Centre may close down antiquated autonomous bodies

Tags: Policy

There are more than 500 autonomous bodies under various ministries

Determined to cut down on wasteful expenditure, the government is looking to shut down some of the autonomous bodies, which have become redundant, and wean away others from Central funding through corporatisation and mergers.

There are more than 500 autonomous bodies under various ministries, including National Cooperative Union of India and National Council for Cooperative Training, Coffee Board and Tea Board, which together need annual budgetary support of Rs 60,000 crore from the Centre. If one casts a casual look at the list of autonomous bodies, there is an impression that all of them might not be as relevant today as when they were founded, which could be attributed to radical changes in socio-economic scenario as government’s role has drastically reduced in economic and social sectors after 1991 liberalisation.

What is more, the private sector is capable of taking over from government in areas like health, education and research. Even in cultural space, the private sector has captured the bulk of space, making some of the autonomous bodies redundant.

The finance ministry has asked Niti Aayog to undertake a performance review of all the autonomous bodies and based on its findings recommend actionable measures like closure and phased withdrawal of central financial assistance besides corporatisation and merger.

According to criteria specified by the finance ministry, bodies like Central Institute of Plastic Engineering & Technology and National Centre for Cold Chain Development can be corproatised given that services offered by these institutions are critical for private players operating in concerned sectors, sources said.

Similarly, the government can also withdraw support from bodies like National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education, National Institute of Fashion Technology and Indian Institute of Foreign Trade as it can easily find private promoters for these institutes. The government can get rid of an institution like Indian Diamond Institute given that the government has hardly presence in the diamond industry and its main task of Research and Development can be better managed by the private sector.

There are entities like National Cultural Fund, which works for promotion of cultural heritage, can be merged, with Indian Institute for Cultural Relations or Indian Council of World Affairs. The finance ministry has decided to hand over this work to Aayog because the latter has already conducted a similar exercise for Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). The suggestion to review performance of autonomous bodies was made by former Reserve Bank governor Lalit Jalan-led expenditure management commission.



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