New Delhi - The fourth annual meeting of the NITI Aayog's Governing Council was conducted on Sunday in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chaired the meet, gave the target of achieving double digit economic growth as well as the idea to link MNREGA employment with agriculture, among other things.
Modi also tried to placate the Chief Ministers of states like Andhra Pradesh and Bihar who have been demanding special category status for their states by reassuring that the Centre was committed in "letter and spirit" to adhere to statutory provisions in place at the time of the bifurcation of states.
After the meet at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, attended by 23 Chief Ministers and the Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and CEO Amitabh Kant briefed the reporters on what transpired in it.
Modi said the Indian economy grew at a healthy 7.7% in the fourth quarter of 2017-18 and the challenge now was to turn this to "double digits".
"The challenge now is to take this growth rate to double digits, for which many more important steps have to be taken. The vision of a New India by 2022 is now a resolve of the people of our country," he told the meeting.
On the 2022 development agenda document -- that was expected to be placed in the meeting, Rajiv Kumar said the document is ready but was withheld as more comprehensive consultations from the states were being sought before it is finally tabled for adoption.
"The draft is ready but the idea is to make it as inclusive as possible. We did not present it today in the meeting lest the states should think that they were not sufficiently consulted. Although the states have been preliminary consulted on this but we would seek more comprehensive inputs," he said.
He said that the document would be fully ready in about a month.
Rajeev Kumar also informed the reporters that the Prime Minister also mooted the idea of a committee of Chief Ministers to examine the idea of linking MNREGA with agriculture in a way that both should complement each other.
He also encouraged the states to explore opportunities to increase corporate investment in agriculture, such as in food processing, warehousing and logistics.
"The committee would examine the feasibility of using the employment generated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in agriculture related activities both pre-harvest and post-harvest," he said.
The committee, headed by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and comprising Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Vijay Rupani (Gujarat), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), N. Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh) and Pawan Chamling (Sikkim), would be notified on Monday.
Under MNREGA, the Central government has to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed employment involving unskilled manual work in a financial year to every household in rural areas.
Modi yet again brought up the issue of simultaneous polls and urged for a consensus to be built on the issue. He also spoke of a single voters list for all elections.
Delhi's Arvind Kejriwal was among the Chief Ministers who did not attend the meeting. However, Rajiv Kumar said that while the rest of the Chief Ministers skipping the meet informed him beforehand citing reasons such as flood in their states etc, Kejriwal did not inform in advance.
Amitabh Kant said that Kejriwal was invited "several times" but there was no communication from his side. He also clarified that Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal was not present at the meet in Kejriwal's place, since he is "not a member of the Governing Council".
The Governing Council of NITI Aayog comprises the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers of all the states and Union Territories with legislatures and Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and four Union Ministers as ex-officio members and three Union Ministers as Special Invitees.
It is the premier body tasked with evolving a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of states in shaping the development narrative.