The structure of ministries and departments in India, established by the President on the Prime Minister’s advice under the Government of India (Allocation of Business Rules) 1961, plays a vital role in policy formulation, implementation, and administrative functions. This arrangement, consisting of over 40 ministries, aims to address the multifaceted requirements of a diverse nation like India. However, there are debates on the necessity to rationalize the number of ministries due to several challenges that have emerged. This essay explores the rationale behind the creation of ministries in the Indian parliamentary system and subsequently delves into the arguments advocating for their rationalization.

Reasons for Creation of Ministries:

  • Administrative Convenience and Development:
  • Ministries central to policy formulation and implementation.
  • Example: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution overseeing National Food Security Act implementation.

Multiple ministries ensure work division, coordination, and oversight.

  • Example: Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment addressing regional and societal needs.

Evolving Government Functions:

  • Welfare-oriented functions increase in complexity and specialization.
  • Necessitates formation of specialized ministries or divisions.
  • Example: Establishment of New and Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST) division in Ministry of External Affairs.

Arguments for Rationalization:

Slowed Decision-making:

  • Multiple ministries’ involvement hampers efficient policy implementation.
  • Accountability becomes challenging.
  • Example: Ministry of Civil Aviation and Home Affairs conflict over drone regulations.

Inefficient Resource Allocation:

  • Resource limitations for numerous ministries.
  • Major portion allocated for salaries and pensions.
  • Optimal allocation hindered.

Overlap with Private Sector:

  • Government provides services that private sector could deliver.
  • Government-private sector competition.
  • Crowding out of private sector.
  • Example: Competition from BSNL, LIC, etc.

Political Patronage:

  • Ministries wielded as incentives in coalition politics.
  • Allurement for political allies.

Examples of Rationalization:

Integrated Transport Strategy:

  • Merge road, railways, and shipping ministries.
  • Achieve integrated transport approach.

Energy Sector Resolution:

  • Merge ministries of power, petroleum, natural gas, and renewable energy.
  • Address energy sector challenges comprehensively.

The organization of ministries and departments in India, formulated with the aim of effective governance and development, has exhibited its own merits. However, the complexities of modern governance have given rise to the need for rationalization. The concerns of decision-making efficiency, resource allocation, overlap with the private sector, and political influence have accentuated the case for reducing the number of ministries. Strategic consolidations, as demonstrated by the examples, could lead to enhanced administrative efficiency and targeted policy execution. Hence, while acknowledging the historical significance of the current ministry setup, there is a growing consensus on the imperative to recalibrate the structure to better address the nation’s evolving challenges.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 1, 2024