October 1985. Venue: Cabinet Secretariat. In the chair: Cabinet Secretary P.K. Kaul. You could call it a meeting on downsizing government. You could even dub it one more attempt at introspection as 55 secretaries of the Government of India presented their ideas on what the Government should do or not,October 1985. Venue: Cabinet Secretariat. In the chair: Cabinet Secretary P.K. Kaul. You could call it a meeting on downsizing government. You could even dub it one more attempt at introspection as 55 secretaries of the Government of India presented their ideas on what the Government should do or not do. Amidst the gab fest, one thought received a lot of attention. Since most of the controls on steel and coal had been withdrawn, should these ministries exist? The question was debated, but never really answered. Since the exercise 22 years ago, inspired by Rajiv Gandhi’s legendary impatience with sloth, the number of secretaries to the Government of India has ballooned to 84, the size of the Union Council of Ministers has nearly doubled from 42 to 79, including 35 Cabinet ministers and seven ministers of state with independent charge. Add 40 ministers of state, who, by their own admission, have little or no work and you get a perspective of the umbrella of patronage. And yes, the Ministry of Steel continues to exist with a staff of 402 despite the fact that steel was fully decontrolled in January 1992.Steel, though, is not the only ministry that defies logic or rationale for existence. At least 20 ministries in the Government of India have no business to exist but have been kept alive by successive regimes to park sections of the vote bank that enable them to stay in power. As alliances are formed, vote banks are exchanged- some would say auctioned-for portfolios. The team is on auto-select depending on the exigencies of alliance politics. Take the formation and the shuffles of the UPA for instance. It isn’t the UPA chairperson or the prime minister but the DMK chief who decides who will drive the critical programme of the highways project or who will replace Dayanidhi Maran as IT and telecom minister. So was the case with the NDA. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray recalled Suresh Prabhu as minister for power and replaced him with Anant Gite, who was his choice and not that of the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.advertisementIndeed, the UPA takes the cake. It has created new ministries not just to accommodate the allies but also people who it believes would enhance its relevance. So it split the Ministry of HRD and created ministries like Minority Affairs and Women and Child Development; separated mines from coal; and made a distinction between power and non-conventional energy.The irony is that while creating more parking slots may have helped the parties come to power, the lack of delivery fuels the multiplier effect of incumbency. Every general election sees roughly half the sitting MPs trounced. The trend is worsening if the elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are any indication. Sure the regional parties have reason to rejoice as they carve a niche for themselves in the cake of power. The tragedy is that both the Congress and the BJP-electorally irrelevant in over 200 Lok Sabha seats-seem to be seized of neither the ferment nor the reason for the rising anti-incumbency.This, when the reason is staring at them. Multi-layering and the creation of a plethora of departments have killed accountability and thus delivery. In January 2007, the Finance Ministry, in a confidential note to other ministries, observed that 13 critical ministries had spent less than a third of the budget allocation or just Rs 16,237 crore of an outlay of Rs 59,743 crore. While 40 departments managed to spend only half the allocation of Rs 2,52,594 crore. Year after year, almost all ministries fail to spend a major chunk of their allocation. Yet budget allocations are rising in almost all departments. Plan and non-plan expenditure has trebled between 1997 and 2007-08, from Rs 2,35,245 crore to Rs 6,80,520 crore, which is nearly a sixth of the GDP. This is done by creating new schemes at the Centre in areas that are primarily the concern of the states. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the backward areas development fund and the proposed dole to workers in the unorganised sector are all cut from the same fabric of political expediency. Thanks to this, a new situation has emerged. The district collector now receives funds directly from the Centre even as he reports to the state government. Ergo there is neither delivery nor accountability. Consider this-the Centre spends Rs 3.65 to provide subsidised foodgrain worth Re 1 to a person living below poverty line.The crux of the matter is that departments and ministries are created not on economic or administrative logic but political arithmetic. “The multiplicity of ministries creates layers and nothing is quite delivered,” says Bimal Jalan, MP and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India. As Jalan points out, such is the multi-layering that if one wants to improve sports facilities for women in rural areas it is not one but seven ministries (Rural Development, Social Justice, Sports, Youth Affairs, Finance, Women and Child Welfare and Panchayati Raj besides the Planning Commission) who will be involved. In a seminal paper on administrative reforms, S.R. Maheshwari says, “The number of departments in the Government of India grew from three (Public, Secret, and Revenue) in 1774 to eight in 1833. It then expanded to 10 in 1919 and 18 in 1947. No other country has such a large retinue of ministers.”advertisementArun Shourie, BJP MP and former minister, says, “Accommodation of politicians leads to accumulation of babus.” In 1948, the number of secretaries to the Government of India was 19 and that of IAS officers 143. The expansion has also imposed a huge cost-as high as 2 per cent in terms of GDP growth-on the economy. Today there are 134 IAS officers just at secretarylevel postings, while the number of IAS officers posted in the Central Government is 820. First there is a directorate, then it is upgraded to a department and then to a ministry. And even after the ministry is disbanded-like in the case of disinvestment-the department stays.True. In a developing economy there are new areas that require government attention. C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and former governor of RBI, points out, “There is a need to create new focus areas and retire old positions which have lost relevance.” As he says: “If there is a sunrise sector, there should also be sunsets.” But that hasn’t been the case with India. It is not that the problem has