Describing “poverty alleviation” as the biggest challenge before the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked chief ministers of various states to “bury differences” and focus on investment cycle, job creation, growth and prosperity.
Chairing the first meeting of the Governing Council of the newly-created NITI Aayog, Modi said, “The Aayog would forge a model of cooperative and competitive federalism in eradication of poverty.”
He also asked the Aayog to ascertain how many of the 66 centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs) should be shelved or transferred to states. While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped the meeting, Bihar CM Jitan Ram Majhi, who may be on his way out, was among those present.
Emphasising that it was imperative to have greater financial devolution and allow flexibility to states to decide their welfare schemes, the PM asked the Aayog to constitute a sub-group of CMs to decide on continuation of the 66 CSSs. Two other such sub-groups will look at skill development and ways to make Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a continuous programme.
“We will move away from one-size-fits-all schemes and forge a better match between schemes and the needs of states,” Modi said.
According to a note circulated for the meeting, given that the next two years would be a period of transition towards “fast-tracking growth and faster development”, the state governments may have to continue with annual plans, but the focus would be on more intensive outcomes.
Noting that projects were often held up for want of timely decisions, Modi sought “personal attention” of CMs to eliminate hurdles.
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Emerging from the meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the states had also been asked to form two task forces on development of the farm sector and poverty alleviation.
“It was an extremely useful meeting, where there was a large consensus on the need to empower states,” he said, adding that the PM had pointed out that the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana had been successful because of everyone’s cooperation.
The PM acknowledged that the CMs had given valuable inputs on area specific development, and tweeted that “the spirit of cooperative federalism will enhance India’s progress and prosperity”.
Chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Uttar Padesh are learnt to have pressed for more financial autonomy in deciding welfare schemes.
Arguing that India would not progress without all its states advancing in tandem, Modi stressed the spirit of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ . Growth was needed to create jobs as well as alleviate poverty, he said.