The existing structure of the Government of India has evolved over a long period. The British Government took over the administration of India from the East India Company by the Government of India Act, 1858.
Thereafter, the British Parliament enacted several laws for governance of India. Some of the important legislative instruments in the pre-independence period were the Indian Councils Act, 1909; Government of India Act, 1919; and Government of India Act, 1935. With India attaining Independence, the constitution of India laid the foundation of the structure of Government of India.
With the Government of India Act, 1858, the erstwhile territories of the East India Company vested in the British Crown who would appoint the Governor General of India as well as the Governors of the Presidencies. The powers of the Crown were to be exercised by the secretary of state for India, assisted by the Council of India.
The Indian civil service was created consequent to this enactment. There was no popular participation in the governance system.
The Indian Councils Act of 1909, also known as the Morley-Minot Reforms, introduced the elections of Indians to the legislative councils. The Government of India Act, 1919, also known as the Montague Chelmsford Reforms, introduced a dual form of government (“Diarchy”) for some provinces – the reserved list and the transferred list.
The Government of India Act, 1935 brought several changes in the system of governance in the country. It provided for the establishment of an All-Indian Federation and a new system of government wherein the provinces were given more autonomy.
The central legislature was to comprise two Houses – the Upper House or the council of states and the Lower House or the central legislative Assembly. The ‘Diarchy’ which was earlier established in the Provinces was abolished but was introduced in the centre.
The executive authority of the centre was vested in the Governor General (on behalf of the crown) who had absolute power over Defence, External Affairs (Reserved subjects). On other matters the Governor General was to act on the advice of a ‘Council of Ministers’.
The Act stipulated that no Finance Bill could be placed in the central legislature without the consent of the Governor General. The Act further provided for three lists –
(a) To the exercise of such rights, authority and jurisdiction as are exercisable by the Government of India by virtue of any treaty or agreement: Provided that the executive power referred to in sub clause
(b) Shall not, save as expressly provided in this Constitution or in any law made by Parliament, extend in any State to matters with respect to which the Legislature of the State has also power to make laws.
(c) Until otherwise provided by Parliament, a State and any officer or authority of a State may, notwithstanding anything in this article, continue to exercise in matters with respect to which Parliament has power to make laws for that State such executive power or functions as the State or officer or authority thereof could exercise immediately before the commencement of this Constitution.
Exercising powers vested by virtue of Article 77, the President has made the “The Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules”. The Rules stipulate that the business of the Government of India shall be transacted in the Ministries, Departments, secretariats and Offices specified in the First Schedule to these rules (all of which are hereinafter referred to as “departments”).
The distribution of subjects among the departments shall be as specified in the second schedule to these Rules. The manner in which the officers are required to help the Minister in discharge of his/her executive functions is governed by the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules.
The Rules provide that all business allotted to a Department shall be disposed of by, or under general or special directions of, the Minister-in- charge, subject to certain limitations where consultation is required with other departments or where cases have to be submitted to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and its committees or the President.
These Rules also provide for the constitution of the following standing committees of the cabinet and each standing committee shall consist of such Ministers as the Prime Minister may, from time to time, specify.
The Rules also provide for appointment of ad hoc committees of Ministers for investigating and reporting to the cabinet, and, if so authorized, for taking decisions on such matters. The Rules also stipulate that it shall be the responsibility of the Departmental secretary, who shall be the administrative^ head thereof, to ensure observance of these Rules in the Department.
As mentioned earlier, currently the Ministries and Departments are organized on the basis of the Allocation of Business Rules. Schedule I of the Business Rules lists out 80+ Ministries and Departments.
In order to evolve an integrated approach to national issues, it would be desirable to categories the functions of Government into a reasonable number of groups, as has been done in other countries like the UK and the USA. The existing departments would therefore have to be distributed among the 20-25 groups of closely related subjects and functions.
The recent constitutional amendments which limit the size of the union council of Ministers to 15% of the strength of the Lok Sabha this figure has been arrived at based on the recommendations of the First ARC and after a thorough debate in the Parliament.
The size of the Council of Ministers reflects the needs of representational democracy, for a large and diverse country like India. It would also be unrealistic to expect for curtailment in the Size of the council of Ministers in an era of coalition politics. Instead, a more pragmatic approach would be to retain the existing size of the Council of Ministers but increase the level of coordination among the departments by providing for a senior Cabinet Minister to head each of the 20-25 closely related Departments.
