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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Crack team of advisers to guide PM Modi

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 09, 2014
First Published: 01:12 IST(9/6/2014) | Last Updated: 01:17 IST(9/6/2014)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have a council of experts to help him take the right decisions instead of the slew of advisory groups his predecessors relied on.

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The equable and compact structure to be headed by Modi, with about 10 members, would be the final authority on policy and programme initiated by the ministries, a senior government functionary said.

The council fits into the PM’s mantra of “minimum government, maximum governance”, as it reduces the layers of decision-making in the administration. Last week, Modi scrapped all 35 ministerial committees – Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs) and Groups of Ministers (GoMs) –  accused of delaying decisions in the UPA regime.

The new council would virtually take over the job of the unwieldy Planning Commission of India – set up in the 1950s – to advise the Prime Minister’s Office on socio-economic policies. The plan panel will be extenuated into the government’s think tank, pushing the ministries to “look beyond the obvious”, in the new scheme of things.

The policies framed after the panel’s inputs would be examined by the new council after being vetted by the expert member in-charge of a sector, a government source claiming to have contributed to the new framework told HT.

He added that the PM was looking at having an expert each from various sectors – health, skill and education, economy, agriculture, etc – in the council.

“Each expert, having a permanent office, will deal with issues concerning his or her domain,” the source said, unable to give a timeframe by when the new council would be in place.

The new council will mean dismantling some age-old bodies under the aegis of the PMO, such as the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) –constituted during Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure.

Of late, the PMEAC has come under criticism, with plan panel’s last deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia suggesting it be scrapped. “The PMEAC reports are debated outside the government and it has no bearing on government functioning,” Ahluwalia said in a note written to the Prime Minister’s Office on May 16 – the day results of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were announced.

Prime Minister Modi is said to be keen to wind up other sector-specific councils set up by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, who was himself heading as many as six of these bodies – including one each on skill development, industry, nutrition, wildlife and unique identification. Officials said that on an average these councils, except the one on industry, used to meet just once a year. The National Nutrition Council had met only twice in the 10 years of UPA, and the National Wildlife Board got together last in 2013 only when its non-official members threatened to resign.

“The new PM believes that the ministries perform, not the councils,” an official said.


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