not been studied or discussed. Between 1947 and 2007, no less than 30 committees and commissions have studied the issue. In fact the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of 1966 had clearly advocated smaller governments. Neither that nor any other report was implemented, and as with the church, sin and evangelism continue to co-exist.By allowing the multi-layered system to continue, political parties face not just a collapse of governance but also their own future. As India turns 60, it is time for some ministries to be retired, the concept of minister of state buried and funding of line ministries critical to social development relocated to the states. In 1947 we made our tryst with destiny. It’s time we made a tryst with the future.Drought of IdeasMINISTRY OF AGRICULTUREStaff: 11,711Wages and allowances: Rs 191.25 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 9,362.21 croreRATIONALE: To formulate and implement national policies and programmes aimed at achieving agricultural growth through optimum utilisation of land, water and plant resources; formulate overall cooperative policy, oversee research and maintain statistics.REALITY CHECK: Production of grains and pulses is stagnant for over a decade, productivity is down, almost 20,000 farmers commit suicide every year. There has been no breakthrough in seeds or yield since the Green Revolution and agriculture is unviable. The Centre’s defence is that the problem lies with the states.advertisementIndeed everything under agriculture-agricultural education and research, protection against pests, prevention of plant diseases and improvement of cattle stock-is listed as a state subject in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. So what is the big idea of hosting an army of people in Krishi Bhavan? Agriculture, which is India’s largest private sector enterprise, supports 56 per cent of the working population while delivering 19 per cent of the GDP.Too many people are dependent on a crashing enterprise. The Indian farmer is growing less on a shrinking holding, spending more for inputs for an income that is not only falling but has to be shared with a growing number of dependents. Yet there has been no attempt to restructure the sector. India needs to go in for manpower-intensive, value-added crops. Postland reforms, with land holdings at less than two hectare per capita, it cannot adopt scale-neutral methods. The situation calls for drastic action, not the usual mix of incrementalism and pious sermons. Yet the focus is on more committees. At least six committees have studied credit to farmers, four have studied use of genetically modified seeds, three have studied investment in irrigation, but there has been no action on the ground. But that has not prevented every minister from expanding the ministry. Established in 1871, the ministry has gone through 48 avataars. It deserves moksha.Caught in Quota WarpMINISTRY OF HRD (DEPARTMENT OF SCHOOL EDUCATION AND LITERACY)Staff: 424Wages and allowances: Rs 7.01 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 23,142.22 crRATIONALE: Universalisation of elementary education, that is, to promote education and adult literacy at primary and secondary school levels.REALITY CHECK: The omnibus ministry created by Rajiv Gandhi by merging Education, Culture, Women and Child, Sports and Youth Welfare has been dismantled into as many ministries, negating any logic of efficiency and delivery that he might have desired. While Culture and Women and Child Development can claim to have some legitimacy for existence, Education is as much a state subject as federal, especially school education and adult literacy. You could argue that primary education in some states requires a push from the Centre, but its report card is stained with failure. In government, spend is never equal to the result. At HRD, even the spend is inefficient. This year, for instance, the department was left with Rs 1,453.76 crore under Elementary Education and Literacy as on February 28.Even under the Education Guarantee Scheme, it achieved only 52 per cent of its target of 47.7 lakh enrolments. The two elaborate schemes launched by the HRD Ministry-the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Mid-day Meal scheme-have so far remained peripheral in developing these sectors, as implementation is in the hand of the states.Tamil Nadu has successfully experimented with the Mid-day Meal Scheme, leading to a healthy growth from the 1960s onwards, while Central funding for primary education has resulted in a colossal waste in most states, as they tend to underutilise and experiment with the funds. Adult literacy, as the Kerala experiment has shown, is best left to the states. If the HRD must involve itself in policy, it should only be at the higher education level, although after the quota imbroglio, that too is open to debate. It would be best if the ministry focused on opening up higher education. That would force all states to sit up and design their school syllabi to suit the needs of a modern economy.Poor ShowMINISTRY OF HOUSING AND URBAN POVERTY ALLEVIATIONStaff: 139Wages and allowances: Rs 2.59 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 509.75 croreRATIONALE: To shape the policies and programmes of the country as a whole, allocate resources, provide finances through national financial institutions for housing and urban development.REALITY CHECK: Poverty alleviation should be the focus of all policies. This ministry was designed to provide affordable urban housing and create jobs. If the mushrooming of slums or the absence of a framework to create jobs is any indicator, the ministry has failed miserably.Created on October 16, 1999, merged in 2000, and re-formed on May 27, 2004, this ministry, like many others, exists as an instrument of political accommodation. All matters pertaining to housing and urban development are assigned to states and by the 74th Amendment to the Constitution, to urban local bodies. The constitutional and legal authority of the Centre is limited to Delhi and the Union territories. Even if one were to argue the case for Central intervention, neither the structure of governance nor the ministry’s performance would justify it. The Centre can draw up policy, but as long as implementation is with the states, results cannot be guaranteed. The number of urban poor was estimated at 80.7 million by a National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) study in 2004 and housing shortage at 24.71 million units in March 2007.The joke is, the ministry estimates only 42 million of the 285 million urban dwellers live in slums. As for poverty alleviation, it has the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana. The ministry told