- In the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, focus was on increasing investment in the agriculture sector, boosting exports, and addressing issues of water supply and conservation.
- The fifth meeting of the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog comes in the backdrop of challenges on the economic front and rising unemployment rates (45-year high of 6.1 per cent).
Key Points discussed in the meeting:
- The meeting focused on the need to increase exports and explore untapped export potential in several states in order to drive economic growth
- A thrust on export promotion at the state level will provide a boost to both income and employment.
Need for structural reform in agriculture
- There is need to boost corporate investment, strengthen logistics, and provide ample market support.
- The food processing sector should grow at a faster pace than food grain production.
- Scrapping of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 because it is thought to be an “impediment in the free movement of commodities” given that the country is now mostly self-sufficient.
- Flagship schemes like PM-KISAN, should reach intended beneficiaries well within time.
- PM Modi also announces panel with CMs for deep reforms in agriculture, which would submit its report in the next few months.
Note: The focus towards reviving the agrarian sector assumes significance as it has been witnessing low farm prices over the past few years leading to several large-scale farm protests.
Issue of water supply and conservation
- Official data shows that coverage of village households with piped water has annually increased from 12 per cent in 2013-14 to 17 per cent in 2017-2018, highlighting the need to seriously accelerate the programme.
- The newly created Jal Shakti Ministry would help provide an integrated approach to water, with the aim of providing piped water to every rural home by 2024 and raising the water table.
- Sources said the challenge to achieve 100 per cent coverage of piped water supply by 2024 is similar to that of increasing the toilet coverage from just 33 per cent in October 2014 to over 99 per cent now.
- To spread awareness of water conservation and to check wastage, the government may deploy “jaldoots” (volunteers) on the lines of “swachhdoots” in villages.
- Rules and regulations, such as model building bye-laws, also need to be framed for water conservation and management.
- To address the drought-like situation in many states, the Council has decided to set up a North East Water Management Committee which will finalise its report soon.
- There were also demands to review the National Disaster Relief Fund norms and changes in the Forest Act.
- Water, conservation and irrigation both require a massive effort based on public participation.
Other issues discussed
- Boost Mining: A panel to recommend ways to boost mining output.
- National Security: Issues of national security with specific focus on Left Wing Extremism-affected districts
- Health Sector:
- The health sector to achieve several targets by 2022, including the aim of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025.
- Stressed on the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana under Ayushman Bharat.
- Need of collective fight against poverty, unemployment, flood, pollution, corruption, and violence.
- Effective steps to tackle drought by adopting ‘per-drop, more-crop’ strategy.
- India needs to prioritise and make appropriate interventions to solve these issues and NITI Aayog has a key role to play in fulfilling the mantra of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas”.