9 Jan 2020

Cabinet Committees

Source: The Hindu

Manifest pedagogy: The role of Cabinet Committees as an instrument to fast track governance reforms and thereby accelerating the pace of economic development is not new. In light of this, the topic serves needs across domains such as polity, governance and economy.

In news: The newly-formed Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth (CCIG) held its first meeting recently.

Placing it in syllabus: Cabinet committees 

Static dimensions: What is a cabinet committee?

Current dimensions:

  • New cabinet committees under NDA2
  • Need for new committees
  • Cabinet committees importance

Content:

What is a cabinet committee?

  • Under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules (TBR), 1961 an executive arm of the government was assigned the task of conducting the business of it.
  • These Rules emerge out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution, which states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”
  • Thus Cabinet Committees are formed which are instrumental in reducing the workload of the Cabinet.
  • These committees are extra-constitutional in nature and are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.
  • There are two types of cabinet committees: 

Standing Cabinet Committees which are permanent in nature with a specific job. These are specified in the First Schedule of TBR. The Cabinet Ministers are called its ‘members’ while the people without the rank of Cabinet Committee are called ‘special invitees’.

Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers (GoMs), may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters. They are temporary in nature and are formed from time to time.

  • The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them.
  • He can add or reduce the number of committees.
  • The composition of a Cabinet Committee varies from 3 to 8 people.
  • Even Ministers who are not part of the Cabinet can be added to a Cabinet Committee. 
  • The members of the Cabinet Committee can be from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

New cabinet committee under NDA-2:

  • PM in his first term had scrapped four cabinet committees by a cabinet secretariat order of June 26, 2014. 
  • During his 2nd term, PM has constituted two new committees– Cabinet committee on investment and committee on skill development.
  • Currently, there are eight Cabinet committees.

  • The PM is not a member of either the committee on parliamentary affairs or accommodation.

Need for new committees:

NDA2 has set an ambitious target of making India a $5 trillion economy by the year 2025 and committed to a capital investment of Rs 100 trillion in the infra sector by 2024. 

However, the GDP growth is slowing (4.5%), which is a six-year low, as investment, exports and consumption have declined in the country. Moody’s has put 2019-20 growth at 4.9 percent and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates it at 5.1 per cent. 

The Periodic Labour Force Survey of the NSSO has shown that the unemployment rate in the country was 5.3% in rural India and 7.8% in urban India, resulting in an overall unemployment rate of 6.1% during 2017-18.

In addition, interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India are not being adequately transmitted to lending rates because of the credit squeeze caused by a disruption in the non-bank financial sector.

Hence to address the challenges of slowing economic growth and inadequate job creation, PM constituted two Cabinet committees and both the new committees will be chained by him.

Cabinet committees’ overview and their importance:

  • Cabinet committees are established to reduce the workload of the Cabinet Ministers.
  • These committees facilitate deep examination of the policy issue and effective coordination.
  • Such committees are based on the principle of division of labour.

Overview:

Cabinet Committee on Appointments – This panel makes appointments to the higher posts in the government including the three service chiefs. It decides on all important empanelments and shift of officers serving on Central deputation.

Accommodation: This Committee determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation. 

Economic Affairs: This committee is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects “for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy”, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and the prices of essential commodities.

Parliamentary Affairs: This committee draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament. It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

Political Affairs: This committee addresses problems related to Centre-state relations. It also examines the economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.

Security: It deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications. It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security.

Investment and growth: It will “identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis”, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more or any other critical projects, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing. 

It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors. It will also monitor the progress of such projects.

Employment and skill development: It is supposed to provide “direction to all policies, programmes, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”. 

The panel will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and to periodically review the progress in this regard.