Parliament that allocation had been hiked from Rs 160 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 344 crore in 2007-08. That is Rs 43 per urban poor per year. To get a sense of the magnitude of work, consider these statistics: the ministry told Parliament that it assisted just 469 urban poor in Delhi in three years-133 in 2003-04, 181 in 2004-05 and 149 in 2005-06. Perhaps it couldn’t find poverty in Delhi.Urban DecayMINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENTStaff: 26,535Wages and allowances: Rs 453.83 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 3,814.52 croreRATIONALE: To promote urban growth, transport and housing.REALITY CHECK: Since this is largely a state subject, there is little justification for such a large edifice. This ministry is directly in conflict with the modern urban development mantra, which requires plans to be drawn up in concert with civil society.According to the 2001 Census, India has a population of 1,027 million, of which around 28 per cent or 285 million live in urban areas. To start with, given the overwhelming vote power of rural constituencies, urban development has never been the focus of any government. Add to this the profusion of agencies and entities and you have urban India in a shambles, be it the quality of sanitation, utilities or infrastructure. By the end of the decade, urban India is estimated to deliver two-thirds of the GDP, but little has been achieved through Central intervention. As with other ministries, the Urban Development Ministry can at best preach to state governments.India needs to renew its old cities and develop at least 50 cities like Chandigarh to enable the population to spread out. This requires funds- Rs 1,20,536 crore just in the next seven years -and a plan where local bodies have a say. Yes, the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission is a good idea, but it is in conflict with the idea of decentralised development. The unique model that Dharavi in Mumbai is looking at for regeneration may or may not work in the slums of Delhi. The onus of developing new cities and satellite townships should be on the state governments.Megawatt FailureMINISTRY OF NEW AND RENEWABLE ENERGYStaff: 378Wages and allowances: Rs 17.31 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 632.9 croreRATIONALE: To promote alternative sources of energy and non-fossil fuel energy systems ranging from solar to biogas.REALITY CHECK: At best it can be a section under the Ministry of Power, where alternative sources can be factored into overall power management. The generation of ideas and new systems is best left to the Ministry of Science and Technology.Its performance can only be termed as dismal. Consider this: India has a potential to generate 47,000 MW through wind energy, whereas installed capacity is barely 1,870 MW. Obviously capital costs for renewable energy generation systems are high, the technology is still evolving and perhaps the risks are high too. Yet, it is difficult to defend the performance of the ministry. Indeed while India has the potential of generating 1,83,000 MW across the spectrum of alternative or renewable energy systems-ranging from wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, small hydro, biomass, cogeneration, geothermal, tidal, urban and industrial wastes-total installed capacity achieved (till March 2007) is an abysmal 10,406 MW. This is despite the fact that renewable energy was identified as a resource as early as in 1981, when the Commission for Additional Energy Sources was created (the ministry itself came into being in 1992). However, despite a compelling case for its propagation, the ministry has not been able to promote the idea.This is despite a plethora of incentives being dished out. A host of fiscal incentives are available to both manufacturers and users of renewable energy systems, which include 100 per cent accelerated depreciation for tax purposes in the first year of installation of systems, exemption from excise duty on manufacture of most finished products, low import tariff on capital equipment and components, soft loans, five-year tax holiday for generation projects, etc. Obviously, the ministry’s existence as a solo entity has not enabled or improved performance. Modern energy management requires a holistic approach and standalone entities have no place in this structure.The RelicMINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTINGStaff: 6,908Wages and allowances: Rs 102.51 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 1,681.84 crRATIONALE: To enable free flow of information besides disseminating knowledge and entertainment to all sections of the society, while balancing commercial needs and public interest. It is also the apex body for formulating rules and regulation relating to information and broadcasting, press and films.REALITY CHECK: For almost 30 years now, successive governments have threatened and promised to disband this relic of control raj. Doordarshan and AIR can continue to work under Prasar Bharati.In the Soviet era, for years Czechoslovakians did not know Martina Navratilova was the best woman tennis player ever. For them, Hana Mandlikova reigned in the tennis world. Complete control over all access to information was something the Soviets cherished. India was not far behind. For confirmation of Indira Gandhi’s murder, we had to depend on BBC. I&B ministers notoriously spiked films-our only source of entertainment- for their own entertainment. What is this ministry doing in the era of the Internet, 24-hour news channels and FM radio? Well, besides running a Song & Drama division, it has been devising newer ways of retaining control to suspend that fashion channel, block news on radio or simply politicise film festivals.The Coalition BandwagonClick here to EnlargeThe Government didn’t have a clue that private enterprise had devised ways to connect people to the world of satellite TV. But as soon as the system was in place, it found reason to impose new controls. Do we really need this nanny? Isn’t Prasar Bharati capable of monitoring news? Why should a ministry exist simply to give licences to new entrepreneurs- something that can be done by a board? And then throttle entrepreneurship by insisting on free feed for its channels in the name of national service? DD and AIR can function without state control, as briefly experimented during the NDA regime. The posse of officers parked in Shastri Bhavan can be put to better use in running community radios. Let market forces decide what’s news and how information is broadcast or printed.Alchemy of PoliticsMINISTRY OF CHEMICALS & FERTILISERSStaff: 316+348Wages and allowances: Rs 8.16 cr+Rs 7.23 crTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 