Monday, February 14, 2011

mamta fights for fundamental rights of govt employees

14 Feb 2011



on tackling corruption charges of Govt employees

Mamta cautions Centre that Govt servants fundamental
rights to be protected.

By R Rajagopalan

NEW DELHI:  Mamta Banerjee Railways Minister
differed with Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram
at a meeting of the Group of Ministers on Corruption
stated that while she is agreeing with Home Minister
on Government employees being targetted for corruption
she sought a background paper. Mamta Banerjee cautioned
that while making changes in Corruption laws, ensure that
fundamental rights of citizens and government servants
also need to be duly protected.

This correspondent has the 32 pages Secret notes of the
first GOM on to tackle Corruption, where Mamta Banerjee
reference is available.

Believe it or not, the Union Ministers have hardly any
discretionary powers that can be grossly misused and bracketed in the
category of corruption. At least, that is the position on paper as
revealed in an 8-page document prepared by the ministries for urgent
government action!

The document listing 32 such small discretionary powers enjoyed by 14
ministers was examined on Monday by a Group of Ministers (GoM) on
Corruption headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as part of its
terms for relinquishing all discretionary powers.

As a member of the GoM noted after the meeting, these are the
discretionary powers conceptualised for public good and it would be
foolish if the ministers are not allowed to extend a helping hand to
the deserving needy persons by extinguishing such powers.

The whole issue of the discretionary powers was brought into focus by
Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the party's plenary here in
December in the context of the discretions by the Maharashtra chief
minister and ministers in the Adarsh Housing Society scam of Mumbai.

She wanted that there should be no discretionary powers with the
ministers as they lead to partisanship and corruption, but perhaps she
is not privy to machinations of the governance for never being in the
government that the ministers can make the bureaucrats swing the
decisions as they like without any need of special powers.

The Home Minister tops in the document with seven discretionary
powers, followed by the Tribal Minister five, Railway Minister four,
Tourism, Telecom and External Affairs Minister two each.

Just sample some of these powers:

The Agriculture Minister has powers to appoint the government nominees
in cooperative organisations like NAFED and managing committees such
as NIAM and SFAC and nomination of non-officials on autonomous
institutions like Coconut Development Board, National Horticulture
Board and Joint Hindi Advisory Committee.

Minister for Fertilisers has powers to appoint personal staff and two
farmers' representatives in the fertiliser advisory forum.

Telecom Minister has discretion to nominate members of the Telephone
Advisory Committee (TAC), sanction out-of-turn telephone connections
and approve issue of stamps on dignitaries, subject to guidelines and
annual stamp issue programme. MoS Telecom can also sanction
out-of-turn telephone connection. Who needs them in today's time when
mobile phone connections are go begging?

And, look at the maximum discretionary powers that the Home Minister enjoys:

-- Central assistance to civilian victims of terrorist, communal,
naxal violence;

-- Relief to needy persons who have served the nation in the
political, social, philanthropic and other fields;

-- Rewards to persons in recognition of outstanding deeds of valour
and public good;

-- Subventions to deserving institution rendering services to the
nation in various needs;

-- Relief to persons decorated with national awards in extreme cases
of distress for their and their family members' medical treatment;

-- Provision of Rs 1 crore under HM's discretionary grants in
financial year 2011-12; and

-- Release of grant in any other exceptionally deserving cases.

The Tribal Affairs Minister has the second highest discretions on five grounds:

-- Aid to individuals and institutes promoting welfare and development of STs;

-- Education to exceptionally brilliant tribal children whose parents
are no more or whose parents' income from all sources does not exceed
Rs 5000 a month;

-- Medical treatment to those whose income from all sources does not
exceed Rs 5000 a month;

-- A grant by minister shall not exceed Rs 10,000 in a year;

-- Total budget for a year under the discretionary funds of the tribal
affairs minister is Rs 2 lakh but no grant has been sanctioned during
the last three years under this head.

The Railway Minister can grant concession on requests besides those
permissible under the tariff, grant enhanced ex-gratia to victims of
train accidents, issue complementary card and cheque passes to persons
and organisations engaged in social, cultural, educational, sports and
welfare activities as also on welfare grounds and she can also
nominate chairmen and members of the passenger amenities committee and
passenger services committee.

The External Affairs Minister has discretion to grant diplomatic
passport under Category 'F' and allot a portion of Haj seats. The
Tourism Minister has powers to nominate members on various advisory
committees and boards of autonomous institutions and approve central
financial assistance (CFA) priority to projects.

The Commerce Minister enjoys powers to select any officer from the
panel sent by Civil Services Board. The Human Resources Development
Minister has no discretionary powers in admissions and appointments in
schools or colleges but has a discretionary fund of Rs 4 lakhs a year
for providing financial assistance for cases of hardship.

As regards the Mine Minister, the document says the Mines and Minerals
Bill is being brought to Parliament for minimising discretionary
powers of the minister. The Steel Minister does not have discretionary
powers but as chairman of Steel Consumers Council, he directly
nominates some 400 non-official members.

There is only one scheme of National Welfare Fund for Sportsperson in
which the Sports Minister has the discretion to sanction assistance in
deserving cases even to those who technically are non-eligible,
depending upon facts and circumstances of each case. He also has the
discretion to decide quantum of assistance.


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