Swadeshi Jagran Manch decides to audit Niti Aayog after it supports GM crops

NEW DELHI: The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the RSS that deals with economic issues, will conduct a ‘threadbare assessment’ of whether Niti Aayog has delivered on its mandate and how it can be ‘nudged back’ in the right direction. SJM will hold a seminar in the second week of January, where economists, policymakers, former Planning Commission members and Niti Aayog officials will try to evolve a ‘constructive discourse’ over the Niti Aayog’s ‘true mandate’.

The Manch held an internal deliberation on Thursday evening to work out details of the approach to Niti Aayog. It has also started inviting economists for the meeting. Incidentally, the move comes after Niti Aayog expressed its support for GM crops. SJM Co-Convenor Ashwani Mahajan confirmed to ET that the organisation was working towards evolving a discourse around Niti Aayog and its functioning so far.

“The Niti Aayog was created, as the PM said, to replace the Planning Commission’s one size fits all approach and to usher in true cooperative federalism. It has been two years now and we feel it is time to assess threadbare how much Niti Aayog has done to meet these objectives, on whether the spirit and preamble of the Niti Aayog as originally envisaged is actually being followed or not, whether the reports so far reflect the larger intention,” Mahajan told ET.

“This is not about criticising Niti Aayog but about a constructive debate on its role and expectations from it, the path ahead. There is no debate at all around the direction Niti Aayog is taking though it is two years since its inception. We feel the stakeholder mindset needs revisions especially in sectors of health, education, agriculture and manufacturing. We also feel that so far the 5-year plan mindset has not gone out of states and shouldn’t the Aayog be working on that,” asked Mahajan.

SJM also feels the reports by the Aayog do not accurately reflect stakeholders’ views. SJM has had brushes with the Niti Aayog in the past too. It took on Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya once, saying that appointments of free market economists like him were landing the Modi government in wrong spots vis-à-vis farmer interest as was evident in the Land Acquisition Bill.

The latest provocation seems to be on account of Genetically Modified crops. While SJM has been consistently opposed to GM crops, the Niti Aayog’s latest endorsement of the crops has not gone down well with it at all. Its paper, ‘Raising agricultural productivity and making farming remunerative for farmers,’ says that while objections to GM technologies were based on fears that they may harm humans consuming the produce and adversely impact biodiversity, no ‘compelling evidence supporting either of these fears has emerged more than two decades after the original introduction of GM foods in 1994.