22,789 croreRATIONALE: To enable India to play a leading role in the global market; formulate and implement policies to achieve growth of these sectors; ensure mass availability, at reasonable prices, of quality pharmaceuticals.REALITY CHECK: The ministry has had no real role in the march of the pharmaceutical and chemical sector. Theglobal acquisitions have been fuelled by private enterprise. In fertilisers, capacity addition has been poor, with just one plant added in 2005. Worse, nine urea plants, with a combined capacity of over 24 lakh tonne, are closed. Imports, meanwhile, are rising.India is the third largest producer and consumer of fertilisers in the world, with an installed capacity of 12.25 million tonne of nitrogenous and 5.5 million tonne of phosphatic fertilisers. Till August 24, 1992, all fertilisers were covered by controls. Since then, the government has put them under the Essential Commodities Act. While phosphate and potassic fertilisers were decontrolled in 1992, others in the ammonium group were decontrolled in June 1994. Currently anyone is free to import diammonium phosphate and sell it anywhere in India. As per Industrial Policy Resolution dated July 24, 1991, no licence is required for setting up fertiliser plants. However, since the MRP of fertilisers is statutorily fixed or indicated, fertiliser manufacturers are compensated by way of subsidy or concession, for the difference between the cost of production and the MRP. But because new plants entail costs, approval of the Government is required for fertiliser projects. That’s backdoor licence raj for you.Meanwhile, petrochemicals are suffering because there is no clear policy enabling substitution of costly metals with cheaper polymers. Use of plastics in thrust areas like agricultural implements, water supply and management, home construction, consumer electronics and durables, has brought down costs and enabled growth in the sector. But against a global average of 25 kg, per capita consumption of polymers in India is barely 4 kg. In the pharmaceutical sector, the only debate is that of the pricing of essential drugs. With global acquisitions, Indian companies will have not just scale but also access to the latest in drugs. All that is needed is a price regulation system that is best monitored by the Ministry of Health.Thread BareMINISTRY OF TEXTILESStaff: 4,824Wages and allowances: Rs 94.18 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 3,136.68 croreRATIONALE: To oversee policy formulation, planning, development, export promotion and trade regulation of textiles. It is responsible for making raw materials available to both large mills and handlooms. It also coordinates the activities of Textile Research Associations.REALITY CHECK: The industry may be the largest employer in the economy, but there is no role for the Government. One of the boom areas, it is completely open to investment and is licence-free.India ruled the textile world before it was colonised by the British. There may have been the regal support of the maharajas, but textile was always a private enterprise. Perhaps in the post-Independence era, the ministry would have made sense since the sector needed to be nurtured back to health after the debilitating impact of British rule. But it didn’t make sense to Jawaharlal Nehru, so there was no Textiles Ministry in the first Cabinet. Indeed, for three decades after Independence, successive governments didn’t see any need for a Ministry of Textiles. It was only in 1976 that the Department of Textiles was created under the Commerce Ministry, only to be merged into the Department of Industry a year later. An independent ministry was created only on November 15, 1985. Since then it has expanded to include nine PSUs, two institutes, development boards for silk, jute and wool, and nine textile research associations, besides export promotion councils. Recently, it has also added textile/garment parks.The ministry has the dubious distinction of spending less than its allocation through the entire Tenth Plan. Successive ideas like the Apparel Park for Export Schemes and the Textile Centre Infrastructure Development Scheme have failed and the Standing Committee of Parliament for the ministry recommended that instead of loading the sector with a plethora of half-baked schemes, a few effective and well-planned ones should be devised-to assist the industry, to achieve the desired growth of the sector and to make it globally competitive.Rusting AwayMINISTRY OF STEELStaff: 406Wages and allowances: Rs 9.39 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 150 croreRATIONALE: To coordinate and plan the growth and development of the steel industry; formulate policies on pricing, distribution and imports; and development of input industries.REALITY CHECK: Steel was one of the first sectors to be decontrolled in the first wave of Manmohanomics. As early as in January 1992, the Government of India disbanded all the controls that shackled the steel industry. That the ministry exists 15 years later is testimony to the power of pelf and patronage.To get a sense of the size of babudom in a ministry that has been shorn of controls, consider the administrative set-up of the Steel Ministry, headed by a minister assisted by a secretary, an additional secretary and a financial adviser, three joint secretaries, a chief controller of accounts, an economic adviser of the rank of joint secretary, four directors, two deputy secretaries and 13 under-secretaries besides other officers.What is ironic is that despite the disbanding of control, the ministry claims to oversee policies on production, pricing, distribution, imports and exports of steel. In its professed aims, first priority is accorded to “providing single-window clearance for large projects, to be followed by statutory clearances by the concerned ministries”. That mega projects like that of the Tatas (who have projects totalling 27 million tonne lined up in the sector), Korean major Posco and Mittal-Arcelor have been struggling for clearances for over three years gives you a sense of this make-believe situation. With the private sector taking the lead in creating capacity, the ministry must be disbanded without further delay.Colossal WasteMINISTRY OF FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRIESStaff: 296Wages and allowances: Rs 7.91 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 258.3 croreRATIONALE: To develop a strong food processing sector, with a view to creating increased job opportunities in rural areas; enable farmers to reap benefits from modern technology and create surplus for exports.REALITY CHECK: Nearly two decades after the formation of the ministry in 1988, just 2.2 per cent of the