He/she may be designated as the “First or coordinating Minister” (or any other suitable nomenclature) and would coordinate and provide the overall lead for the entire group of departments. Within the broad groups (20-25) mentioned earlier, there could be several departments.
Individual departments or any combination of these could be headed as required by the coordinating/First Minister, other cabinet Minister(s)/Minister(s) of state. For this arrangement to work, adequate delegation and division of work among the concerned Ministers would have to be worked out.
As a consequence of this exercise, it is expected that the number of Ministries in Government of India could be reduced from about 55 at present to about 20-25.
Recommendations with regard to restructuring the structure of ministries of government of India
(a) The concept of a Ministry would have to be redefined. A Ministry would mean a group of departments whose functions and subjects are closely related and is assigned to a First or Coordinating Minister for the purpose of providing overall leadership and coordination.
This concept of a Ministry and the Coordinating (or First) Minister may be explicitly laid down in the Allocation of Business Rules. Adequate delegation among the Ministers would have to be laid down in the Transaction of Business Rules. As a consequence of this, rationalization of Secretary Level posts wherever required may also need to be carried out.
(b) Individual departments or any combination of these could be headed by the Coordinating (or First) Minister, other than Cabinet Minister(s)/ Minister(s) of State.
(c) The structure of the Government of India should be rationalised by grouping together closely related subjects in order to reduce the number of Ministries to 20-25 recasting the Allocation of Business Rules. The Allocation of Business Rules specifies the distribution of subjects among the Ministries and Departments of Government of India.
It comprises two schedules; the first lists out the Ministries, Departments, Secretariats and Offices through which the business of Government of India shall be transacted, while the second lists out the subjects in respect of each department including the attached and subordinate offices or other organizations This would in effect mean that the concept of a Ministry would need to be redefined.
In the new dispensation, a Ministry would mean a group of departments whose functions and subjects are closely related and is assigned to a First Minister or coordinating Minister for the purpose of providing overall leadership and coordination. The Departments would correspond to the existing list of departments mentioned in the First schedule of the Allocation of Business Rules. This concept of Ministry and the Coordinating/First Minister may be explicitly laid down.
Allocation of Business Rules:
As a consequence of this, a rationalization of posts at the secretary level, where required, may also be considered. This arrangement would in effect lead to enhanced coordination on national issues and at the same time, meet the requirements of providing adequate Ministerial representation in a large and diverse country, without causing a proliferation in the number of Ministries.
Even after this restructuring, there would still be some issues which would cut across different Ministries. In such cases, suitable inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms would be necessary. For example, the Ministry of Local Government could include the following Ministries/ Departments:
(i) Rural Development
(ii) Drinking Water Supply
(iii) Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
(iv) Urban Development
(v) Panchayati Raj
Further, the following Ministries/Departments could be clubbed under the Ministry of Transport:
· Road Transport and Highways
· Civil Aviation DEPARTMENTS
The work of Government of India is distributed into different Ministries/Departments. A Department has also been defined in the General Financial Rules as follows:
(1) A department is responsible for formulation of policies of the government in relation to business allocated to it and also for the execution and review of those policies.
(2) For the efficient disposal of business allotted to it, a Department is divided into wings, Divisions, Branches and Sections.
(3) A department is normally headed by a secretary to the Government of India who acts as the administrative head of the department and principal adviser of the Minister on all matters of policy and administration within the department.
(4) The work in a department is normally divided into wings with a Special Secretary/Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary in charge of each wing. Such a functionary is normally vested with the maximum measure of independent functioning and responsibility in respect of the business falling within his wing subject, to the overall responsibility of the Secretary for the administration of the department as a whole.
(5) A wing normally comprises a number of divisions each functioning under the charge of an officer of the level of Director/Joint Director/Deputy Secretary. A division may have several branches each under the charge of an Under Secretary or equivalent officer.
(6) A section is generally the lowest organisational unit in a department with a well-defined area of work. It normally consists of assistants and clerks supervised by a Section Officer. Initial handling of cases (including noting and drafting) is generally done by assistants and clerks who are also known as the dealing hands.
