That what the opposition Congress calls an administrative failure in the State, sometimes even referring to it as a collapse of the administration, appears to be of no great concern to the government. Congress is protesting the absence of the presence of the Chief Minister in the State, and demanding the dismissal of the government. Ministers on the other hand, state that the administration is working perfectly and that there are no problems. While such statements are to be expected from the party leading the government and its coalition partners, there is no skirting the fact that there has been no cabinet meeting held since Feb 22 and certain decisions do remain pending.
But this leaves the government, that is increasingly taking recourse to ‘circulation’ as a means to arrive at cabinet decisions, unfazed. Herald’s reporting finds that what is of concern to ministers in the government is the fact that they have been unable to create jobs in the public sector that can be doled out to their constituents to keep them satisfied. Approximately 5000 jobs that were meant to have opened up in the government sector by February-end, have not, and that is worrying the ministers.
Though there have been no cabinet meetings for the past three months, some 24 decisions have been taken by the cabinet via ‘circulation’. Some of these include major decisions such as the extension of six months given to the offshore casinos to stay in the River Mandovi, the guidelines for the payment of additional compensation to the Mopa airport land losers, extending the debt relief scheme for mining affected and the approval to the schemes for the implementation of the Start-up Policy. While cabinet decisions via ‘circulation’ are a legitimate procedure, the question arises whether this can be used indefinitely, or whether it should be used sparingly in cases of emergencies. Besides, when ‘circulation’ is used as a means of arriving at decisions, the cabinet does not get the benefit of discussing the proposals before given its approval. The ministers merely put down their signature to the file, which is not a very democratic procedure.
Against this backdrop, cabinet decisions via ‘circulation’ should not become the norm. Even if the CAC is acceptable to all coalition partners, the norm in government should be to hand over charge to another minister in the absence of the Chief Minister or if the Chief Minister is unable to perform his regular functions. In the case of Goa, this charge has not been delegated when the Chief Minister was shifted to the US for treatment, instead there was created the three-member Cabinet Advisory Committee. Handing over charge would have ensured that the cabinet would meet, deliberate and then take decisions.
Though coalition partners may claim all is well in the government, the fact that there are hurdles in the administration is indicated by the lack of creation of jobs in the government. Since the beginning of the year, there have been no jobs created. Whatever positions have been advertised for have been for contractual jobs of six to eleven months. The reason for the non-creation of jobs is simple – neither the Cabinet nor the Cabinet Advisory Committee have the powers to create or clear jobs. This can only be done by the four-member High Level Empowered Committee (HLEC) that is headed by the Chief Minister. The Committee was created in November last year and has met just once informally and was to meet in February to clear vacancies. That meeting didn’t happen as the Chief Minister took ill and has been undergoing treatment since then.
With the latest reports indicating that the Chief Minister will return in mid June, the current arrangement can be expected to continue till then. But just how healthy a democratic arrangement is it?