fruits and vegetables produced are processed. Produce worth Rs 58,000 crore-the income of two crore people-is wasted every year for want of processing facilities.Nothing really validates the redundancy of the ministry better. It was only in 2005, that is, 17 years after the formation of the ministry, that the Government finally came out with an Act to oversee investments in the sector. But that too hasn’t delivered the farmers from their wretched existence. When conceptualised, the ministry was supposed to empower the farm sector by enabling the farmer to get remunerative prices for his labour by allowing for warehousing, processing and marketing of produce. It is no secret that the ministry cannot deliver the goods on its own.Fact is, everything or anything that the ministry may want to do is subject to the approval of three other ministries-Agriculture, Food and Health. Even after the passing of the Food Processing Act in 2005, the ministry is unable to attract investments because its policies cannot deliver in isolation. Sure the sector is open to investments, but that is not enough. Food processing the world over has taken off on the back of retail and the establishment of a logistics chain. Curiously, that critical function and its reform are vested with the Commerce Ministry. If food processing has to develop and if farmers are to get their due, it is imperative that the Government gets its act together on incentivising investments in logistics and freeing retail. It doesn’t need a Food Processing Ministry.Fabian ShowcaseMINISTRY OF INDUSTRYStaff: 3,376Wages and allowances: Rs 65.18 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 613.44 croreRATIONALE: To facilitate investment and technology and monitor industrial development. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, established in 1995, was reconstituted in 2000 with the merger of the Department of Industrial Development.REALITY CHECK: In the last two years, Indian companies have gone abroad and acquired companies worth over $25 billion. FDI last year was over $15 billion. Sixteen years after the end of Licence Raj, do we really need a separate ministry for facilitating investment?Bigger By DecadeClick here to EnlargeThe original thinking behind the ministry was direct intervention in the process of industrialisation of backward areas. But after the Industrial Policy of 1991, this role is not possible and industrialisation of backward areas is largely left to state governments. There are, for instance, 26 noindustry districts in the country, but the ministry can do precious little about these. The rationale for the existence of this ministry beyond the issue of politics is to promote industrial development and employment growth. And what is preventing this? A number of studies have been done by the ministry, academics and industry chambers on the bottlenecks hindering investment, implementation of projects and employment growth. All of them point to the plethora of laws regulating projects in various sectors, cumbersome procedures prescribed under various rules and regulations, inadequate transparency and multiplicity of agencies in approvals. Even in its aim of making manufacturing competitive-it costs Rs 100 to make a product made in China for Rs 75-the ministry can do little as the problem of an inverted tax structure can only be fixed by the Ministry of Finance.Sure with India Everywhere and high-profile campaigns, the ministry has attracted investor interest in India, leading to higher FDI. But its ability to push projects or clearances is limited. In a coalition regime it can only promote a concept thus far. More importantly, a large part of the clearances for major projects is now at the state government level.Precious LittleMINISTRY OF MINESStaff: 13,316Wages and allowances: Rs 210.03 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 389.7 croreRATIONALE: Survey and exploration of all minerals (other than natural gas and petroleum), mining and metallurgy of nonferrous metals and administration of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, in respect of all mines and minerals, other than coal, natural gas and petroleum.REALITY CHECK: In the federal structure of India, the states are the owners of minerals located within their boundaries and thus the authority on clearances for mining concessions. A ministry just for issuing concessions for minerals in India’s territorial waters is not justified.India is endowed with significant mineral resources. It produces 89 minerals, out of which four are fuel minerals, 11 metallic, 52 non-metallic and 22 minor minerals. Eighty-five per cent of these are mined by PSUs.The Geological Survey of India has mapped an area of approximately 3.146 million sq km, or 94 per cent of the area of India. So we know what we have, where it is and who owns it. Hundred per cent foreign direct investment is permissible for exploration and exploitation of all non-fuel and non-atomic minerals, including gold and silver. FDI up to 74 per cent is permitted in precious stones and diamonds. But it isn’t as if there is a rush of investors at Shastri Bhavan. Nor is there any great buzz amongst investors about the opportunity in India.That is because the system is layered with controls. An application for mining concession by Tata Steel in 2004 is among the 93 approvals pending with the ministry. Its track record in resource utilisation is pathetic. Despite allocations being halved from Rs 8,344.5 crore to Rs 4,485.28 crore, total expenditure during the first four years of the Tenth Plan was Rs 2,042.95 crore, or less than 50 per cent of the revised plan outlay. To enable speedier clearances, it is best to de-layer the system. States should be responsible for mines in their territory and the Centre could institute a regulatory authority for clearances.Self GoalMINISTRY OF YOUTH & SPORTS AFFAIRSStaff: 192Wages and allowances: Rs 65.18 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 613.44 croreRATIONALE: To harness the potential of the youth of the country and involve them in nation-building; create facilities and promote capacity building for broad-basing sports.REALITY CHECK: Promotion of sports is primarily the responsibility of the national sports federations. The ministry’s role is that of an exchequer. And considering that half the populace is under 20 years of age, the need for a Ministry of Youth Affairs is debatable.Click here to EnlargeThe Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was initially set up as the Department of Sports in 1982 at the time of organisation of the IX Asian Games in Delhi. It was rechristened Department of Youth Affairs and Sports during the celebration of the International Youth Year in 1985, and came to