After the unceremonious exit of RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, another eminent economist has bitten the dust. This time it is Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog. Niti Aayog is a government think tank being formed after dissolving the Planning Commission. As per the general perception, the scope and spectrum of Niti Aayog is much more curtailed compared to the Planning Commission.
Arvind Panagariya has announced to quit Niti Aayog on August 31 and go back to academia at Columbia University.
Panagariya gave the official reason for quitting as “If I were at 40, then I would have got job anywhere… the kind of job I have at Columbia is almost impossible to get at this age.”
However, suspicion is brewing that RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) pressurized him to quit. They have been questioning the operation of Panagariya constantly, although one wonders how much knowledge and expertise they have regarding the economics and economy.
Dr Ashwini Mahajan, co-convenor of the SJM said, “We have nothing to do with the resignation but we have been saying that any think tank in the government set up should work in sync with the govt agenda. NITI Aayog was not functioning as per its preamble, and was not in sync with PM’s wishes and his government’s policies.”
There were two counts where NITI Aayog has been confronted by SJM – GM crops and the government efforts towards drugs price control.
“Planning commission was about ‘one size fitting all’, NITI Aayog was based on the principles of cooperative federalism but on its stand on GM crops it didn’t take the states on board. That should have been adopted as most states are against the GM crops,” Dr Ashwini Mahajan added.
If this construe is true, it is the subjugation of autonomy of autonomous bodies. In that case, the intellect and freedom of the government appointed economists are under threat.
The hypothesis that SJM did meddle in the quitting of Panagariya, gets further boost by the fact that SJM did write a letter to PM Modi on May 1, with accusation against NITI Aayog of having attempted to sabotage government plans of controlling drug regime. The letter said, “We note that the NITI Aayog has a history of aligning with the vested interests in the relevant ministries to dismantle the regime of price control and wind up the NPPA. In continuation of the NITI Aayog’s attempts to deregulate the pharmaceutical market, it has made the following recommendation in the Three Year Action Agenda.’ It had also accused the Niti Aayog of working ‘against the national interests and are fundamentally anti-poor.”