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Junior ministers complain of no work, PM promises action
Published on 19 Jan. 2010 11:42 PM IST
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There was a litany of complaints as many ministers of state voiced dissatisfaction saying they were starved of work or ignored in policy decisions in their respective ministries in their first meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence here Tuesday. The prime minister assured them he would take up their complaints at the next cabinet meeting. In their over one-hour long interaction with Manmohan Singh, several among the 38 junior ministers in the 78-member council said they were neglected and had not been given meaningful work since they were sworn in June last year. “Almost a dozen ministers complained that there was no sense of involvement in the running of the ministries and some complained they were redundant,” a minister of state told IANS. Those who protested included ministers of state for railways K.H. Muniyappa of the Congress and E. Ahamed of the Indian Union Muslim League and Saugata Ray, minister for urban development, a senior Trinamool Congress leader. Ever since she took over as railways minister, Mamata Banerjee has spent more time in her home state West Bengal while important files have reportedly been piling up in her Rail Bhavan office. As a result many key decisions, sources said, have been pending because the minister has remained unavailable for discussion and consultation. The Trinamool Congress chief has also reportedly been absent from many crucial cabinet meetings. The prime minister heard the grievances and said he would take up the complaints in the next cabinet meeting. “The meeting discussed ways and means for better utilisation of the enormous pool of talent available in the team of ministers of state. The prime minister requested the ministers of state to do their best to make governance effective and to convey the message of the government to the people,” said a release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). “It was a good meeting and at least we got a chance to pour our hearts out, and we hope there is some course correction soon,” another minister told IANS. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was praised as “very fair” by his junior ministers S.S. Palanimanickam and Namo Narain Meena. Among the others who spoke at the meeting were Commerce and Industry Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Srikant Jena. “They were not critical of their respective cabinet ministers but felt they could make a better contribution in the running of their ministries,” said a minister. Interestingly, none of the DMK ministers aired their grievances, said the sources. After Manmohan Singh was sworn-in prime minister for a second time in May last year, he promised that a mechanism would be evolved within six months where ministers of state would be able to assist their senior ministers in a more able manner in the processes of decision-making. He then asked his cabinet colleagues to ensure that junior ministers reporting to them get meaningful roles to discharge their responsibilities. “I hope you will give your junior colleagues adequate responsibility in your ministry,” the prime minister then said in a letter to each cabinet minister. “This would not only give them a sense of involvement and ownership, but would also groom them for bigger roles in the future.”

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