Editorial: Hesitant start

May 29 2014, 04:29 IST
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SummaryMishap over principal secretary unfortunate

After winning a historic mandate, it is unfortunate that the government got tripped on the appointment of its principal secretary, and had to issue an ordinance to make his appointment legally tenable. The rules of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), of which Nripendra Misra was the chairman, state that the chairperson/members cannot ever be employed in the government againWednesdays ordinance amends this portion of the Trai Act which, it has to be said, deserved amending. The rules were put in place to ensure regulators didnt do the governments bidding for the lure of future office. But the same rules dont apply to other regulators such as Sebi and the Competition Commission, and surely a cooling off periodas is prescribed for a regulator accepting private employmentwould do the trick? After all, going by the Trai rules, a regulator can never stand for elections or public officemost courts would strike down the rules quite quickly since it violates fundamental freedoms. The fact, however, is that a sure-footed government should have been aware of this. More so since this was not some arcane rule no one was aware ofMisra himself had written to the communications ministry in 2006 protesting the rule and asking for it to be changed.

Governments have, in the past, overcome far greater embarrassments and gone on to do a good job. And so it may be with the Modi establishmentthe protesting Shiv Sena minister has, for instance, decided to finally join officethough the lack of a defence minister in the initial swearing in does suggest things arent quite going the way the prime minister would want them to. Some of the first-day-first-quotes by Cabinet members also suggest the prime minister will have a tough job converting his colleagues to his way of thinking. Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan, for instance, spoke of the need to create more storage facilities for the Food Corporation of India, though it is more than abundantly clear that FCIs problem is too much procurement its stocks are 27 million tonnes more than what is required under the buffer norms and this costs the government around R70,000 crore extra. Education minister Smriti Irani, similarly, repeated the old BJP line of raising education-spend to 6% of GDP though the Pratham surveys of elementary education and the Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings of universities showIndia has just one university in the top 500 global onesIndias education problem

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