Monday, 17 January, 2022
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Modi PMO studying plan to have ‘sectoral secretaries’ for better management of ministries

Sectoral secretaries will be put in charge of liaising with groups of related ministries on policy issues. They’ll report directly to the PM.

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New Delhi: The Modi government is studying a radical new proposal to further strengthen the Prime Minister’s Office and also ease its interaction with top civil servants across the government.

The proposal involves introducing a new layer of civil servants, tentatively called ‘sectoral secretaries’, in the Prime Minister’s Office, a highly placed source in the government told ThePrint.

These secretaries will supervise and coordinate with ministries under their charge and directly report to the prime minister.

Under the proposal, each sectoral secretary, a secretary-rank official, will be responsible for dealing with groups of ministries that have similar or related mandates.

For instance, one sectoral secretary will hold charge of all ‘social’ ministries such as human resource development, women and child development, social justice, tribal affairs and health. Similarly, the road, shipping, railways, transport and urban development ministries will be clubbed under the ‘infrastructure’ umbrella.

This system, it is expected, will give the PM direct access to policies across ministries and greater oversight over the functioning of ministers.

Also read: Subhash Garg resignation has few precedents — last senior officer quit 33 years ago

Friction between PMO and ministries

In the existing structure, besides Principal Secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, Additional Principal Secretary P.K. Mishra, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Secretary Bhaskar Kulbe, senior officers are either additional secretaries or joint secretaries.

The joint secretary-level officials are the ones who deal with ministries on all important policy-related issues, which has led to some friction between them and the secretaries in those ministries, who are senior to them, the source said.

“Secretaries in various ministries would often complain about the increased role of joint secretaries in the PMO — how they have to obey the orders of junior officers only because they are in the PMO. Once the set-up changes, this conflict between civil servants is also likely to be resolved,” said an official aware of the proposal that is being studied.

The proposal resembles the plan of the Modi government to ‘merge’ similar ministries for “better implementation of schemes”.

The merger plan was spoken about in Modi’s previous term too, and also found a mention in the BJP’s 2019 Lok Sabha election manifesto.

Also read: PMs come and go but these PMO officials have prospered — under Vajpayee, Manmohan & Modi


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  1. Another model of governance would be to empower the Cabinet ministers – supported by MoSes who are actually given some power and responsibility, beyond answering questions in Parliament. Within the ideological and policy framework of the government, they should be encouraged to function with greater autonomy, deliver results. Other aspects of governance one cannot say, but the economy would have been doing much better if this model had been followed.

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