Centre has succeeded in ensuring equitable access to public goods such as higher education, banking and credit, land (for tribal people) and fair trial to those sentenced to death. It recommends policy changes for more inclusive and equitable governance.

Authored by several writers engaged in advocacy in different domains, the report seeks changes in the mandate of NITI Ayog, which it finds now has negligible focus on systemic weaknesses, implementation challenges, bureaucratic reforms and government-citizen interaction.

Higher education is quite regulated and there is discrimination in eligibility and selection criteria, according to the report; women, SCs, STs and other backward classes are under-represented vis-à-vis their share in the population. The sector is dominated by upper caste Hindus.

The share of all groups, other than the upper castes, has been rising with an increasing number of institutions, noted Apoorvanand and Satish Deshpandey, authors of the chapter. The number of women are increasing among all.

Arguing that demonetisation made those people more vulnerable who have limited or no access to financial institutions, Dipa Sinha writes that the definition of financial inclusion should not be confined to opening of accounts in the banks. Its definition should extend to access to banking institutions and formal credit facilities.

Exclusion from financial institutions has both social and economic consequences. The writer recommends social banking to include the population left out and protect them from the clutches of exploitative money-lenders of the informal sector. Banks can use digitisation to benefit them.

The report underscores rising land alienation among India’s tribal population. The rate of landlessness has increased since 1991, when India adopted a new economic policy and land has since been diverted for industrial and developmental purposes.’

It points out different ways such as occupation by non-tribals, development projects, creation of national parks and the exclusion forest rights, insurgency and counter-insurgency operations.

The chapter’s author Rajanaya Bose recommend proper implementation of protective laws like the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and strengthening Gram Sabhas under the PESA Act, 1996.

This report also discusses the plight of tea garden workers, dying from starvation and those suffering from mental illness and homelessness.

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