India econ slump weighs down PM's 1st Niti Aayog meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing the meeting, which is being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. (Image courtesy Twitter/@NITIAayog)

Concerns over India's slowing economy echoed in the Niti's Aayog's Governing Council meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking each state to recognise their core competence, and work towards raising gross domestic product (GDP) targets right from the district level.

Chairing the Governing Council, the largest congregation of chief ministers, Modi said a collective fight was needed to lift India out of poverty, unemployment, drought, flood, pollution, corruption and violence and asked the states to begin work in earnest towards creating New India by 2022.

“The goal to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024, is challenging, but can surely be achieved. States should recognise their core competence, and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level,” Modi said in his opening remarks at the first meeting of the reconstituted Niti Aayog's Governing Council after a landslide victory of NDA in the General Elections.

But chief ministers of three states gave it a miss. Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, K Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana and Amarinder Singh of Punjab have failed to make it to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, where the meeting is currently on

While Banerjee had communicated her decision to the Prime Minister in advance, calling it a “fruitless” exercise Rao made it known only at the eleventh hour that his pre-occupation with state issues would not allow him to fly to Delhi.

Singh missed the first ever meeting of the Governing Council that is going to set the tone of India's broad development agenda for the next five years, as he has taken ill.

Singh will, however, send his chief secretary to the meeting but he can only sit and take note at the meeting without exchanging any ideas because the protocol allows only chief ministers to be the main participants.

Against the backdrop of intensifying international trade war, the prime minister said India's falling exports needed attention and asked states, especially the North-Eastern states to tap their untapped potential.

“A thrust on export promotion at the State level will provide a boost to both income and employment,” Modi said.

On the looming water crisis in the country, the prime minister said attention has to be given to water conservation and raising the water table.

Water crisis is one of the main agendas of the meeting as it comes on the back of Niti Aayog's warning that 21 cities of India, including Bangalore and national capital Delhi, will run out of ground water by 2020.

On security concerns of Naxal-affected districts, Modi said the battle against Naxal violence was now in a “decisive phase”.

“The violence will be dealt with firmly, even as development proceeds in a fast-paced and balanced manner,” he said.

Modi urged those states who have not implemented PMJAY under Ayushman Bharat, so far, to come on board this scheme at the earliest. He said health and wellness should be the focal point of every decision

The meeting will also discuss threadbare the drought situation in parts of the country, use of rainwater in harvesting and farm distress. Other items in the agenda are a review of aspirational district programme and structural reforms in agriculture.

The Governing Council of NITI Aayog comprises the Prime Minister of India, chief ministers of all the states and Union Territories with legislatures and Lt Governors of other Union Territories, and other special invitees.

It is the premier body tasked with evolving a shared vision of national development priorities, sectors and strategies with the active involvement of states in shaping the development narrative.

Union ministers of defence, minister of home affairs, minister of finance and corporate affairs, minister of agriculture and farmers welfare, rural development and panchayati raj, as ex-officio members; vice-chairman, CEO and senior officers of NITI Aayog; and minister of road transport and highways, and micro, small and medium enterprises, minister of social justice and empowerment, minister of railways and commerce and industry, minister of state (independent charge) of ministry of statistics and programme implementation and ministry of planning, will be attending the event as special invitees to the Governing Council.

Special invitees also include the national security adviser, minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, minister of Jal Shakti and the Minister of animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries.

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