To expedite decision-making in the government and usher in “greater accountability” in the system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday abolished all existing Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs) and GoMs, which had become a symbol and an instrument of policy paralysis during the previous UPA government.
Ministries and departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs, and take appropriate decisions at their level.
“Wherever the ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision-making process,” said an official release, emphasising that abolition of the existing nine EGoMs and 21 GoMs was meant to “empower the ministries and departments”.
The move is apparently in keeping with Modi’s motto of “minimum government, maximum governance” and “decisive government”, which he had emphasised throughout his campaign.
While the idea of such panels was conceived during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, as a means to sort out inter-ministerial conflict of views on important policy issues, under the UPA, the number of such GoMs and EGoMs had mushroomed to over 80 at one point in time. The panels had held up decisions on many issues in the name of consultation, particularly as these were not given any timeline.
Many such panels hardly ever met. For instance, the GoM on interlinking of rivers did not have a single meeting, said sources. The GoMs on many other issues like setting up of the Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial Corridor, pension and post-retirement medical schemes for Food Corporation of India employees, amendment to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, and on enhancement of age of superannuation of non-teaching and public health specialists of the Central Health Service too never met. Some GoMs like the one on domestic workers met just once.
With a powerful Congressman and Cabinet minister like Pranab Mukherjee heading over 50 EGoMs and GoMs at one stage, the then PMO was virtually left with no remit to vet any decision of these panels.
Many of these GoMs were also headed by then defence minister A K Antony, who was known to be a status-quoist with little enthusiasm for innovative ideas.
The dismantling of the EGoMs and GoMs is likely to restore the authority and supremacy of the PMO, with the PM having the last word on policy-making in the event of differences among ministries. Manmohan Singh’s image as a weak PM was built on the argument that he did not have the last word when it came to crucial issues of governance.
“The prime minister has to be the guiding force of any government in terms of outlining its vision for the country and drawing up the roadmap to achieve it, but it’s the ministries and departments that have to implement them. The PMO will step in if and when ministries have conflicting views delaying decisions,” said a source.
Apart from cutting down administrative structures and layers of decision-making, the abolition of EGoMs and GoMs would also ensure accoutability. The PMO will monitor, supervise and hold people accountable for implementation of policies to ensure that the system works, said sources.
The Wheels within wheels
At one time under UPA, there were 80 GoMs, EGoMs
GoM on minimum wages, among others, did not have a single meeting
GoMs like the one on domestic workers met just once
Pranab Mukherjee alone headed over 50 EGoMs, GoMs