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New Phase- 2nd ARC Report on Structure of Government | UPSC

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UPSC Syllabus: GS Paper II:  Polity & Governance

Sub Theme: Creation of Ministries and Departments | Limitations and Recommendations to improve Structure of Government |UPSC

Existing Structure of the Government

Article 77 of the Indian Constitution provides that

  • All executive actions of the Government of India shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the President.
  • The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for allocation among Ministers of the said business.

Exercising powers vested by virtue of Article 77, the President has made the “The Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules”. The Rules stipulate that the business of the Government of India shall be transacted in the Ministries, Departments, Secretariats and Offices specified in the First Schedule to these rules. The distribution of subjects among the departments shall be as specified in the Second Schedule to these Rules.

The manner in which the officers are required to help the Minister in discharge of his/her executive functions is governed by the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules. These Rules also provide for the constitution of the following Standing Committees of the Cabinet and each Standing Committee shall consist of such Ministers as the Prime Minister may, from time to time, specify. As of now, these Committees are:

  • Appointments Committee
  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
  • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
  • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs.
  • Cabinet Committee on Security
  • Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth
  • Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development.
  • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation

Basic attributes of Government’s structure

Hierarchy: Offices and officials are arranged in a hierarchical manner with well-defined roles and responsibilities at each level. This ensures that the subordinate offices/officials are under the control and authority of higher officials and hence answerable to them for their actions and decisions.

Division of work: The work is divided into different units and allocated to different personnel based upon the principle of specialization. Within a single office, we have multiple departments such as Accounting, Technical, HRD etc. and this ensures specialization of work.

Strict adherence to Rules and Regulations: This is done to check misuse of powers and to reduce discretionary powers of the officials. Further, adherence to rules ensure uniformity, consistency and stability in the actions and decisions of the civil servants.

Competence: Qualifications are clearly laid down for every job/position. Selection and promotion is based upon the basis of competence of civil servants.

Strengths of Existing Structure

The existing structure of the Government of India has evolved over a long period. It has certain inherent strengths which have helped it stand the test of time. However, there are weaknesses also which render the system slow, cumbersome and unresponsive.

Enhanced Accountability through Hierarchy and strict adherence to rules.

Link between policy making and its implementation: During the initial phase of their career, the IAS officers are posted at the district level. They normally serve at the district level for a period of 10-12 years. During this phase, the IAS officers understand the ground realities. They realise that the theory which have learnt as part of their preparation and as part of their training is completely different from practice. They understand the problems and challenges in implementing the policies. As they rise up the hierarchy, they will be in in much better position to advice the ministers on policy making.

Division of work: Creation of separate ministries and departments such as Ministry of Cooperation, Department of Space, Ministry of MSMEs etc. would lead to greater specialisation.

Problems/Challenges with Structure of Government

Challenge 1: Undue emphasis on routine functions

Problem:

  • Over-burdened with work;
  • Perform certain functions which can better be performed by the private sector or states
  • Lack of emphasize on its core functions

The Ministries of Government of India are often unable to focus on their policy analysis and policy making functions due to the large volume of routine work that they are saddled with. This leads to national priorities not receiving due attention. Often, functions which are best carried out by the State or Local Governments or could easily be outsourced continue to be retained with the Union Government.

Solution:

  • Need to carry out detailed analysis of functions/activities carried out in each ministry/department
  • Need to do away with certain activities which are no longer needed. For example, according to CAG, there are number of centrally sponsored schemes which have negligible budget allocation. So, these CSS have outlived their utility. It is important to gradually stop the funding for those CSS and their subcomponents which have either outlived their utility or have insignificant budgetary outlays not commensurate to a national programme. There should also be a minimum threshold funding size for the approval of a CSS. Below the stipulated threshold, the administrating department should justify the need for the continuity of the scheme. Third-party evaluation of all CSS should be completed within a stipulated timeframe.
  • Delegate the functions to the state and private sector based upon the principle of subsidiary

Challenge 2: Reorganising the Ministries and Departments

Present Status: In 1947, the Council of Ministers comprised 16 members including the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. The size of the Council of Ministers has, over the years, increased significantly with the expansion in the role and apparatus of the State and also due to the political compulsions particularly in an era of coalition governments, to accommodate more Members of Parliament as Ministers. In order to restrict the size of the Council of Ministers to a reasonable limit, the Constitution (Ninety-first Amendment) Act, 2003, provided that the strength of the Council of Ministers shall not exceed 15% of the number of Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha.

Creation of new ministry and department: Devote more attention and specialisation to a particular subject; But it creates a problem of coordination and lack of integrated approach to national priorities and problems.

For example, Transport- Railways, ; Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Water ways, Road Transport and Highways, Civil Aviation. . Thus, ‘Transport’ as a subject has been fragmented into multiple disciplines and assigned to independent ministries making the necessary integrated national approach to this important sector difficult.

Similarly, Energy is now being handled by at least four different departments i.e. the Ministry of Power, Coal, New and Renewable, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Atomic Energy. In contrast, in the UK, there is a single Secretary of State ( Cabinet Minister) for Transport and a single Secretary of State for Energy.

Solution:

  • Need to strike a balance between the requirements of functional specialization on the one hand and the need for a holistic approach to key issues on the other. In India, the Departmentally Related Standing Committees of Parliament is a good example of integration of inter-connected subject matters.
  • Social Justice and Empowerment: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; Ministry of Tribal Affairs; Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  • Not possible to reduce the size of council of ministers.
  • Increase the level of coordination among the departments by providing for a senior Cabinet Minister to head each of the 20-25 closely related Departments. He/She may be designated as the “First or Coordinating Minister” (or any other suitable nomenclature) and would coordinate and provide the overall lead for the entire group of departments.

This arrangement would in effect lead to enhanced coordination on national issues and at the same time, meet the requirements of providing adequate Ministerial representation in a large and diverse country, without causing a proliferation in the number of Ministries.

Challenge 3: Policy Making

Present Status: Policy making in India- Ad-hoc and Fire fighting exercise; responds to the problems rather than prevent the problems from occurring.

Solution:

Transition from “Policy Making” to “Policy Planning”- Anticipate the future problems, Take policy responses to prevent the problems from occurring; Fire -proofing exercise.

Creation of Think-tanks for policy advice: For instance, New Zealand split the Ministry of Defence in 1989 into the New Zealand Defence Force, in charge of the country’s defence forces, and a small Ministry of Defence, whose primary function was to provide policy advice on strategic and military capabilities.

Challenge 4: Effective Policy Implementation

Present Status: Poor policy implementation

Solution:

Transition from “Policy Making” to “Policy Planning”- Anticipate the future problems, Take policy responses to prevent the problems from occurring; Fire -proofing exercise.

Creation of Think-tanks for policy advice: For instance, New Zealand split the Ministry of Defence in 1989 into the New Zealand Defence Force, in charge of the country’s defence forces, and a small Ministry of Defence, whose primary function was to provide policy advice on strategic and military capabilities.

Challenge 5: Red Tapism and Delays in Decision Making

Present Status: A department in the Government of India has a vertical hierarchical structure with the Secretary as the administrative head and several levels comprising Special Secretary/Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary, Director/ Deputy Secretary, Under Secretary and Section Officer/Desk Officer.

Solution:

  • The number of levels through which a file passes for a decision should not exceed three.
  • Set up more number of Group of Ministers (GoM) and Committees of Secretaries (CoS)
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