Months after the Narendra Modi government attempted to hasten decision-making and end policy paralysis by abolishing the UPA-era practice of setting up groups of ministers (GoMs) to resolve contentious issues, the custom has made a comeback in a fresh avatar.
The NDA government after taking power last year scrapped as many as 18 GoMs and nine empowered groups of ministers (EGoMs) established by its predecessor.
But 11 months later, nine informal committees comprising cabinet ministers have been formed to deliberate on and resolve policy flaws related to a host of issues ranging from the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Amendment Bill.
The latest such panel formed last month is chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley to brainstorm on a proposal to amend the National Commission for Women Act to give it more teeth.
The first meeting of the seven-member group, which also comprises external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari among others, is scheduled to take place on April 7.
Jaitley heads three of these unofficial committees.
In March, alone five crucial legislations were referred to informal groups of ministers, said sources.
These include the child labour Bill that is being looked at by a seven-member committee chaired by Naidu, the BIS Bill and the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill that were referred to two groups headed by Jaitley and the Seed Bill that was sent to a five-member panel with home minister Rajnath Singh at the helm.
However, unlike the UPA era where GoMs were constituted through a formal order, the informal ministerial panels in the NDA government are not set up through any official notification.
Also, sources say the informal groups are swifter in giving their decisions compared to the UPA GoMs that sometimes sat for over a year on policy decisions.
For instance, the informal committee set up under Jaitley to look into the Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill has already given its recommendations. Similarly, the group under environment minister Prakash Javadekar to fast-track green clearances to infrastructure projects has also provided its suggestions.
As many as 80 GoMs and EGoMs were set up during UPA I, while the figure went up to 120 under UPA II.
Of the 27 EGoMs, President Pranab Mukherjee, then the senior-most member of the Manmohan Singh cabinet, headed 13, followed by P Chidambaram at 10.