Shooting for the sky
Back from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit 2019, Prime Minister immediately convened the fifth governing council meeting of NITI Aayog in presence of all chief ministers of the country. Ahead of the parliamentary sessions and the Union Budget scheduled to be tabled in July, NITI Aayogy's governing council meeting serves as a potential pipeline to objectives at hand and realities befalling upon the country. While the country bears the brunt of economic slowdown, the Prime Minister, in his inaugural speech, stressed the goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. Asking states to focus on their core competencies, the prime minister urged them to work towards increasing the GDP from the root level – districts. Like any theory of change methodology, the long-term goal plagued with challenges mentioned in the beginning only makes the agenda clear. If the goal of reaching a $5 trillion economy is set, intermediary hiccups will have to be accommodated for the larger said cause. Prime Minister's assertion is of the essence since everything, and practically everything accounts for itself in the economy of a country. The adversities we face right now, the development we undertake, the progression we register and the fruits we yield of all the hard work gets reflected in the GDP. Modi's vision follows a common man's advancement. In a directly proportional relationship, the rise in GDP, as per economics, is directly linked to an increase in purchasing power of layman. With the long-term goal set, the five years stand to pose uncountable obstacles which the Modi dispensation will have to face and overcome to realise such an audacious dream. Modi announced the constitution of a high-powered committee comprising some chief ministers as well as Union ministers on 'structural reforms in agriculture'. Given the case how the country reels under agrarian crisis and considering the reverberating promise of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, bringing in structural reforms to agriculture now assumes priority. India achieved milestones with the Green Revolution wherein along with HYV seeds, government intervention to provide appropriate irrigation facility apart from subsidies on fertilisers and pesticides led to a transformational change. Now, a reform is required to process a change of similar level so that the transition can aid India's ailing agricultural sector that happens to be the lifeline of any economy. From extending PM KISAN to tillers to ensuring benefits from export/import of farm items are reaped by the farmers, several ideas circulated through the panel discussion as other co-related hiccups came into the fray. The water crisis is perhaps another great challenge for the country and the drought in various parts of the country has only aggravated the former issue. The newly instated Jal Shakti Ministry will have a herculean task of surveying water reserves, mapping low-water areas, preparing reports and suggesting conservational and sustainable steps to save water besides using it judiciously. Piped water to households takes priority but will only be successful after water adversity is resolved at the source level. Water crisis at the time of drought is perhaps the worst combination and currently, states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, et al are facing this. Delayed monsoon has reduced Maharasthra's dam's water level to 6.61 per cent of total capacity urging the authority to unleash water tankers. The number of water tankers deployed this year is 6,597 – enough to realise the grave adversity considering last year at the same time around only 1,777 tankers were deployed. It is not just about tanker deployment or taking a measure of water shortage since adversities are not just discomfort or derailment from the usual course of action. They come at a cost. 45 per cent rain deficit in Karnataka has urged the state to seek relief from the Centre. Last year, in both Kharif and Rabi crop seasons, as many as 100 and 156 taluks were declared drought-affected and cost Rs 16,660 and Rs 11,384 crore respectively. A small snapshot of how costly drought is can be perceived and hence, efforts to rejuvenate water sources, widen irrigation scope, increase dam connectivity to regions are steps necessary to avoid another water-crisis year. Planning and management take essence in several more areas which NITI Aayog in its annual assessments has pointed out but sadly, the body, unlike erstwhile Planning Commission, lacks the financial power as cited by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who did not attend the meeting. Echoing her point, Kerala CM P Vijayan outlined that NITI Aayog has not played the role of a facilitator and there is a need to revive the planning commission.