Narendra Modi has made another swift move to carry out his 'minimum government, maximum governance' promise. Five days in office and he has abolished an administratively cumbersome UPA legacy; the 30 Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs).
The move is expected to empower various ministries and departments and hasten the decision-making process. A statement issued by the PMO said, “The Prime Minister today decided to abolish all the existing nine Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs) and twenty-one Groups of Ministers (GoMs). This would expedite the process of decision making and usher in greater accountability in the system. The ministries and departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at the level of Ministries and Departments itself.”
In UPA-I and UPA-II, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had developed a penchant for constituting a GoM or EGoM as and when a policy had to be formulated or whenever he faced a situation where two or more ministries had conflicting views on a subject.
Instead of taking a stand on contentious issues, these GoMs helped buy time, or perhaps peace. Meanwhile governance suffered and decision-making was on hold for long stretches of time.
Given the absolute mandate that Narendra Modi has been granted by the people, there are huge expectations from him. With this decision, Modi has shown that he is willing to play the final voice whenever there is a conflict of opinion between two or more ministries.
He has put that on record by adding in the PMO’s official statement: “Wherever the Ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision making process.”
Also one of the points in Modi's 10 point agenda for governance was, “implement policies in a time-bound manner”. Another agenda that is listed calls for creating mechanisms to resolve inter-ministerial issues.
Interestingly the idea of skill development, which Modi talked about emphatically in his pre-election campaigning and has now created a separate ministry for, had a GoM in the UPA government. This GoM for setting up of the National Skill Development Authority was headed by P Chidambaram. It had 13 members, 10 regular and three special invitees.
The ministers in GoM included P Chidambaram (Finance Minister), Mallikarjun Kharge (Minister of Labour and Employment), Kapil Sibal (Minister of Communications and Information Technology), Anand Sharma (Minister of Commerce and Industry and Textiles), Kumari Selja (Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment), V Kishore Chandra Deo (Minister of Tribal Affairs), Jairam Ramesh (Minister of Rural Development), K Rahman Khan (Minister of Minority Affairs), Ajay Maken (Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation) and M M Pallam Raju (Minister of Human Resource Development).
Three 'special invitees' included Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission), KH Muniyappa, (Minister of State with Independent Charge of Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and S Ramadorai who was Adviser to the Prime Minister of National Council on Skill Development. Modi in his election speeches charged that this high profile GoM didn’t get moving.
Even a GoM on integrated strategy for Water Management headed by Sharad Pawar had 12 members. The smallest GoM on the civil aviation sector headed by Chidambaram had four members.
The GoM on media, which was again headed by Chidambaram, was to be formed to decide what daily briefings should be given to the media and had eight members. The terms of reference for this GoM said, "the Group of Ministers will meet every day at a fixed hour, analyse the events of the day, and issue suitable directions to a Nodal officer to prepare appropriate material for briefing the media."
This GoM was constituted when one corruption scandal after another had battered UPA-II’s image and the top ministers were supposed to put out statements in the right perspective. The ministers used to meet everyday for few hours but in the end it proved to be a wasteful exercise. There were eight top ministers meeting just to get positive press, while other ministerial works waited for their attention.
Till Pranab Mukherjee was the Finance minister he headed all 12 Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs) and several GoMs. After he became President in mid-2012 and headed for Rashtrpati Bhawan, Chidamaram stepped in to take up the task. The EGoMs were reduced from 12 to 6 but later expanded to 9. The total number of GoMs also was also brought down to 15 from the earlier 27 but then again increased to 21. Chidambaram headed most of the 21 GoMs, and those he could not handle were shared between AK Antony and Sharad Pawar.
By abolishing these GoMs and EGoMs, Narendra Modi has clearly spelt out his priorities and there is inherent message for his ministers too; focus on delivery and avoid inter-ministerial ego hassles.
Updated Date: Jun 01, 2014 20:46 PM