Setting up a committee or commission has become an almost Pavlovian response by the government of the day when confronted by a vexatious issue. The latest to come in for flak is the National Advisory Council (NAC), which has thankfully been wound down as the government prepares to exit.
It comprised experts and became an organisation that was able to take far-reaching and expensive decisions without really being answerable to any constitutional body. The NAC is not the only one.
There have been numerous bodies set up over the years that were meant to carry out certain enabling tasks, provide inputs for legislation and advise the government.
To name a few, there is the National Commission for Women (NCW), the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and numerous quasi-government bodies. So far, there has been little productive and positive outcomes from these organisations.
Rather, they have become sinecures for certain people given through grace and favour by the powers-that-be. The work that these bodies do can easily be done, and should be done, by the ministries concerned.
For example, there is nothing that the NAC has been able to do that could not have been done by a coordination committee of the relevant ministries. We have the legislation in place and each ministry and parliamentary committee have the capacity to come up with workable suggestions.
If the government needs so much advice, it can seek the help of consultants without setting up a whole new infrastructure.
Take the NCW — it has been able to do nothing to better the lot of women, even in the face of such heinous crimes as the December 16 gang rape. It took a commission headed by a far-sighted judge to come up with relevant additions to the law.
Even if such bodies are deemed necessary, they should be set up for a limited duration and with a specific task as the mandate. After its work is over, it should be wound up as the Kashmir interlocutors’ committee was. And the government should act on the recommendations of such a body.
The normal practice is to put away such suggestions in a file and forget about them. If the new government can do away with or streamline this practice, then it will have done governance a great deal of good. Or will it need a commission to take that decision?