India’s 26 states, union territories administered by 525 ministers

first_imgAbdullah: Heading a bloated ministryDemocracy demands that the country be guided by elected representatives of the people and that some of them be made ministers. But too much of anything is bad – as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister T. Anjiah found last fortnight when he was rapped on the knuckles,Abdullah: Heading a bloated ministryDemocracy demands that the country be guided by elected representatives of the people and that some of them be made ministers. But too much of anything is bad – as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister T. Anjiah found last fortnight when he was rapped on the knuckles for having set up a regime of an astonishing 61 ministers.Mrs Gandhi had reason to be appalled. The country’s 26 states and union territories with legislative assemblies are being administered by 525 ministers – or one for every 11 lakh people in the country. And, as vital indices of various kinds continue to tumble, the only index to have risen relentlessly is the membership of the exclusive club of ‘hon’ble ministers’.The statistics are startling. There is one minister for every five MLAs of the various parties in office. In no state barring Punjab is the total strength of the council of ministers (including state and deputy ministers) less than the stipulated 10 per cent recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission.Even Opposition-ruled states like Tripura, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu and Kashmir have caught the ministerial fever. In fact, the list is topped by Jammu and Kashmir with every second MLA of the ruling party holding a ministerial post.Every sixth MLA of the ruling occupies the minister’s office in Assam, every third in Haryana, every sixth in Tripura, every seventh in West Bengal, every sixth in Tamil Nadu, every sixth in Kerala,-every fifth in Bihar and every fourth in Himachal Pradesh.advertisementBut additional ministers means having to provide facilities for each of them. Last month, with the addition of over 30 ministers in the various state governments, officials were perplexed: there weren’t enough rooms, cars and big bungalows for the newly appointed ministers. Even after two weeks in office, two cabinet ministers in the Uttar Pradesh Government were operating from their small houses.Numerous Facilities: Whether chief ministers gain by inducting ministers is questionable, but the loser is definitely the country which has to pay the price for maintaining the ministerial battalions. According to a Finance Ministry source, it costs the nation over Rs 75,000 to maintain a central minister and Rs 50,000 for a state government minister.The 49 central ministers and 482 state government ministers cost the country Rs 3 crore a month or Rs 36 crore annually for the nation – equivalent to half the budget of the University Grants Commission which finances over 120 universities where over 35 lakh students study.Although a minister’s salary is not very large (Rs 2,250 for a central minister and Rs 1,500 for a state minister), his perquisites and other indirect benefits are mind-boggling. According to state government rules, a state cabinet minister is entitled to:A tax free salary of Rs 1,500 per month.A chauffeur-driven car with no limit on the petrol consumption for official duty.Two private secretaries, two assistants.Two peons, on guard at home, one shadow, one gardener, one public relations officer.An air-conditioned office with an entitlement of Rs 10,000 for renovation.An air-conditioned room in a fully furnished four-bedroom house at a nominal rent.Entertainment allowance.Four first-class railway tickets for both private and official journey within the state and reimbursement up to Rs 5,000 annually if he travels outside the state on private visit.Two telephones with STD facilities.Free medical facilities for himself and his family.According to unofficial estimates, over 500 cars, an equal number of spacious houses, over 1,000 telephones, 1,200 policemen, and army of over 4,000 personal assistants and private secretaries are at the disposal of the ministers.Arjun Singh: Justifying the large sizeThe total market value of the assets, used by them exceeds Rs 20 crore and the residential area occupied by them can accommodate the entire population of two resettlement colonies of Delhi in which over three lakh people reside.The so-called PAs and PSs who are recruited to aid their minister in an official capacity, actually often attend to the minister’s domestic affairs – from buying vegetables to fetching children from schools.Tours: A minister would seem to be the only temporary public servant who is on duty the whole day and for 365 days a year and is duly paid by the state Government for it – whether he is away at a wedding, a funeral or leading a morcha against social injustice. Over a dozen ministers of Madhya Pradesh received travelling and daily allowances for attending Sanjay”s funeral in June.Another cabinet minister of the Madhya Pradesh Government receives daily allowances for organising tantric pujas while a minister of the Rajasthan Government received a daily allowance for paying a visit to one of her relatives.advertisementExplaining this anomaly, a finance official of the Punjab Government says: “It is difficult for us to differentiate between a personal and an official visit of a minister. A minister while travelling is always on tour, and once he certifies that none of us can deny him the reimbursement.”A majority of the ministers draw their daily allowances even for their visit to their home constituencies. A case in point is a minister for agriculture in a state government who visits his home constituency ostensibly to “study the progress-of irrigation facilities.” A power minister of another state visits his home town from his headquarters to analyse the “reasons for the erratic power supply”.While the minister is reimbursed his actual expenses, all the members of his entourage, which includes a driver, a bodyguard and an assistant, also get allowances. Unofficial estimates suggest that state ministers are “on tour” drawing allowances for an average 150 days a year.While touring within the state is to some extent justifiable, there seems to be little justification for the frequency with which Congress(I) ministers head for Delhi. Various chief ministers normally spend every fifth day in Delhi, while their cabinet colleagues, it is estimated, spend every sixth day in Delhi.Says a manager of one of the state Government guest houses in New-Delhi : “No doubt they come here for official work which takes them two hours to finish. For the rest of the-day they do their normal work – politicking at the state’s expense.” As if that were not enough, the induction of a new minister means a renovation of his office even if it had recently been done up for his predecessor.To cope with the ever-increasing flow of ministerial aspirants, new departments are frequently created by chief ministers. There are separate ministers for major irrigation, minor and medium irrigation, home, local self-government, health and health engineering, higher education, school education, industries and small-scale industries, finance and institutional finance, sports and youth welfare.Justifying his cabinet expansion, Uttar-Pradesh Chief Minister Viswanath Pratap Singh says: “It is the chief minister who has to decide about the number of his cabinet colleagues. A state like Uttar Pradesh, with a massive majority definitely needs a bigger ministry.”Concurs Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh: “It is entirely the CMs prerogative to decide the size of his council of administrators. He has to run the state and bear the brunt if anything goes wrong.”None of the chief ministers of the state governements including those of the Opposition, have supported moves to limit the size of their ministries. Says a Congress(I) MLA in Jaipur succinctly: “If the number of ministers is fixed, then the governments would fall every second month and the nation will spend more on renovating rooms for the new incumbents.” That offers little consolation – the nation stands to lose anyway irrespective of the size of the ministry, seeing what it costs to maintain a single minister.advertisementlast_img

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