(7) While the above represents the commonly adopted pattern of organisation of a department, there are certain variations, the most notable among them being the Desk Officer system. In this system the work of a department at the lowest level is organised into distinct functional desks each manned by two desk functionaries of appropriate ranks e.g. Under Secretary or Section Officer. Each desk functionary handles the cases himself and is provided adequate stenographic and clerical assistance.”
(8) The secretary is the administrative head of a Department and in a Department; the structure may comprise Special secretaries, Additional secretaries, Joint secretaries, Directors, Deputy Secretaries, under secretaries and section officers.
Reforms to be carried out to make ministries and departments effective in their functions
(1) Non-secretariat organizations engaged primarily in planning, implementation, coordination and review of a single development programme or several allied programmes, covering a substantial area of the activities of the Ministry and having a direct bearing on policy-making should be integrated with the Secretariat of the concerned Ministry.
Such amalgamation, subject to criteria laid down in Para 96, is especially significant in the case of activities of scientific and technical character and activities which call for a high degree of functional specialization.
(2) The heads of non-secretariat organizations which are integrated with the Secretariat should function on the principal advisers to the Government in the respective areas and should enjoy a status appropriate to the nature of their duties and responsibilities. They may retain their present designations. It is not necessary to confer on them a formal ex-official Secretariat status.
(3) In all other cases, the present distinction between policy-making and executive organizations may be continued. Such distinction is vital for protecting the operational autonomy of the regulatory executive agencies and such developmental executive organizations as are mostly engaged in promotional activities, provision of a service or production and supply of a commodity.
(4) Executive functions at present performed by an administrative Ministry or Department which do not have a close bearing on policy-making (in terms of the criteria enunciated in Para 96) should be transferred to an appropriate, existing non-secretariat agency or to a new executive organization specially created for the purpose, provided that the volume of the work justifies its creation.
(5) Policy position in Departments and Ministries dealing with scientific and technical matters or with functions of highly specialized character should include persons having relevant specialized experienced or expertise.
(6) In non-staff Ministries other than those with board-type of top management, there should be a set up of three “staff” offices, namely, (i) an office of Planning and Policy; (ii) a Chief Personnel Office; and (iii) a Chief Finance Office. An administrative Department with a heavy charge or with functions which have no close affinity with the work of other department(s) may have a separate planning and policy office.
(7) The office of planning and policy should include the planning cell recommended in the ARC Report on Machinery for Planning. This office should continuously be engaged in forwarding long-term policies, carrying out policy studies and evolving a series of well-articulated policy statements. It should also deal with the parliamentary work of the Department/Ministry.
(8) The chief personnel office in a Ministry should serve as a focal point for the formulation ‘and coordination of overall personnel policies, initiating measures for promoting personnel development and matters concerning discipline, appeals, memorials and service rules of cadres administered by the Ministry. It may also look after office management, O&M and general administration.
(9) Each of the three “staff” offices should be manned by staff having specialized knowledge and experience. The head of each “staff” office should generally be of the rank of a Joint Secretary though, in some cases, he may even be a Deputy Secretary or an Additional Secretary depending on the quantum of work.
(10) In addition to the three “staff’ offices, each Ministry should have a public relations office or unit.
(11) The heads of the “substantive work” wings may deal directly with the chiefs of the three “staff” offices, as also with the Secretary and Minister on matters of technical or operational policy. Proposals having a bearing on long-term policy should, however, be processed through planning and policy office.
(12) Distribution of work between the wings of a Ministry/Administrative Department and within the divisions of a Secretariat wing should be based on considerations of rationality, manageability of change and unity of command.
(13) Each secretariat wing should have its separate identity and its budget should appear as a distinct unit in the budget of the Ministry. Its head should enjoy adequate administrative and financial powers.
(14) The head of the wing should have the primary responsibility for good administration within the wing, effective supervision and control of staff and maintenance of high standards of discipline and conduct.
(15) The head of the wing should have considerable say in formulation of the wing budget, creation of posts subject to budget provision, spending of budgeted funds and appointment of personnel to the wing and their transfer there from. He should also have the necessary powers for effective day-to-day personnel management in the wing, e.g., powers to sponsor staff for training, to grant honorarium, to impose minor penalties and to fill short-term vacancies.