New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the time for incremental change is long over.

Addressing Niti Aayog, the institution which replaced the Planning Commission, he said its forthcoming 15-year vision document should accordingly reflect this and posit transformational change for the country.

The PM’s remarks come coincidentally on the anniversary of the 25th anniversary of the big burst of reforms undertaken in 1991—that pace and intensity was not pursued by any government thereafter.

The Prime Minister told the members the time for incremental change, that has been the norm across the world for quite some time, is over. The current age is one that requires transformational change, he said.

“Mein prayog karne wala insaan hun. Mujh mein himmat hai. (I’m a person who works on experiments. I have that courage)."

Modi pointed out that, historically, Indian policymakers had tended to lament the constraints faced by India, instead of leveraging its strengths.

Laying out the broad contours of India’s development path, Modi said a judicious and intelligent application of natural resources and human resources will be at the heart of this change.

Elaborating, Modi mentioned the use of available land, the country’s mineral wealth and its vast untapped solar energy potential. He said India had made sub-optimal use so far of its vast coastline.

He also asked members of the think tank Niti Aayog to consider consumer habits while drafting its 15-year vision document, especially with regard to food.

Modi told members of Niti Aayog to adjust food production targets based on public consumption trends as it would help to prioritize what would be required in the future.

“The Prime Minister said ‘think in long term, what demand would be there. How much food will people eat at home, how much food people will eat outside? Then just prepare your vision according to that’," Niti Aayog member and agricultural scientist Ramesh Chand told reporters.

An official who was part of the meeting and asked not to be named, said, “With eating habits, PM’s reference was what are the food choices of consumer these days—like milk products, green vegetables, pulses, etc. For example, till the last few years, we didn’t have any sweetcorn market and now you can see sweetcorn being sold everywhere. What are the vegetables which are in high demand—like peas, etc.—and can be available around the year? Similarly, are people preferring more vegetarian or non-vegetarian food?"

He said Modi also asked policymakers to look at various other roles that agriculture can play in terms of job creation through post-harvest management practices, and more consumer-driven farming as consumers move to eco- or bio-friendly products.

Outlining the broad thrust of the 15-year vision document, another member, economist Bibek Debroy, said Niti Aayog is yet to decide on the vision document “and for that we need to have more internal discussions".

The overall intention will be to improve the lives of Indian citizens and to ensure their empowerment through the provisioning of social and physical infrastructure and all forms of connectivity to every Indian citizen, whichever part of the country they may be living in.

Besides, the vision document would also seek to provide the environment needed for entrepreneurship to flourish. Finally, there may still be some segments of the society that will need some kind of subsidies which would require Niti Aayog to work out effective methods of subsidization, said Debroy.

Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Pangariya said although the meeting’s agenda was the 15-year vision document, Modi decided to change the agenda and review the performance of various five-year plans and look at their shortcomings.

Pangariya said the PM told the members that Niti Aayog needs to become a forum where talks would be held in a cooperative manner and where states can come and discuss problems, unlike in the Planning Commission where they didn’t have much say.

Stressing the need to build capacities for good governance, Modi highlighted the importance of real-time data availability. He also spoke of the importance of technology as an emerging driver of change, and asserted that this pace of change will not slacken.

The long-term vision document will formulate various ways through which India can achieve its broader social objectives to meet the UN Development Programme’s 2030 sustainable goals and will be a road map on transformation required in the planning system to sync it with the 14th Finance Commission recommendations.

The document will come into effect from 2017-18, along with a seven-year National Development Agenda, which will lay the schemes, programmes and strategies to achieve the long-term vision.

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