New Delhi: NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya's sudden exit might not have been so sudden after all.
While those close to Panagariya maintained that one shouldn't read too much into his resignation and that he wanted to return to academia, one wonders whether the constant questioning of the functioning of the NITI Aayog by the RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) is one of the reasons for Panagariya's exit?
In January, on the occasion of 2 years of NITI Aayog, the SJM had organized a seminar to discuss the functioning of the planning body. Though Panagariya and other members of the NITI Aayog were invited, only Bibek Debroy turned up briefly.
The daylong meeting assessed the performance of NITI Aayog threadbare and was highly critical of it.
Dr Ashwini Mahajan, co-convenor of the SJM, told News18, “We have nothing to do with the resignation but we have been saying that any think tank in the government set up should work in sync with the govt agenda. NITI Aayog was not functioning as per its preamble, and was not in sync with PM's wishes and his govt's policies.”
The SJM has consistently opposed the approach of the NITI Aayog on two counts — GM crops and taking a contrarian view to government's efforts on controlling the drugs price regime.
“Planning commission was about ‘one size fitting all’, NITI Aayog was based on the principles of cooperative federalism but on its stand on GM crops it didn't take the states on board. That should have been adopted as most states are against the GM crops,” he added.
On May 1, the SJM had also written a letter to PM Modi accusing NITI Aayog of having 'vested interests, and sabotaging the govt's plan of drug control regime. The letter said, “We note that the NITI Aayog has a history of aligning with the vested interests in the relevant ministries to dismantle the regime of price control and wind up the NPPA. In continuation of the NITI Aayog's attempts to deregulate the pharmaceutical market, it has made the following recommendation in the Three Year Action Agenda.' It had also accused the Niti Aayog of working 'against the national interests and are fundamentally anti-poor.”