NITI Aayog governing council meets; 12 CMs abstain

The governing council of NITI Aayog headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reviewed the work done by three sub-groups of chief ministers and two task forces under the NITI Aayog.

The second meeting of the council in New Delhi also held consultations on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, the new legislation that was to replace a more benevolent Act that business had opposed.

However, representation at the council meeting was thin as 12 chief ministers from states ruled by the Congress Party and other opposition parties, which had led the opposition attack on the contentious land bill, boycotted the NITI Aayog meet.

Among the non-Congress chief ministers who missed the meeting are West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee, Odisha's Naveen Patnaik and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Tamil Nadu's J Jayalalithaa also skipped the meeting due to health reasons, but was represented by her trusted aide and former chief minister O Paneerselvam.

Addressing the opening session of the meeting, the prime minister said the political deadlock over land acquisition is seriously impacting rural development, including the creation of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation projects. He reiterated that as far as paying enhanced compensation is concerned, there are no differences in the stands of the centre and states.

He justified the changes in the land bill saying that many states had felt that development work was suffering due to the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, adding that some chief ministers had requested for changes in the Act, and sent letters to this effect.

The prime minister said that the ordinance was brought about in response to these development concerns of the states, and also to ensure that farmers continue to receive their legitimate due.

He said the vision of his government was that state units should be the focus of all development efforts, as part of `Team India.' He recalled that chief ministers had always felt that development policies at the centre should be framed in consultation with the states.

The prime minister said that the last one year had been a good beginning, with states being taken on board in the planning process, and state chief ministers taking the lead in sub-groups of the NITI Aayog.

The prime minister appealed to state governments to grow above political considerations and help facilitate development of the rural areas, and work for greater prosperity for the farmers.

He said the land bill is now before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and therefore, ahead of the upcoming Parliament session, it was appropriate that the suggestions of states be heard once again.

The government had constituted three sub-groups of chief ministers under the NITI Aayog on centrally sponsored schemes (CSS), skill development and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which are led by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, respectively.

The two task forces on poverty and agriculture are being headed by NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya.

These sub-groups and task forces are working on the responsibilities entrusted to them and are in the process of submitting their reports.