Column: Time for a ministry of logistics

Jun 21 2014, 02:11 IST
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SummaryThis ministry would coordinate between the transport, railways, commerce and finance ministries for exim cargo

So the first, hesitant steps to combine subjects that should not have been separated in the first case have been taken. In the new government’s Cabinet, corporate affairs has been brought under the finance ministry; culture and tourism are under one minister; overseas Indian affairs moves into the foreign ministry; power, coal and renewable energy will all come under one massive umbrella and the roads and shipping ministries get back together as they were in the past.

The importance of clubbing ministries that have organic links with each other and that should never have been separated at all can hardly be over-emphasised. Somehow, the impression has gathered ground that it is only coalition governments that increase the number of jobs needed to keep the boys happy. But ironically enough, it was T Anjaiah who—as the head of a single-party, Congress government in Andhra Pradesh many years ago—formed the country’s earliest jumbo cabinet with more than 60 ministers. The joke at the time went: In his desperation to find jobs for his ministers, he was all for splitting animal husbandry into two portfolios—one for animals, the other for husbandry—so that it could accommodate two ministers.

To be fair, the tendency to expand cabinet size to the maximum permitted under law was seen in both the UPA governments that ruled for the last 10 years as well as in the first NDA government. It was also the first NDA government that decided that the ministry of surface transport be bifurcated with roads and highways becoming a separate ministry.

The move to bring these departments and the shipping department back into one ministry must be applauded. Indeed, they should never have been separated in the first case. It was the mistaken belief that only a separate ministry could successfully handle the huge investment of more than R60,000 crores in the Golden Quadrilateral Project that led to the split. But a country’s road network is intimately linked with the development of its airports and seaports and its ability to move cargo in and out of such ports with speed and precision. Roads act as the vital link for the efficient movement of raw material at the lowest cost from the point of import to factories where they are used. They are equally crucial in the movement of finished products from the place of manufacture to the place where they will ultimately be

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