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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday dismantled a process popular with the UPA regime, and one that was believed to delay policy decisions. In the new government’s first frontal attack against red tape, it scrapped all empowered groups of ministers (EGoMs) and groups of ministers (GoMs) formed to decide on key policy matters and resolve differences.
The GoMs and EGoMs were small groups of ministers tasked by the PM to decide on specific issues. Recommendations by GoMs had to be approved by cabinet while EGoMs were authorised to decide on their own. The UPA government, widely accused of policy paralysis, had formed more than 125 GoMs and EGoMs.
Now, ministries will directly decide on policy. “Ministries and departments will process, at their level, issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take decisions,” said a government release. If ministries face difficulty in deciding, the cabinet secretariat and prime minister’s office will step in.The move signals a new style of functioning in which decisions are likely to be swift, and Modi, unlike his predecessor Manmohan Singh, will assert more authority instead of delegating power to other cabinet colleagues.
The UPA regime referred almost all crucial policy matters — including Telangana, land acquisition and food security bills, modernisation of airports, spectrum allocation, bailout of Air India — to GoMs. This often led to tedious discussions and stressful delays. Telangana, for instance, was first referred to a ministerial panel in 2004. Discussions continued till 2012.
Defending the ministerial groups, former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said, “The GoMs brought into play collective wisdom and institutional experience. It acted as a single window clearance system.”
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi added, “Modi’s government is just five days old. He has set an agenda for 100 days that does not mention price rise and welfare of minorities. It also has no deadline for bringing back black money. We will have to wait to see how he actually performs.”
The move to abolish GoMs is in sync with Modi’s emphasis on faster governance. After setting the agenda for 100 days, he has called the first meeting of the full council of ministers on Monday. Priorities will be spelt out and junior ministers are expected to get clear directions.
In Modi’s shrunk cabinet, junior ministers are likely to be utilised a lot more and important work delegated to them.