be a ministry only on May 27, 2000. But beyond its role in organising the Asian Games and now its looming presence in the confusion preceding the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the ministry has little to show for its existence. Especially if you go by India’s Olympics medals tally since 1984, which is a grand total of three. Promotion of sports may be the responsibility of federations, but the ministry, which may itself be a victim of cross-party political linkages of sports administrators, cannot escape the fact that it has failed to bring slack federations in line. With a shoestring budget-which is gobbled up by canny federation experts for promoting dubious coaching camps and overseas junkets-there is little the ministry can do even in terms of capacity creation other than support bids for major events.As for its role in promoting youth activities, the Standing Committee of Parliament has criticised the ministry’s inability to achieve desired results and for “injudiciously” launching new schemes, not allocating funds for old ones and underutilising allocations. Clearly the unspent balances of various schemes indicate that the very idea of the ministry is out of tune with modern times.Number CrunchMINISTRY OF STATISTICS AND PROGRAMME IMPLEMENTATIONStaff: 7,883Wages and allowances: Rs 131.27 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 1,853.54 croreRATIONALE: To act as an apex organisation for timely dissemination of reliable statistics consistent with international standards; ensure efficient use of resources through monitoring of projects.REALITY CHECK: In most countries the collection and dissemination of statistical information is done by a commission and programme implementation is part of the key result area of the ministries. Why should it be any different in India?Consider the administrative set-up of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The ministry is charged with the responsibility of periodically giving a statistical picture of India. The numbers themselves are collected and disseminated by three different organisations: the National Statistical Commission, the Central Statistical Organisation and the NSSO. Together, they provide different sets of statistics on different facets of the economy and the nation, at different times. But somehow the mandarins use all or a combination of some data to make sense of where the nation is headed. When you consider that the Government already has 35 Cabinet-rank ministers and seven ministers of state with independent charge heading over 45 ministries, you wonder why we would need someone just to oversee statistics. Isn’t this better done by the ministries themselves? After all, the Reserve Bank of India or the Securities and Exchange Board of India do a splendid job on their own.The Department of Programme Implementation is an even more mystifying entity. Apparently it monitors the performance of critical projects. Of the 350 government projects across ministries costing Rs 100 crore and more, 148 are delayed, entailing a cost escalation of 40 per cent. Now the question is: can it do anything about it? Obviously not. So would it not be better to ask ministries to submit a report to Parliament every session? It would at least make the other ministries accountable.Without a JobMINISTRY OF LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENTStaff: 9,067Wages and allowances: Rs 169.48 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 1,633.48 croreRATIONALE: To devise policy and legislation for labour concerning health, safety and welfare of workers; compile statistics; oversee labour courts and tribunals.REALITY CHECK: Barely 5 per cent of the working population of 459 million enjoys the patronage of this ministry. The rest are outside the purview of the laws the Labour Ministry ostensibly implements. Fact is it can do little as long as the powers to change labour laws are vested in state governments.Click here to EnlargeEvery statistic on labour paints a depressing picture of the inability of the ministry to reform the laws. The NSSO recently revealed that 17 per cent of the labour force in rural areas and 45 per cent in urban areas were not usually employed. Worse, the unemployment rate among the educated (secondary school and above) was higher than that among those whose education level was lower. The inability of the ministry to tune the laws to the needs of a modern economy has delivered these numbers. It could act as the motivator and get states to amend laws so that more jobs could be created. But successive ministers are unconvinced. Even where it can make a difference, say in promoting skills training, the ministry has been a miserable failure.Last year, the Government announced that 500 ITIs in the country would be converted into centres of excellence. A FICCI survey reveals that in a majority of ITIs, unutilised seats are as high as 35 per cent. Obviously because the courses offered are not worth the time and anyway “a disproportionately large amount of funds” was allocated to salaries. Despite this, the ministry has been resisting a joint initiative of the Ministry of Finance and Commerce Ministry to allow industry chambers to adopt these ITIs. It claims to look after the health of workers, but reality is shocking. Employees depend on ESI hospitals, where 14,800 posts are vacant, including 1,500 of doctors. As for the courts and tribunals, they need to be housed in the Law Ministry.Public DisinterestMINISTRY OF HEAVY INDUSTRIES AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISESStaff: 436Wages and allowances: Rs 8.34 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 920.73 croreRATIONALE: To administer 48 Central PSUs and assist them in their effort to improve capacity utilisation and profitability, besides generating resources for them to become competitive.REALITY CHECK: Nehru’s temples of modern India are nearly in ruins because politicians preyed on it. PSEs need to be made autonomous. If corporatised and listed with widespread public holdings, they can emerge as competitive forces and deliver returns.The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. During the Third Lok Sabha, the Estimates Committee observed “the absence of any organisation in the Government to provide policy and overall guidance to the Central Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs)” and stressed the need for setting up a centralised coordinating unit which could also make continuous appraisal of the performance of public enterprises. In their wisdom, the government of the day and the ministers created the ministry. Nothing in the performance record indicates that the existence of a ministry has helped the PSEs. Worse, despite sermons on