By Sunil Dang
In my recent meeting with a former Railway Minister, I was astonished to know when the minister told me that during his time the ministry had no money to even prepare the railway budget. The minister was quite happy with the merger of the Rail Budget with the General Budget as the entire responsibility for financial aspects of the Railways shifts to the Finance Minister and the Finance Ministry. The Railways, at the moment, is in a financial mess. And I do not blame former or current Railway Minister for that… It is already in a debt trap and will have to soon borrow money to pay salaries. So, merger of Rail Budget with the General Budget was a realization by the government that it’s not just a public carrier but a catalyst to growth as well because India railways has potential to contribute around 2.5 percent of the GDP.
Taking cue from the railways, our government has merged various commissions in the Ministry of Tourism, health Ministry and Urban Development Ministry to pump rural and medical tourism. The Ministry of Tourism has a Rural Tourism Scheme with the main objective of showcasing rural life, art, culture and heritage in villages, which have core competence in art and craft, handloom, textiles, natural environment, etc. Under this scheme, Central Financial Assistance (CFA) up to Rs 5 million ($82,937) for infrastructure development and up to Rs 2 million ($33,174) for capacity building is provided to State Governments/Union Territory Administrations for each identified site by them. The Ministry of Tourism has been making efforts to develop quality tourism infrastructure at tourist destinations and circuits. It has sanctioned Rs 4,090.31 crore ($678.54 million) for a total number of 1,226 tourism projects, which includes projects related to Product/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), Human Resource Development (HRD), Fairs and Festivals, and Adventure and Rural Tourism for infrastructure augmentation.
Since, the Tourism Ministry has started to merge various departments with same objectives and mandate for governance, I expect the Ministry for Culture and the Ministry of External Affairs would follow shoot. Being a part of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), I came across many similar institutions with suffix Sahitya Kala Academy and Lalit Kala Academy. Having a close scrutiny of these institutions, I come to know that all these institutions are doing the same though they have autonomy in their governance. In mathematical terms, if ICCR is a set, then these academies are sub set and they can be easily merged with the ICCR or they can be made an extension the ICCR in their field at least. It would help misuse of the public money as same people won’t take repeated benefit of these institutions at the cost of other artists.
It’s not that India would be doing something extra ordinary by merging such commissions having same objectives. Similar, experiment has been done in other countries like China, USA and some more nations quite successfully. In China, Family Planning Policy and Family Health Welfare Policy were merged to control population growth in the land of Mandarins. In the US, Policy for Human Rights and Public Welfare Policy is an integral part and it can’t be separate at any cost. So, India need to take cue from such innovative experiments and may taste the same success which the above mentioned nations have tested by adopting such mergers of commissions with same goals.