Junior ministers complain of no work
New Delhi, November 2
This point is learnt to have cropped up repeatedly in the individual presentations made by ministers of state before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday. Dr Manmohan Singh had called his council of ministers for a dinner meeting where he gave the floor to junior ministers, who normally do not get an opportunity to express their views as they do not attend Cabinet meetings.
This meeting, the first in a series, was essentially meant to track the progress of the CMPís implementation and to pinpoint the areas which require rectification. The Prime Minister used the opportunity to get a feedback from his ministerial colleagues about the public perception about the UPA government. It was also an exercise in welding the diverse elements of the UPA coalition into a cohesive team.
But, as it happened, several ministers of state ended up complaining that they were not being involved in the functioning of their respective ministries. Mr Taslimuddin, Minister of State in the Agriculture and Food Ministry, was most blunt when he pointed out that he is unaware of the work allotted to him.
Other junior ministers like Mr Shakeel Ahmed in Communications and IT, Mr K.H. Muniappa in Road Transport and Mr Namo Narain Meena were, however, more diplomatic, pointing out that they could easily do with additional responsibilities.
The Prime Minister, it is learnt, responded by stating in his concluding remarks that the talents of all ministerial colleagues be utilised to the fullest.
It was also disclosed that henceforth, these meetings will be a monthly affair and will take up the functioning of any one ministry with priority being given to Health, Education, Rural Development, Infrastructure, Agriculture, Commerce and Railways.
These sessions will serve a two-fold purpose, ministerial sources said. While enabling all the ministers to give their suggestions on matters which are normally outside their purview, it will help involve them in the deliberative process. At the same time, these sessions will provide an insight to the ministers about the governmentís approach to national issues.
Speakers at last nightís meeting, held over two sessions before and after dinner, also expressed concern about the poor projection of the governmentís achievements as the message was not percolating down to the people.
Mr Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in the PMO, is learnt to have suggested that the government take up one major project or scheme having a visible impact. In this context, he cited the National Highway project, which was seen as the former Prime Ministerís personal contribution.
For the rest, all ministers made a strong plea to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram for release of more funds, especially for election-going states. While Minister of State for Food Processing Subodh Kant Sahay drew attention of all ministries to ensure the successful implementation of projects in Jharkhand, Ms Selja of Poverty Alleviation Ministry, made a case for Haryana and the RJD ministers sought a package for Bihar.