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'Niti Aayog Removed From Ground Realities on GM Technology, Health'

The RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch held a day long ‘Round Table Conference on two years of Niti Aayog’, presented dialogue papers on GM technology, health sector and made scathing remarks on “how removed Aayog is from the ground realities” in considering these issues.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:January 10, 2017, 10:27 PM IST
'Niti Aayog Removed From Ground Realities on GM Technology, Health'
The review meeting by RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch on the performance of Niti Aayog was held at the India International Centre.

New Delhi: The RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch held a day long ‘Round Table Conference on two years of Niti Aayog’, presented dialogue papers on GM technology, health sector and made scathing remarks on “how removed Aayog is from the ground realities” in considering these issues. While speaking to News 18, the national co-convener of the outfit, Ashwani Mahajan said, “Two years is a good enough time for evaluating, debating about the role and performance of any particular institution, and this is an important juncture for doing this, especially in the light of some reports on Niti Aayog that have come up.”

Commenting on the disconnect between the ground realities and Aayog’s stand, Mahajan said, “The members of the Aayog have been saying that they are going according to the preamble and objectives meant for it, but on the ground things are not happening that way. At least, we don’t see it. For instance, on the GM technology, they were supposed to consult the state governments, farmers and the other groups. You can see they have so much opposition on this issue. No single state has given a yes to the technology. Even then they are coming out with a report supporting it. That raises a question mark on the functioning of the Niti Aayog.”

There are issues with regards to health as well, he said. “As far as the vision of the Prime Minister is concerned, it is about the easy affordability of medicine in health but the kind of information we have received is not in sync with the vision and government policies.”

The ‘Niti Dialogue Paper on Health Sector’ says the Niti Aayog is not in favour of free healthcare and “it is strongly recommending higher role of private sector and insurance-based model to be offered by private players for health services to the people.” These views, the paper suggests, are in contrast to the redrafted National Health Policy, which proposed free medicare and the new input has stalled the formation of New National Health Policy. Showing the way forward in this regard, SJM suggested to focus on “finding ways to reduce the country’s dependence on China for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs)” and to come out with a detailed plan “encouraging the use of AYUSH and other traditional methods, making medical treatment more reliable and affordable to all sections of the society.”

Speaking to News 18, Mahajan said, “I am afraid whether this really is even in the mandate of the Niti Aayog. Whatever they are doing… that is also a question mark. We will do something, and through this discussion, show some path towards a better management. This conference is not for criticism. It is a critical review, debate and this should go on in the democratic country.”

The Round Table Conference had people from “all ideologies” – there was environmental activist Vandana Shiva, retired JNU Professor Arun Kumar, policy analyst Sanjaya Baru, BJP MP Virendra Singh Mast et al. The RSS-affiliated group plans to send the recommendations to Niti Aayog, Mahajan said. “The Vice Chairman of the Niti Aayog, Arvind Panagariya, has mailed saying he will be looking forward to our suggestions. We will definitely be making a report and discuss with the members.”

Another important reason to hold this conference is, he said, “Nobody is talking about what is happening in Niti Ayog. This is the duty of the political class – ruling party and opposition. But they are talking about other things like demonetisation. Don’t know what kind of political thinking they have. We have been raising these issues for long, and there is nothing political with what we are doing.”

In the ‘Niti Dialogue paper: Understanding the governance of Niti Aayog with reference to its recommendation for GM technology’, presented at the Round Table, the RSS-affiliated outfit concluded, “It is unfortunate to see what Aayog has done by supporting the GM technology without doing the ground-level work. In India, the only commercialised GM crop is BT Cotton and both industry and the central government have deliberately painted a picture of its success saying it has led to an increase in production and the cost of cultivation has gone down. However, the ground reality is bluntly different.”

The paper further said that lakhs of BT Cotton farmers have committed suicide, and brought out other pressing issues which led to a debate about the suitability of BT Cotton and GM technology in India. SJM sees the complete failure of the ‘7 Pillars Approach to Effective Governance of Niti Aayog’ because the expected role is not being performed. “The expected role should be a ban on GM technology, but, surprisingly, it has suggested that India should adopt it,” said the paper.

The note further said, “After analysing the performance of Niti Aayog with regards to GM technology, it is very much obvious that the members perhaps are unaware of what to perform and how to perform. They are supposed to win the confidence of all the stakeholders before making any advice to the Centre, but with regards to GM technology, the Aayog has done even reverse of its prime and prescribed job. The purpose maybe to give the benefit to one company or another. They are basically promoting or forcefully implementing the agenda of some big corporates.”

“So, there is a need to see the direction and control of all the activities in the line of its prescribed basic roles and functions,” concluded the Niti Dialogue paper on GM technology.

| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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