autonomy, the Government is unwilling to even appoint independent directors who could question the actions of the minister. Minister for Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Dev told the Rajya Sabha on May 15 that in 2005-06, 58 of the 225 Central PSEs were making losses. The cumulative loss of the 107 lossmaking CPSUs between 2001-2003 was Rs 30,437 crore. Worse, for 10 central PSEs there was no information available.Forget outstanding loans, the CAG reveals that outstanding interest from 33 PSUs, till March 2006, amounted to Rs 13,761.4 crore. Loans were outstanding since 1978-79. PSUs need to be afforded true autonomy. Every report, every statistic on the subject only justifies the dismantling of this ministry. Yes, there is a role for public sector industries, particularly utilities, but we don’t need a ministry for it. For a truly public character, PSEs need to be housed in a special purpose vehicle accountable to Parliament.Mere TokenismMINISTRY OF MINORITY AFFAIRSStaff: 250Wages and allowances: Rs 5.15 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 512.83 croreRATIONALE: Overall policy, planning, coordination, evaluation and review of the regulatory and developmental programmes of the minority communities; driving policy initiatives for minorities in consultation with other ministries and state governments.REALITY CHECK: The fact that the Government of India could do without a ministry for minority affairs for 57 years is perhaps the best argument against the formation, existence and continuation of this ministry. Its creation under the UPA is also testimony to the tokenism being practised by the Congress and its allies.Sure there is a dire need to ensure delivery of resources to the economically backward groups in the country. This could range from creation of policies that enhance education, enable employment and afford a shot at entrepreneurship. All of these are really in the domain of the respective ministries, from education to health to finance, which are in any case supposed to ensure that the weak get the first charge of the resources. Assuming that this was not happening, is the Ministry of Minority Affairs empowered to deliver? Indeed there is little evidence of the ministry having even made its presence felt even in the debate following the findings of the Sachar Committee on the educational and employment status of Muslims in India.The ministry was charged with the implementation of programmes for uplifting the minorities. But the Ministry of External Affairs refused to part with the Haj Committee, and the HRD Ministry refused to part with minority institutions. Eventually, the ministry was asked to oversee the implementation of the 15-point programme-ranging from improvement of educational institutions and scholarships to promoting entrepreneurship and acting on communal harmony. The irony is that all these functions are carried out by eight other ministries. The Ministry of Minority Affairs-which has expanded its staff strength from 159 in 2004 to 250 now-is merely a spectator.No PrecipitationMINISTRY OF WATER RESOURCESStaff: 13,076Wages and allowances: Rs 218.3 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 871.76 croreRATIONALE: To formulate general policy on water resources development, conservation and technical assistance to states; oversee the regulation and development of inter-state rivers.REALITY CHECK: Water is a national resource. Its management, though, is largely a state subject in the federal structure. Barring inter-state disputes, the responsibility for everything from irrigation to water supply lies with state governments, municipal corporations, local bodies and panchayats.You could argue that given the enormity of the water crisis, it is necessary to have a Central ministry to create policy and monitor implementation. But the track record of the Water Resources Ministry doesn’t inspire confidence. The crux of the matter is that water management, or rather mismanagement, involves nine ministries-Water Resources, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Urban Development, Food, Agriculture, Health, Power and Environment-and consensus is an elusive goal. So nothing quite gets done. Nearly 60 years after Independence, over two-thirds of the cultivable land continues to be vulnerable to the vagaries of the monsoon. A recent report reveals that 159 major projects, 251 medium-scale projects and 94 renovation works have been pending since the 1960s. In fact, for nearly three decades the ministry has failed to come to a conclusion whether inter-linking of rivers across India is a good idea or not.A Small WorldClick here to EnlargeIn reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on the inadequate irrigation facilities, Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz said, “Irrigation being a state subject, projects are conceived, planned and implemented by the state governments as per their own priority.” As early as in 1919, irrigation was deemed a provincial subject and the responsibility of the Government of India was confined to advice. In other words, there is little the Centre can do beyond coaxing the states. The much-vaunted Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, for instance, is a classic carrot-andstick scheme where states are “rewarded” for better performance in completing irrigation projects. The same is the case with drinking water supply. Barely a third of the rural populace has access to water on tap. A study of 12 major cities revealed that the shortfall in water supply is 4,000 million litre a day, which is what Mumbai needs every day, or in volume terms, water enough to fill 4 lakh big water tankers.Even in terms of resolving inter-state watersharing conflicts, the record is hardly satisfactory. The track record of the Eradi Commission set up for resolving disputes between Punjab and Haryana in 1985, or the annual flare-up of the Cauvery dispute, is testimony to the powerlessness of the Centre. The hard fact is that the administrative control and responsibility for development of water rests with state governments-be it irrigation projects, drinking water supply or even hydro power, which is the responsibility of state electricity boards. Sure the Ministry of Water Resources does a splendid job in terms of collating national data, scenario reports and evangelism. But does every evangelist need a ministry?Small ChangeMINISTRY OF AGRO AND RURAL INDUSTRIES AND SMALL SCALE INDUSTRIESStaff: 2,934Wages and allowances: Rs 45.38 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 1,785.04 croreRATIONALE: To design policies and schemes and monitor their implementation for the growth of small and micro enterprises; oversee promotion of traditional, village