July 9, 2010 4:15:03 am
In our form of government,responsibility is collective. The cabinet as a whole serves while it has the confidence of Parliament. But holding government up to scrutiny must go beyond that: individual members of the council of ministers should nevertheless be held to account,their performance evaluated,oversights highlighted,accomplishments marked. That is what this newspapers Minister-
meter attempts to do. In its latest instalment,there might be few surprises among the big,newsy names: Home Minister P. Chidambaram gets 8 out of 10,for shepherding India through 2009 without a major terrorist strike; Telecom Minister A. Raja,whose presence in the cabinet can only be justified if one buys into the most cynical of explanations about coalition politics,is awarded a charitable -2; perennial absentee Mamata Banerjee gets merely 2.
In this array of numbers,it is individual initiative,or its lack,thats being foregrounded. But there are,nevertheless,some broader trends that should concern us. The biggest,perhaps,is the state of the ministries that deal with the big deliverables for UPA-II,that are nominally responsible for the monumental social sector schemes on which this dispensation has staked its political future. Ghulam Nabi Azad,the health minister,whos supposed to spearhead the National Rural Health Mission,for example,emerged with just 2 out of 10. Admittedly,he is handicapped: he has
to deal with an unreformed ministry and a medical establishment
that just cant seem to get its act
together. Yet proper support of the NRHM should be a priority; Azad has to ensure that he can transform the support of the PM and the party into a goad with which to poke his recalcitrant charges into line.
Then theres the unmitigated disappointment that is C.P. Joshi (0/10),the Rajasthani Congressman picked to be rural development minister (with additional charge of panchayati raj). There is little doubt that the UPA expects the NREGS to be its crowning glory,an accomplishment of historic magnitude and scale. Unfortunate,then,that it has chosen to entrust its extension and management to someone whose sense of the NREGS potential doesnt quite extend beyond the next north Indian by-election. It isnt just his ham-handed attempts to brand NREGS with Rajiv Sewa Kendras and to load the monitoring panel with
Congress sympathisers; he has confrontationally deployed NREGS as a weapon against non-Congress states,blaming them for implementation problems rather than helping them fix it. Surely the UPA doesnt want its flagship programmes to
decline and fall as have so many other government schemes.
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