Cabinet Committees

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Emergence

  • They are set up by Prime Minister according to the exigencies of the time and requirements of the situation. Hence their number, nomenclature and composition vary from time to time.
  • They are of extra constitutional emergence and not mentioned in the Constitution. Rules of business provide for their establishment.

Membership

  • Membership varies. It usually includes only cabinet ministers and non – cabinet ministers are not debarred from their membership.
  • They not only include ministers in charge of subjects covered by them but also include other senior ministers.
  • They are mostly headed by Prime Minister. In case Prime Minister is a member of a committee, he invariably presides over it.

Type

There are two types of cabinet committees:
Standing – permanent in nature
Ad hoc – temporary in nature (constituted from time to time to deal with special problems and disbanded after their task is completed)

Purpose

  • They are constituted to reduce work load of the cabinet, in-depth examination of policy, effective coordination, and division of labor and effective delegation.
  • They not only sort out issues and formulate proposals but also take decisions. However the cabinet can review their decisions.

List of cabinet committees
There are eleven committees at present : They are - cabinet committees on political affairs, parliamentary affairs, economic affairs, issues relating to WTO, issues relating to UIDAI, security, accommodation, investment, appointments, skill development and issues relating to prices (Mnemonic - WTO, SIS, PA, EPPA& UIDAI).

  • Political affairs committee :deals with all policy matters pertaining to domestic and foreign affairs.
  • Appointments committee :decides all higher level appointments in the central secretariat, public enterprises, banks and financial institutions.
  • Among all eleven cabinet committees, except parliamentary and accommodation committees, all are chaired by Prime Minister.
  • Parliamentary affairs committee is chaired by Home Minister and Accommodation committee by Defense minister.
  • Political affairs committee is the most powerful and often described as a ‘super cabinet’.

Group of Ministers

  • Constituted to look in different issues, on certain emergent issues and critical problem areas.
  • Some Group of Ministers are empowered to take decisions – EGoMs. Others make recommendations to the cabinet.
  • They are an effective instrument of coordination among the ministers.
  • They are ad hoc in nature.
  • Ministers heading the concerned ministers are inducted into the relevant GoMs and when the advice is crystallized they are disbanded.

As of February, 2014 there are 21 functional GoMs. They are:

  • To evolve an integrated strategy for water management.
  • Consider reports on ARC
  • Civil aviation sector
  • Bhopal gas leak disaster
  • To examine various issues pertaining to the functioning of prasarbharati
  • On media
  • To consider and make recommendations with regard to Common Wealth Games 2010
  • To look into the issue of inclusion of erosion as an eligible calamity for relief under National disaster response fund and state disaster response fund.
  • To formulate policy for existing urea units beyond stage – III of National Price Scheme
  • Issues of resident identity cards to all usual residents of the country of age 18 years and above under the scheme of national population register
  • Prescribing uniform terms and conditions of service of chair persons and members of quasi-judicial tribunals/commissions/regulatory bodies etc
  • Reviving and revitalizing BSNL and MTNL
  • Issues relating to construction of carrier lined channel (CLC) from Munak to Haiderpur
  • Matters relating to Haj.
  • Bifurcation of state of Andhra Pradesh and formation of new state of Telangana.
  • Progress of sale of wheat in 2013 – 14 under open market sale scheme domestic  (OMSS – D)
  • Revision of buffer norms of food grains in the central pool.
  • Setting up of Amristar – Kolkata Industial Corrdidor (AKIC) and formation of AKIC development corporation
  • National policy for domestic workers
  • Amend section 2(h) and insertion of 24A of AICTE Act, 1987 through a bill in parliament by the way of AICTE (Amendment) Act, 2013
  • Status cum progress report and constitution of special committee for inter linking of rivers.

Note: Above may be disbanded after completion of task as in 15 – Bifurcation of state of Andhra Pradesh and formation of new state of Telangana.

EGoMs:
As of February 2014 there are eight functional EGoMs. They are:

  • To decide the price band and final price of sale of shares held by government of India in all central public sector enterprises.
  • Gas pricing and commercial utilization of gas.
  • Ultra mega power projects
  • Mass rapid transit system (MRTS)
  • Vacation of spectrum auction of 3G spectrum and to look into the grant of license and allocation of spectrum in 2G band in 22 service areas.
  • On drought
  • Issues relating to development of north eastern region
  • Taking up strategic and electricity generation projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

Working of GoMs / problems associated:
The 2nd ARC says the following:

  • Constitution of a large number of GoMs has resulted in many GoMs not being able to meet regularly to complete their work thus leading to significant delays on many major issues.
  • More selective use of the institution of GoMs would perhaps led to more effective coordination particularly if they are empowered to arrive at a decision on behalf of the cabinet with time limits that are prescribed for completing the work entrusted to them.
  • There is a need to ensure that existing coordination mechanism of GoMs function effectively and helps in early resolution of issues. Selective but effective use of GoMs with clear mandate prescribed time limits would be helpful.
Practice Questions
Q1
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