October 12, 2009
An austerity suggestion for the Indian government
There's a well-publicized 'austerity' drive initiated by the government of India, and it involves having ministers travel economy class by air and third a/c by train.
Now, there are no well-publicized target figures on how much the government aims to save through these acts. It's perhaps too naive to believe that ministers will continue to chant about austerity once the economy is on a recovery path. It's odd that a government which engages elite security personnel, at the tax-payer's cost, to protect two-bit politicians, talks about cost-cutting measures.
In any case, cost-cutting, like charity, does begin at home. There is a much easier way to cut costs. Governments, and this one is no exception, have a very useful employment programme to accomodate 'senior' politicians and those from parties that have enough seats to impact the functioning of the government (including through toppling it). It's called the National Politician Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Take a look at the list of ministries - those headed by Cabinet Ministers and those headed by Ministers of State with independent charge.
Here are some ministries that really shouldn't even exist.
- Ministry of Culture (currently held by the PM) - Why do we need the government to handle 'culture'? Is there something that can be defined as Indian culture? Besides, even if we do need that ministry, why isn't it part of the Ministry of Tourism? That's what it's typically been part of!
- Ministry of Information and Broadcasting - Why should the government be in the 'business' of Information & Broadcasting?
- Either "Ministry of Urban Development" or "Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation" - Is the minister in charge of Urban Development not supposed to bother about alleviating poverty in urban India, or is (s)he expected to aggravate poverty in those regions?
- Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports - Why is the government involved with affairs of the youth? Why does a 73-year old head a ministry dedicated to the youth? Did someone mistake MS Gill for KPS Gill, hoping that by moving him out of the IHF, India's hockey would improve?
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment - Are the rest of the ministries not supposed to bother about social justice and empowering those who fall under the umbrella of social justice?
- Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation - By its own admission, the ministry facilitates, collects, promotes & co-ordinates data gathering & dissemination across multiple ministries. Why do we need a separate ministry for this? Why do we need a ministry for programme implementation? Are the other ministries expected to just come up with grandiose plans and not implement them?
- Ministry of Minority Affairs - What minority does this ministry take care of? Linguistic minorities? Religious minorities? Sexual minorities? Women, considering an adverse sex ratio? Social minorities? Educational minorities? Would Biharis in Mumbai constitute a minority (perhaps not, according to Raj Thackeray!) that needs to be taken care of? What about Sikhs - they'd be a minority in India, but a majority in Punjab? What about men in Kerala (1058 females for every 1000 males as per the 2001 census)? Why isn't it the Home Ministry's job to take care of minorities (across whatever parameters)?
Imagine if these ministries were eliminated. There's a fair amount of money to be saved on security, buildings, staff, perks, salaries, allowances, corruption, etc.