After GoMs, advisory bodies face Modi axe

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PM to get a team of technocrats to advise him

After GoMs, advisory  bodies face Modi axe
Moving at rapid speed, the Narendra Modi government is keen to change the contours of Congress-style governance. Close on the heels of abolishing about 100 ministerial groups and empowered groups of ministers (EGoMs), the new government proposes to disband all advisory councils attached to the PMO.

Among the prominent ones facing the axe are the prime minister’s economic advisory council (PM­EAC), hitherto headed by former RBI governor C Rangarajan, the cabinet committee on infrastructure headed by the prime minister himself, the 23-member industry advisory council and skills development council led by TCS chairman S Ramadorai.

The other panels that may be disbanded are prime minister’s council on micro, small and medium enterprises, the delivery monitoring council, PM’s council on climate change and the trade and economic relations committee.

Also on the list of councils to be either overhauled or pruned is the much-touted national knowledge commission (NKC) cha­ired by Sam Pitroda.

While most members on these councils created by then prime minister Manmohan Singh have already resigned, there is a good chance that these councils and committees may not be reconstituted or revived at all.

Instead, one panel of experts from different sectors may be named by the prime minister to advise him ‘at the individual level’ on key economic, social and political issues.

This is a marked departure from the way PMO functioned under Singh. “The move is part of Modi’s efforts to simplify the governance model where minimum government would maximise delivery quickly,” said an official privy to the move.

The official who did not wish to be identified added, “a final decision on the proposal will be taken by the prime minister in a few days”.

Currently, the government is bracing up to face the first parliament session beginning June 4 with the PMO and the home ministry giving final touches to the President’s address later this week.

While respective ministers and ministries are expected to take the lead in policy making, enhanced inter-ministerial coordination and a pro-active role of PMO would quicken the delivery on many issues instead of time-consuming route through advisory panels, an official said.

The PMEAC under Singh had five prominent economists to provide the UPA government with ‘alternative economic points of view and assessment’. Headed by Rangarajan, it had Saumitra Chaudhuri, V S Vyas, Pulin B Nayak and Dilip M Nachane as members.

The cabinet committee on infrastructure created by Singh and the infrastructure panel headed by him, could also go.

“All inter-ministerial issues relating to large infrastructure projects will be resolved by committee of secretaries headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth. In cases where there are differences, a final call will be taken by the prime minister himself,’’ added the official.

Infrastructure has been identified as a major thrust area of the BJP government, which proposes to speed up implementation of large projects worth over Rs 15 lakh crore next five years.

The national council on skills development (NCSD) headed by Ramadorai may not be continued under the PMO, but the national skills development corporation (NSDC), the public private partnership arm of the government, may be restructured to reflect ‘new thinking in the Modi government,’’ the official said.

The NKC, headed by Pitroda, has Ashok Ganguly, P Balaram, Jayati Ghosh, Deepak Nayyar, Sujata Ramadorai and Amitabh Mattoo as members. Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the unique identification development authority of India (UIDAI), had resigned before contesting the Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket.

The move to wind up or not revive most panels that directly report to the prime minister is a corollary to the Modi government’s decision last week to abolish all empowered groups of ministers and groups of ministers.

Most key proposals were referred to these panels during the UPA-I and UPA-II governments as part of its bid to evolve consensus within the ruling coalition and facilitate wider debate on issues.

The new government sees these bodies as a ‘time consuming wasteful exercise’ that can be given a go-by to speed up governance, delivery and implement the BJP’s well stated objective of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’.

Meanwhile, the Congress attacked prime minister Modi over his decision to scrap GoMs and EGoMs saying it was ‘symptomatic of autocratic regime’ and noted that ‘no single person can be repository of all wisdom’.

Party spokesperson Randip Surjewala said it was the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee which had initiated setting up of such groups to use a ‘wider collective wisdom of more than one person’ to resolve complex problems, critical legal issues and inter-department issues.

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