The government has decided to focus on over 500 autonomous bodies -from the University Grants Commission and Jawahar Lal Nehru University to Delhi Development Authority, Prasar Bharati and CSIR -and has asked Niti Aayog to review the performance of these entities that have mushroomed over the years with little oversight.
Sources told TOI that Niti Aayog has been entrusted the task as the government looks to cut down on wasteful expenditure. The number of central autonomous bodies has shot up from 35 in 1955 to 533 in 2012 and the Expenditure Management Commission (EMC) headed by former RBI governor Bimal Jalan had said these agencies guzzled a lot of cash, which some estimates suggest could be over Rs 60,000 crore annually .
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has set up a high-powered committee headed by Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya to look into the EMC's recommendations.
The panel had suggested a slew of measures to reduce government spending which included recommendations to streamline expenditure and review grants made to autonomous bodies, and link at least a part of it to performance.
A top government official said the commission was of the view that a meaningful review of the grants made to these institutions would lead to savings of around Rs 3,000 crore a year.
A source said the UK had undertaken review of its 900 odd autonomous bodies. On the basis of the review, the number was pruned by 285 institutions, resulting in annual savings of around $2 billion.
While the EMC was set up amid much fanfare, little has been done to implement its recommendations as the government wanted a detailed analysis of the proposals.
In the past too, governments have undertaken similar exercises -such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee government's attempt through the Expenditure Reforms Commission -but have shied away from taking tough decisions like winding up departments or abolishing posts. Usually, the bureaucracy comes up with arguments justifying continuation of the system and the political brass shows reluctance.
Despite expectations that the Modi government would streamline functioning of the government, given that several ministries have become redundant, the administration has shied away from such decisions.
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