and khadi enterprises.REALITY CHECK: The small scale sector is an enclave created to encourage entrepreneurship and employment via tax arbitrage. Be that as it may, the presence of a ministry for SSI or creation of one for agro industry has done little for the sectors.In September 2001, the Ministry of Agro and Rural Industries was created in recognition of the fact that long-term growth depends on tapping the potential of the farm sector. What would this ministry do that those of agriculture, rural development, Panchayati Raj or food processing are not doing? On the face of it, it would generate employment in rural areas, develop entrepreneurial skill, achieve rural industrialisation and facilitate credit. Now isn’t that what is being done by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, six Centrally sponsored schemes on self employment and the Finance Ministry?Rural industry is promoted by the Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP) through the Khadi and Village Industries Commission and the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Yojana (PMRY), instead of being run by the Ministry for Rural Development. Assistance to rural entrepreneurs under REGP has gone up from Rs 265 crore to Rs 320 crore. Under PMRY, the states could use only Rs 16.82 crore out of the Rs 20.48 crore released in 2005-06. The picture is not very different in the more SSI sector, which accounts for 39 per cent of the manufacturing output and 34 per cent of exports, delivering Rs 4,76,201 crore to the GDP. In what can only happen in India, the ministry has revealed to Parliament that of the 123 lakh units, over 104 lakh units are unregistered. And despite the ministry’s efforts, net bank credit has gone down from 17.5 per cent to 8.1 per cent. With such a track record, the two ministries deserve to be shut down post-haste. In a modern economy, it is size that delivers economies and market share.Fossilled in TimeMINISTRY OF COALStaff: 437Wages and allowances: Rs 6.99 croreTotal plan and non-plan expenditure: Rs 288 croreRATIONALE: To determine policies and strategies for exploration and development of coal and lignite reserves; run public sector units who monopolise coal output in India.REALITY CHECK: India is projected to import about 44 million tonne of coal this year, despite the fact that the country is sitting on indicated reserves of a whopping 252 billion tonne and proven reserves of 95 billion tonne.Thanks to the combined efforts of the ministry and the public sector units, coal production has “improved” from 70 million tonne at the time of nationalisation in 1973 to 343.37 million tonne in 2005-06. In 2006-07, it has risen to 361 million tonne, an improvement of 5.2 per cent. India, incidentally, is among the foremost producers of coal, having begun mining as early as 1774. At the time of Independence, India’s output was 30 million tonne. But that was due to private sector involvement.Ironically the CIL Board sees opportunity in rising imports and has sent a proposal to form a whollyowned subsidiary of CIL called Coal Videsh, a la ONGC Videsh, to invest abroad. In fact CIL officers visited Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa to explore possibilities of acquiring stakes in operating mines and green-field coal blocks. Any attempt to involve the private sector-beyond the concessions for captive use by private steel and power plants-has been repeatedly thwarted. A Bill to amend the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act to further open up the coal sector is pending in the Rajya Sabha from April 2000.
Brazil enters its final days of preparations for the World Cup paying extra attention to its defenceBrazil enters its final days of preparations for the World Cup paying extra attention to its defence.Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari spent part of the team’s training session on Monday making adjustments to the defensive setup, stopping practice several times to reposition players until he was satisfied.Although Brazil didn’t concede a goal in its two warm-up matches before the World Cup, Scolari said he was not completely satisfied with how his squad played defensively. He didn’t even like how the team practiced at times, and publicly said his players were giving up too much space for counter-attacks.One of the coach’s main goals in the last week of preparations was to make sure the team ready defensively in time for the opener against Croatia on Thursday.”We know that if we don’t concede goals, our chances to win matches increase, because we know the kind of talent we have in attack,” Scolari said. “It’s important we are well prepared on defense so we are not caught by surprise.”Right back Daniel Alves acknowledged that Brazil’s defence isn’t perfect, but said the team is working to improve before the opener.When told that Croatia striker Ivica Olic said he saw spaces in Brazil’s defence during the warm-up matches, Alves acknowledged that adjustments still have to be made.”Obviously, if we didn’t make mistakes, we would be a perfect team, and that’s not possible,” the Barcelona defender said. “If Olic saw spaces, then we have to make sure we fix that so he can’t find them anymore.”advertisementThe last time Brazil conceded a goal was in a 2-1 win over Chile in a friendly last November. Brazil beat Panama 4-0 and Serbia 1-0 last week in the last two matches before for the opening match in Sao Paulo.”Physically we are ready, but tactically we still have to adjust a few things,” Scolari said.The coach’s other main focus during Monday’s training was on set pieces – another area where he said Brazil still needs to improve.There was a scare in the session when Neymar twisted his right ankle. He was on the ground in pain and needed to be attended to by doctors, but was able to finish the training session normally.Brazil is expected to practice again at its training camp outside Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday before traveling to Sao Paulo later in the day for the opener.
The Indian tricolour was shown upside down in the official CWG video songIndia has hit the headlines for reasons other than sporting in the just-begun Commonwealth Games here after it came to light that the country’s flag was shown upside down in the official song for the 11-day event.The official song titled “Let the Games Begin” is also the Glasgow Children’s 2014 anthem for Unicef.The song features the flags of all the participating countries but the makers have blundered while showcasing the tricolour.India, who finished second in the medals in the previous edition of the event in Delhi, has sent a 215-strong contingent this time.The Games kicked off yesterday with a colourful opening ceremony here.