Modi cabinet committees make a comeback. Here’s why

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set up two cabinet committees on investment and employment that he will head. Both, the cabinet committee on investment and growth, and employment, will include Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. Modi is giving Shah a major role in the second administration.

The cabinet committee on investment and growth will also have on board Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari. Railway Minister Goyal is also minister of commerce and industry—two portfolios that are crucial in the committee.

India Today says the cabinet committee on investment is seeking to invest Rs 100 lakh crore over the next five years.

The cabinet committee on employment and skill development will have on board 10 ministers: Shah, Singh, Sitharaman, Goyal, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Skill Development M N Pandey, Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, and Housing and Urban Development Minister Hardip Puri.

After coming to power a few days ago, the NDA finally admitted that the NSSO report on unemployment is true; the Ministry of Statistics-released information has put unemployment at 6.1%.

Modi has also reconstituted other cabinet committees: Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, Cabinet Committee on Accommodation, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, and Cabinet Committee on Security.

Reports suggest that Modi might be grooming Shah to take over the NDA in the next general election, especially because Modi encourages people above the age of 75 to retire from politics. If the BJP wins a third term as the majority party, Modi will be a 73-year-old prime minister.

Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told News18, “Amit Shah’s transition is complete. He is now the legitimised inheritor of Modi’s legacy.”

Cabinet committees scrapped in 2014

Cabinet committees are smaller bodies led by cabinet ministers and tasked with specific responsibilities. These committees usually have directed agendas and can take faster decisions on projects or policies directly related to the committee’s focus.

The President of India approves cabinet committees and the cabinet secretary implements them.

In 2014, Modi discontinued four cabinet committees on natural calamities, prices, World Trade Organisation Matters, and the Unique Identification Authority of India. He established three new ones that absorbed the functions of the ones he scrapped.

Modi has revived the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and the cabinet committees on economic affairs, parliamentary affairs, political affairs, and security.

Modi chaired the economic affairs cabinet committee that took charge on economic trends, pricing, and foreign direct investment in the country. He also led the security cabinet committee that included then home minister Singh, former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, ex-finance minister Arun Jaitley, and former defence minister Sitharaman.

Modi’s decision to streamline functions was in line with his promise to crack down on bureaucracy and corruption that he believes thrives in large, decentralised governance. The UPA government had 12 cabinet committees.

NSSO finds dubious employment and growth data

Employment and economic growth were two of the major promises and touted accomplishments of the BJP. However, reports from the NSSO have proved otherwise.

Earlier in February, two members of the NSSO resigned in protest after alleging that the NDA government tried to interfere in their work and bury a report on unemployment.

That report showed that unemployment was at a 45-year high of 6.1% after demonetisation. The 2017 Goods and Services Tax (GST) also contributed to the unemployment rate, according to the report.

A similar incident occurred with another NSSO’s report that used certain economic data sets used to calculate India’s GDP.

In the MCA-21 database of companies that is used to calculate India’s GDP, 38% of those companies were found to be defunct or inactive. This means that India’s GDP has been including revenue streams from companies that no longer exist, leading to concerns of an inflated GDP.

Data released on May 31 shows that India’s GDP has slowed down to 5.8%, the lowest it’s been in five years. Experts had previously voiced concerns about MCA-21’s reliability and accuracy, but the government did not allow them to fact-check in database.

Hence, employment, basic income, and economic growth were big ticket issues for India in the Lok Sabha elections 2019. Despite these controversies, the BJP managed to win with 303 seats.

Employment and growth still seem to be at the forefront of the government’s agenda, including a 1,000-day plan on social welfare and technological advancement.

While the Opposition did not entirely discredit the NDA on its jobs and growth platform, Modi’s second administration seems to be cognisant that the public’s eyes are on those very spheres of development.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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