Many ask this question. So has Yours truly. They (and I) would have done well to read this blog post by Prof. Bibek Debroy from November 2015.
A large part of Niti’s mandate is the evaluation of public expenditure schemes, the examination of delivery and the linking of these schemes with tangible improvements in outcomes, difficult though this may be for social sectors, especially health.
This is also true of Niti’s function as a repository of best practices in States. Several States have done interesting things in delivery, worthy of dissemination and replication. From next year, Niti will take stock of these.
t will also take stock of data, which will give an idea of base-line indicators, on the basis of which, outcome improvements can be measured. We have already chosen a set of around 50 indicators, clustered under heads like education (school), health, roads, water, electricity and mobile penetration.
We are building this district upwards, though as a terminal goal, there is an intention to take this down to blocks, if not villages.
Niti is also a think tank, though different people mean different things when they use this expression. It is not a think tank that dabbles in the abstract and the esoteric. It is interested in policy and suggesting better policy options, with networking with other such organization, including those that are outside government. But for this, Niti has to acquire some in-house expertise.
Part of the think tank role is when issues are referred to you by government. That has started to occur, but will necessarily be in the private domain, not made public. The remaining part of the think tank role is when Niti picks up issues, suo motu, through a series of Working Papers. That’s going to happen as soon as we have people and in-house expertise.
There are two verticals within Niti, so to speak. One is the link with States, much more active than with the former Planning Commission. That’s called the Team India initiative. The other is the think tank role, called the Knowledge Hub initiative.
In publishing these extracts, I have probably re-posted his entire blog post with the only difference being that I had broken it up into specific points that can be measured or used as benchmarks for evaluation of NITI Aayog at the end of 206-17. Professor thinks that 2016-17 would be the real first year of operations.