We paid high cost for democracy for 70 years, time to reap dividends now: NITI head

New Delhi, July 3: NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday said people have paid a “very high cost” for democracy in the last 70 years and it is now time to reap the dividends. He insisted that NITI Aayog, as a “principal change agent”, can help garner those dues. “We have paid a very high cost for our democracy in the past 70 years. It’s very clear. Otherwise we could have…anyway. But now is the time when NITI Aayog will help us in earning the democratic dividend,” Kumar said in response to a query by IANS on how NITI’s role was different from the erstwhile Planning Commission.
“It is time to get the democratic dividend which would come from states competing for good governance and good delivery of public services and not by having competitive populism,” he said.

Kumar said that the Aayog is a “complete new entity” as compared to the Planning Commission because it works as “partners to the states” and not as “people who hand out doles to the states”. “We, therefore, don’t hold durbars in the NITI Bhavan. I have actually taken the trouble and met Chief Ministers of 21 states in their state capitals. I visit them. Completely the reverse of what Planning Commission used to be,” he said. Speaking about NITI Aayog not having any financial powers, he said it had the “power of ideas and the power to implement them”.

“By the way, some of my friends tell me that I have come at a wrong time when the NITI Aayog has lost all powers to disburse money. But we have got the power of ideas and the power of implementing those ideas, both at the central level and much more at the state level, trying to get them (states) replicate the best practices,” Kumar said.

“And here let me say — and this is my wish and hope — that if we go along the way we are going, on which the Prime Minister has been sort of directing us all the time to go, we will become one of the principal change agents in this economy,” he added. He said that the NITI Aayog has the potential and the ambition to do it. (IANS)