New Delhi: NITI Aayog is identifying statutes and rules that need to be abolished for being a burden on people, as part of the Narendra Modi administration’s efforts to improve ease of living.
The federal policy think tank will comb through all the laws in the country and make recommendations to the government, NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said in an interview. The idea is to replace highly prescriptive laws with new ones that encourage voluntary compliance, and lay down only broad principles and a negative list of prohibited actions.
Kumar said that improving living standards involves making sure that people’s actions are not in response to government pressure or to rules and regulations all the time. It involves ensuring that people have the space to do what they want to, in economic or other terms.
“Ease of living has two aspects. One, the government accepts its responsibility for provision of public goods and services transparently and efficiently," Kumar said. “The second is that the state gets out of the way so that people do not feel constrained in other aspects of their lives. We, at the NITI Aayog, are trying to list all the areas where the government could be interfering where it may not need to. This is as per the Prime Minister’s directions. We will try and come up with it for suitable action."
NITI Aayog is now playing a crucial role in central government’s policymaking, especially in areas such as energy, electric mobility, disinvestment, agriculture reforms, entrepreneurship and development of backward districts.
Kumar said the plan is to ensure that people get greater space for entrepreneurial and other actions, while the government is always available to provide public services most efficiently and effectively. The problem with having highly prescriptive laws is that in addition to burdening people, they also give enough loopholes to those who are bent on breaking the law. Also, in a world of changing technology, business models and consumer behaviour, highly prescriptive rules will quickly get outdated. Modi said in his Independence Day speech that while there should not be excessive presence of the state in the lives of individuals, who should be free to live their lives without any interference from the state, people should also not feel the absence of government when they need it. “Let there be voluntary compliance and self-certification. If one is caught for breach in a random check, there could be a penalty," said Kumar.
As part of efforts to improve living standards, the Modi government had in its previous term sought to extend access to amenities such as cooking gas, toilets, electricity, health insurance and houses to the poor and offered income support for farmers reeling from distress in the agricultural economy. The government, however, is facing a big challenge in steering the economy away from a painful economic slowdown, as leveraged corporate balance sheets put the brakes on new investments. It also has to find ways to insulate the domestic economy from a global economic slowdown. The good news is India’s services sector, which accounts for nearly half of its $2.7 trillion economy, has been less affected by the slowdown in output and exports that has hit the manufacturing sector.
Kumar said the inputs that industry leaders recently gave finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman will go into framing an appropriate policy response to the growth slowdown. One of the cornerstones of the approach would be investing ₹100 trillion in infrastructure. Kumar said the private sector will have a role to play in this. He said the central government will take the responsibility for realizing this investment goal and tap resources from wherever it can. The government hopes to bring private enterprises on board through public-private partnerships for this.