The following four are the more important cabinet committees:
Groups of Ministers
In addition to cabinet committees, several Groups of Ministers (GoMs) have been constituted to look into different issues / subjects. Some of these GoMs have been empowered to take decisions on behalf of the Cabinet whereas the others make recommendations to the Cabinet.
In the past two decades, the institution of GoMs has become a viable and effective instrument of coordination among the ministries. These are ad hoc bodies formed to give recommendations to the cabinet on certain emergent issues and critical problem areas. Ministers heading the concerned ministries are inducted into the relevant GoMs and when the advice is crystallised they are disbanded.
In 2013, the following 21 Groups of Ministers (GoMs) were in existence:
13. Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the issue of inclusion of erosion as an eligible calamity for relief under National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)/State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)
14. Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider the official amendments to the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011
15. Group of Ministers (GoM) to formulate policy for existing urea units beyond Stage-III of New Pricing Scheme (NPS)
16. Group of Ministers (GoM) on setting up of the National Skill Development Authority
17. Group of Ministers (GoM) regarding issue of Resident Identity Cards to all usual residents of the country of age 18 years and above under the scheme of National Population Register (NPR)
18. Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider the recommendations of the panel of experts on reforms in central public sector enterprises
19. Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider prescribing uniform terms and conditions of service of chairpersons and members of quasi-judicial tribunals / commissions / regulatory bodies, etc
20. Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider and suggest an appropriate cadre structure for the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) and other support systems
21. Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the matter of reviving and revitalising Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL)
In 2013, there were the following six Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs):
Signalling a break from the past, the Narendra Modi government on May 31, 2014, announced the “abolition” of all Groups of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs) “for greater accountability and empowerment.”
Nine EGoMs and 21 GoMs were set up by the previous UPA government to take decisions on various matters such as corruption, inter-State water disputes, administrative reforms and gas and telecom pricing, before bringing them for the Cabinet’s consideration.
During the UPA-II, 27 GoMs and 24 EGoMs were formed with former Defence Minister A.K. Antony heading most of the EGoMs.
A press statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) termed the initiative a “major move” to empower Ministries and departments. While allocating portfolios to his Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister said “all important policy matters” would be their domain.
The issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs will now be processed by the Ministries and departments. “This would expedite the process of decisionmaking and usher in greater accountability in the system,” the statement said. “Wherever the Ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision-making process.”
The announcement came two days after Mr. Modi unveiled his 10-point agenda with a directive to the ministers to prepare a list of issues that they will take up in the first 100 days in office, with focus on efficiency, delivery systems and implementation.
The former minister and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that the GoMs and the EGoMs were meant to operate as a single-window clearance on issues related to various ministries.
Informal GoMs Formed
In April 2015, it was reported that the proposals sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) have led to the creation of at least 16 informal groups of ministers. Once the ‘informal group’ gives its consent, the proposal is cleared by the cabinet without much discussion.
From selection of a member for the National Commission for Women to guidelines for Internet governance, an informal group of ministers is the new cabinet.
This is a departure from the governance style witnessed in the early days of the Modi government which began by scrapping nine Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) and 21 Group of Ministers (GoM).
The multiple sources in the government has said that the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is the de facto chairman of several of these ‘informal groups’.
Before that, a draft cabinet note circulated in the ministry concerned had to wait for the PMO nod. In case the PMO wanted changes, these were incorporated and sent back for approval before being introduced in the cabinet.
“The Prime Minister is interested in specifics and every detail of any policy decision. But he also realizes that the PMO cannot get involved in everything since governance has acquired pace. So the idea and spirit behind such informal groups are to ensure quality discussion on the subject before it appears in the cabinet,” sources said.
But some in the cabinet believe that the change in style came in the wake of former PM Manmohan Singh becoming an accused in the coal scam for having processed the files.
Informal groups were constituted for among other things: Amendment to Juvenile Justice Act; Guidelines for Internet governance; Amendment to Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act; and Bureau of Indian Standards (Amendment) Bill.