NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat March 30 defended the policy think tank amid calls by some opposition parties to close it, and said it is a "great institution" and has been doing "wonderful work" in many areas since its inception in 2014.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had Friday tweeted that if voted to power, his party would scrap the NITI Aayog.
"These are election times. You cannot debate on such issues," Saraswat told reporters on the sidelines of an event at Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India.
The former head of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) said, "NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog is a great institution and has done some wonderful work in areas of economy, health, innovation, artificial intelligence, energy and many others since its inception in late 2014."
"The small team is being able to do very creative work and is acting as a think-tank for the government," he said.
Gandhi had Friday tweeted, "If voted to power, we will scrap the NITI Aayog. It has served no purpose other than making marketing presentations for the PM & fudging data. We will replace it with a lean Planning Commission whose members will be renowned economists & experts with less than 100 staff."
The Planning Commission, set up in 1950 under the Congress government, was replaced by the Niti Aayog by the Modi dispensation. The Congress is seeking to revert to the original structure of the government think tank.
Addressing a gathering of students at the Gandhinagar-based institute, Saraswat rued that while a large number of patents were being filed in India, economic gain lay in converting them into commercial exercises.
"In fact, it is a great achievement in our country today that the number of patents being filed and registered are increasing by the multiples. But how many of these patents are being converted into commercial exercises is where the economic gain lies," he said.
"This number is very, very small. Unfortunately, in our country we are not even crossing one per cent. We are at a fraction of a per cent. That is the gap we need to bridge, despite the fact that we have gone from 85 to 57 as far as the global innovation index is concerned," he said.
Saraswat also said start-ups and innovative ideas need "financial support, mentorship and peer support" to reach the next level, or cross the "valley of death"."We need a good ecosystem to pull it out of the valley of death and reach the state of commercialisation," he said.