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After Debroy gone, all eyes are on Amitabh Kant in NITI Aayog

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 07, 2019 Published on June 07, 2019

Bibek Debroy   -  The Hindu

Amitabh Kant   -  PTI

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the government think-tank which was set up as a replacement for the Planning Commission by the previous Modi Government, is once again ready for change, but not without attracting attention.

On Thursday evening, an official statement spelled out the details of the reconstituted NITI Aayog. While Ramesh Chand, VK Saraswat and VK Paul were retained as full-time members along with Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar, missing from the list was the name of Bibek Debroy.

This did not come as a surprise for many. They believed that Debroy’s remarks on agriculture taxation did not go well with the government. But, he still remains the Chairman of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) for now.

Debroy, a renowned economist, was brought in as a member in January, 2015, 20 days after the constitution of the think- tank. The first two years of his term passed without any noticeable or un-forgetful incident. However, in April, 2017, a particular statement by Debroy made big headlines. He pitched for taxing farm income and the impression went out that NITI Aayog, in its draft three-year agenda, wanted farm income in India to be taxed to expand the income tax base.

This created an uproar not only within the government, but also in the political circles. NITI Aayog had to issue a clarification stating that the views on taxing farm income expressed by Debroy were personal and not those of the Aayog. However, this was not enough and the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had to be brought into the picture. Jaitley had clarified that the Centre had no plans to impose any tax on agriculture income. “As per the constitutional allocation of powers, the Centre has no jurisdiction to impose tax on agricultural income,” Jaitley had said.

Following the controversy, it was widely expected that Debroy’s tenure would be cut short, but that did not happen. In fact, just after four months, when the Prime Minister revived the Economic Advisory Council, Debroy was appointed as the Chairman, while continuing as Member, NITI Aayog.

There is also some unconfirmed news about his differences with the Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar..

This is also one of the reasons for his exit from the reconstituted body. Also, there is a feeling that he must focus on the EAC where he still holds the post of the Chairman. While it is clear that Debroy is not part of the NITI Aayog team, question remains on whether its Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant will get another extension.

According to www.supremo.nic.in, Amitabh Kant’s term comes to an end on June 30. An Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1980 batch from Kerala, Kant became part of NITI Aayog after his superannuation in 2016. Initially, he was appointed for two years, after which he got an extension. Many within the government, whom BusinessLine contacted declined to comment on if he would get an extension. However, one official said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a tendency to surprise, so one should be ready for the same.

Published on June 07, 2019

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