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For those of us who try and understand what different ministries do, life can often be frustrating, since their behaviour does not conform to standard normative expectations. But there is one simple key to deciphering what goes on. Each ministry is designed to achieve the opposite of what its name implies. If you grasp this simple truth, you will be less mystified. As the most profound song written on Indian democracy goes, “yeh duniya oot patanga, kithe hath te kithe tanga”. This is true of our ministries. They operate on an inverted logic, of the kind no subtle dialectician has been able to fathom. One simple test for each new minister is this. Can they, at the end of their tenure, reverse this inverted logic? Here are summary descriptions of what the ministries are like currently.
Ministry of home affairs: This does live up to its name. It is deeply interested in what goes on in your home. It is armed with all the powers to carry out that function. Internal security is another matter altogether.
Ministry of external affairs: This truly is the ministry of external affairs. It is external to the government of India’s objectives. It is also usually, in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s memorable phrase, “a hotbed of cold feet”.
Ministry of environment: Contrary to what newspapers and fitful bursts of activism would lead you to believe, the environment ministry is actually our ministry of industry promotion. It has no real credible plan for the environment.
Ministry of industry: This is our true ministry of the environment. Its objective has been to de-industrialise India and thereby protect the environment.
Ministry of human resource development: HRD actually stands for “human resource depletion”. Decades of an impeccable record in this area.
Ministry of petroleum and natural gas: Has generally been very slick and full of hot air.
Ministry of power: Always a ministry hostage to power brokers, including other parts of government.
Ministry of labour: Its sole purpose is to ensure that labour in the organised sector does not grow.
Ministry of civil aviation: Single-mindedly makes sure that India-based airlines eventually get grounded, somewhere or the other.
Ministry of railways: This is actually a ministry of protection of the British Raj. The railways are a heritage monument to be protected, so no real modernisation is possible.
Ministry of coal: The ministry is designed to put black soot on the face of every government.
Ministry of corporate affairs: More interested in the affairs of corporations than promoting them.
Ministry of law and justice: It is actually the ministry of court cases. It designs laws in such a way as to maximise their probability of being litigated and causing uncertainty.
Ministry of health affairs: An appendage of the Medical Council of India, which itself has little to do with medicine.
Ministry of defence: The ministry that always fights a two-front continued…