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Tough task taking states together

For two decades I have been interacting with the famous economist couple, Isher Judge and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.  When I called on them at their Greater Kailash residence, I learned that the Ahluwalias were scheduled to leave for the US that evening. Still, they discussed at leisure the state of the economy, were keen to know Tamil Nadu politics post-Jayalalithaa and wondered whether Stalin would become the chief minister. 

I asked Montek about the impact of the tectonic shifts in technology like the electric car and solar power.  He said that the system would adjust to changes like it did eg horse-drawn carriages giving way to the automobile.

Montek expressed concern over increasing unemployment: “jobless youth are of concern - potential sections that could be led by unscrupulous leaders. Remember Hitler leading the great Germans to follow him blindly in the 1930s?”

Despite Prime Minister Modi focusing on cooperative federalism, fissures are likely to develop: “the next Finance Commission, in line with past experience, may recommend a higher allotment of 10 per cent increasing the share of the states in the divisible pool to 52 per cent. But developed states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal would protest higher allocations to less advanced states at their cost,” he said. 

Did he see much of a change at the Yojana Bhawan at which he functioned as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission for a decade? He said the NITI Aayog has been doing work similar to what the Planning Commission did as a think-tank. Earlier the Planning Commission had powers for allocation of funds to the states and was thus frequented by state chief ministers. Today this has stopped! He pointed out.

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