Manmohan@3-III- an Evaluation

Many a times, one reads news such as DMK’s Karunanidhi, or Prakash Karat of CPM meeting Manmohan Singh on some issues such as inflation, disinvestments or the presidential candidate of UPA. Does Manmohan Singh play any role in these decisions? How hollow it appears when the whole of the country knows that Sonia Gandhi makes all these decisions? Both Shivraj Patil and Pratibha Patil were Sonia’s selection. Why is the government making so much of effort to make it appear that Manmohan Singh is effective? Let me confess I don’t have any grievance from the learned PM on this issue. He is not at all a political heavyweight in Congress that can affect a decision. He serves only as an intelligent and knowledgeable adviser.

However, Manmohan Singh could have certainly brought about some changes in administration that would have saved a lot of money for the nation. ‘India Today’ in its June 18, 2007 issue has come out with a cover story ‘White Elephants’ about the useless ministries- ‘using coalition compulsions as a fig leaf, political parties have kept alive 20 useless ministries costing the government over Rs 74,000 crore.’ With all his knowledge of applied economics from Delhi/ London School of economics, Manmohan Singh could certainly have persuaded Sonia and his other colleagues to do at least some reforms about the national wastages by restructuring the cabinet in a more effective manner that could have made implementation of any project of national interest more efficient. And the money thus saved could have financed education or healthcare.

Manmohan Singh has today 79 ministers-33 cabinet, seven ministers of state (MoS) with independent charge, and 39 MoS in his cabinet. (On average, each minister carries excess baggage of 20 direct administrative staff and depending on the ministry, 20 civil servants with their additional support staff.) And this too, as the 91st Constitutional Amendment notified in January 2004 sets a ceiling of 15 per cent of Lok Sabha seats as the maximum size of the Council of Ministers.

Manmohan Singh could have sold the idea of a smaller cabinet, perhaps not more than 15 or 18. Bibek Debroy, Professor, International Management Institute, and Research Professor, Centre for Policy Research in guest column ‘Elephantine Problem’ of the same issue of ‘India Today’ suggest a cabinet of 12 ministries-PMO, External Affairs, Rural Development, Home Affairs, Energy, Finance, Social Justice, Commerce and Industry, Physical Infrastructure, Defence, Law and Justice (including Company Affairs) and Environment. At best, one can add one more on Space, Atomic Energy, Science and Technology. When US, UK, and France can effectively run with about 20 ministers or secretaries, why should India a poorer country requiring resources urgently for some basic infrastructures or for social services waste money on such a large cabinet. Who knows it better than him that each cabinet minister costs the country Rs 4 crore a year and each MoS costs Rs 2 crore that in itself a very conservative figure?

Every Indian had a great expectation from Manmohan Singh because of his successful tenure as Finance minister in 1990s. But it seems the country has not given the due credit to the then PM who backed his policies.

Manmohan Singh would have left an impression of his personality in government working if he would have made some changes of performance evaluation. Why should a performance be judged by the expenditure made and not by work done?

Manmohan Singh could have given a solution to the wasteful system whereby the center spends Rs 3.65 to provide a subsidized food grain worth Re 1 to a person living below poverty line.

Instead Manmohan Singh has started a new tradition of coming out with a policy for every sector that one can imagine. And then he sets up a GoM with Pranab Mukherji invariably as its head.

1.Manmohan Singh would have certainly made all chief ministers sit together and come out with an agreeable solution to the problem of land acquisition and compensation for the land required for the projects of national importance. He could have also taken initiative so that Gujarat would not have occurred again anywhere in the country. But the recent troubles related to Dera and Gurdwara in Punjab, Gujjar and Meena in Rajasthan, he has not come out with some innovative solution.

2.With leftists in his government Manmohan Singh could have come out with a definition of democratic protests. How much of the protests come under democratic right? How can the people are not inconvenienced by flash strikes and agitations, as it was caused by the employees of aviation sector that are very highly paid?

3.Manmohan Singh is his three years in chair could have got a lot of irrigation projects that are pending for decades completed. He could have certainly solved the issue such as Sutlej Canal where the country has invested so much of money but because of the adamancy of a state the facility can’t be brought in use.

I feel bad that this model of putting the best economist as PM of the country that I praised has failed.

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