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Niti Aayog's crucial meet on drought, farm distress and Naxalism begins in New Delhi

The fifth meeting of Niti Aayog's Governing Council began in New Delhi on Saturday with the main agenda of deliberating upon drought situation, farm distress and security concerns over Naxal-affected districts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing the meeting, which is being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This is the first governing council meeting under the new Modi government.

"The goal to make India a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024, is challenging, but can surely be achieved. States should recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level, PM Narendra Modi said in his opening remarks at the meeting.

Among others attending the meet are Union ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajnath Singh.

The agenda for the meeting also includes rain-water harvesting, aspirational districts programme and structural reforms in the agriculture sector.

The council, the apex body of Niti Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of union territories, several union ministers and senior government officials.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath are among the heads of states attending the meeting.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has refused to attend the meeting, saying it is "fruitless" as Niti Aayog has no financial powers to support state plans.

The Governing Council reviews the action taken on the agenda items of the previous meeting and deliberates upon the future developmental priorities.

The first meeting the Governing Council was held on February 8, 2015, at which the Prime Minister laid down the key mandates of Niti Aayog such as fostering cooperative federalism and addressing national issues through active participation of the states.

The second meeting on July 15, 2015 reviewed the progress made by the three sub-groups of chief ministers and the two task forces.

In the third meeting on April 23, 2017, Modi had pitched for conducting simultaneous elections of the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies and shifting to a January-December fiscal year.

The fourth meeting of the council on June 17, 2018 deliberated upon measures taken to double farmers' income and the progress of the government's flagship schemes.

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