To expedite decision-making in the government and usher in “greater accountability” in the system, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday abolished all existing Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs) and GoMs, which had become a symbol and an instrument of policy paralysis during the previous UPA government.
Ministries and departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at their level.
“Wherever the ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision-making process,” said an official release, emphasising that the move to abolish the existing nine EGoMs and 21 GoMs was mean to “empower the ministries and departments”.
The move is apparently in keeping with Narendra Modi’s motto of “minimum government, maximum governance” and “decisive government”, which he had emphasised throughout his campaign.
While the concept of such panels was born during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, as a means to sort out inter-ministerial conflict of views on important policy issues, under the UPA, the number of such GoMs and EGoMs had mushroomed to over 80 at one point of time. The panels had held up decisions on many issues in the name of consultation, particularly as they were not given any timeline.
Many such panels hardly ever met. For instance, the GoM on interlinking of rivers did not have a single meeting, said sources. The GoMs on many other subjects like setting up of the Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial Corridor, pension and post-retirement medical schemes for Food Corporation of India employees, amendment to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, and on enhancement of age of superannuation of non-teaching and public health specialists of the Central Health Service too never met. Some GoMs like the one on domestic workers met just once.
With a powerful Congressman and Cabinet minister like Pranab Mukherjee heading over 50 EGoMs and GoMs at one stage, the then PMO was virtually left with no remit to vet any decision of these panels.
Many of these GoMs were also headed by then defence minister A K Antony, who was known to be a status-quoist with little enthusiasm for innovative ideas.
The dismantling of the EGoMs and GoMs is likely to restore the authority and supremacy of the PMO, with the PM having the last word on policy-making in the event of differences among ministries. Manmohan Singh’s image as a weak PM was built on the argument