Allocation of ministries
The newly inducted 57 cabinet members is a welcome step with a combination of experienced and fresh faces as ministers. It was obvious that one didn’t expect any major reshuffles within the incumbents for vying top cabinet rank portfolios. The appointment of the experienced diplomat S.Jaishankar as Minister of External Affairs comes at a crucial stage as India now looks forward to strengthen and renew the foreign policy matters, especially related to oil import sanction imposed from Iran amongst the other issues which require a prime focus now.
Also with the creation of the new Jal Shakti (Water Resources) ministry and allocation of an experienced minister to look after the newly formed Ministry of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is a surprise move. The PMO until now was headed by the Hon’ble PM and the day to day affairs was looked after by the Ministry’s senior bureaucrat. With the allocation of a minister to PMO, it needs to be seen as to how the matters amongst the various ministries will be taken care through active co-ordination.
While it is good to know that the most of incumbents have retained their initial ministries allotted previously, it is also surprising that many key portfolios like Civil Aviation, Women and Child Development, Communications, Law, I&B etc have been allotted with an additional responsibility to many ministers. Some of the portfolios will now see upto 4 ministries being handled by an incumbent and on an average of 2 portfolios allotted to the ministers.
The size of such a jumbo cabinet may have shrinked by giving additional portfolios but it is high time to follow the principle of one man one portfolio aided by Independent/MoS rank ministers. Such a move will help in speedy delivery of day to day services of the respective Ministries and Departments and may also help and quick disposal of cases. It may further help the Ministries to function in an effective manner under a single functioning minister with the support of atleast 2 Independent/MoS ministers respectively, if reduction of size of the cabinet is otherwise is not possible.
Hike in scholarship for martyrs’ children a right step
It is welcome step that new Union Cabinet in its very first meeting paid practical tribute to those brave persons having martyred their lives fighting against terrorism and Naxalites by increasing scholarship-amounts for their children to rupees 2500 and 3000 respectively for boys and girls thus further depicting sincerity towards girl child through such distinction in amounts.
But providing annual grant of rupees 6000 to all farmers by removing capping of two-hectare land will make even those turning farmers to convert their black money into white by showing agricultural income from produce in their lavish farm-houses and purchase of agricultural-land only for tax-evasion. Policy should provide relief to actual farmers by subsidy on input-items needed for agriculture on production of affidavits about income. A small sum of rupees 6000 per annum that too paid in instalments of rupees 2000 is practically meaningless even though it costs heavily to public-exchequer. However burden on the exchequer should be compensated by permitting say rupees five lakhs annually as tax-free agricultural income to avoid misuse of limitless exemption for turning black money into white.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal