Making the most of Chawla panel measures

Dec 24 2013, 00:06 IST
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SummaryExpediting creation of the national data repository for the petroleum sector and auction of coal blocks for the private players will help improve the investment climate

Cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth is slated to hold a high-level meeting on Thursday to discuss the implementation of the Ashok Chawla committee recommendations on allocation of natural resources.

The meeting is crucial because there has been a clamour in the government to expedite administrative and legislative moves which were being seen as part of the second generation of economic reforms before the upcoming general elections. The government's eagerness in pushing the steps suggested by the Chawla panel in the next few months would, therefore, be hardly surprising.

The panel's recommendations have been considered critical because the allocation and management of natural resources has proved to be the UPA government’s Achilles’ heel. Be it coal, spectrum, oil & gas, forest or land, the government's poor handling of the policies associated with allocation of these resources always begged immediate corrective steps. But the government's record in bringing in changes suggested by the committee, in itself, speaks of the seriousness in taking the required measures.

To begin with, the report of the panel is yet to be made public for consultation. The committee set up in January 2011, submitted its report on May 31 the very same year. It identified natural resources such as coal, minerals, petroleum and natural gas, spectrum, forests, water and land, as areas where the central government had a major role to play in articulating the policy framework or influencing the process of their allocation—and recommended steps to enhance transparency, effectiveness and sustainability in their allocation, pricing and utilisation through open, transparent and competitive mechanisms—and also suggested changes in the legal, institutional and regulatory framework to implement its recommendations.

The committee of secretaries then discussed the steps advised by the committee and submitted its views on the suggested measures to the group of minister (GoM) for further action. And then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed these recommendations in a meeting on May 25, 2012, in which he was told that the recommendations of the committee had been examined by the GoM on corruption headed by the finance minister and the GoM had accepted 69 of the 81 recommendations—11 recommendations were to be examined further.

It was decided in the meeting that all the 69 agreed recommendations would be implemented by the individual ministries in a time-bound manner.

Among its critical recommendations, the committee has suggested standardisation of the format of minutes for all standing linkage committee meetings, especially

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