Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up two new GoMs after ministers scuttled two proposals in a meeting of the Union Cabinet Thursday evening. The first proposal was to set up an ambitious Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation to take up developmental work in tribal districts and the other to reduce the large number of centrally-sponsored schemes through restructuring.
Singh referred the restructuring to a GoM after listening to views of ministers that reflected their anxiety over ministerial turf shrinking further.
Currently,there are about 150 CSS with a total provision of almost Rs 7 lakh crore,though,out of this,nine flagship UPA schemes account for 80 per cent of the budget. A panel led by Planning Commission member B K Chaturvedi had recommended downsizing it to 50-odd schemes by putting a cap on CSS at 1/6th of the Central plan assistance,transferring several identified schemes to state governments and merging many of them.
Senior ministers however,said it was not feasable to do away with many schemes; of course,referring to those administered by their own ministries. One of them even pointed out that a letter had been written to the Prime Minister,seeking his intervention on the matter. Prime Minister then decided to refer the issue to a GoM.
The setting up of the Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation,a pet project of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh was referred to a GoM after senior colleagues like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar raised doubts about initiating a new venture at this stage when the government had less than a year remaining.
Pawar and some other ministers said such projects have gestation period of several months before it can take off and should have been started at beginning of the governments term. Another minister said that CAPART,which had a similar mandate,would become further redundant.
The Cabinet was to consider if a Rs 500-crore corpus should be allocated to the BRLF,that will begin as a non-governmental society set up in partnership with corporates like the Tatas,Reliance,Wipro and Infosys.
These corporates were expected to contribute an equal amount that would be used for developmental work in tribal districts,mostly in central and eastern India and affected by Naxalism. The rural development ministry has proposed that the BRLF be an NGO that will be run on professional lines,with a chairman and a fulltime CEO. According to sources,Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will now head the GoM on the subject.