Rough estimates say there are around 500 autonomous bodies and tribunals under the aegis of the Central government.
New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is expected to go in for the merger of a section of autonomous bodies like Prasar Bharati to cut down on expenses. This could be announced in the coming Union Budget 2017-18.
The government has received a slew of innovative suggestions from nine sectoral groups headed by Central, ranging from merger of several autonomous tribunals and bodies to encouraging manufacturing of energy-efficient white goods like television sets and refrigerators to save electricity. Some suggestions on the agriculture, energy, transport, health and education sectors have been finalised and will be submitted next week to the PMO.
Other suggestions like an all-India medical helpline number that would provide medical advice and connect emergency patients directly to a panel of doctors is likely to be included in the Budget, sources say.
Besides Prasar Bharati, other key autonomous bodies, specially those with similar functions or nature could be targeted like Cotton Corporation of India Ltd, Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India Ltd and Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corporation, among others.
As for Prasar Bharati, which had earlier locked horns with the government, it could become a part of the information and broadcasting ministry, that would deprive it of autonomy. It may be recalled that in the late 1990s, then Prasar Bharati chief S.S. Gill took on the then Atal Behari government’s I&B minister Sushma Swaraj. After Mr Gill, Prasar Bharati has never tried to flex its muscles again. It is learnt that it’s the expenses being incurred by the autonomous bodies that have become a major cause of concern for the government.
Rough estimates say there are around 500 autonomous bodies and tribunals under the aegis of the Central government, on which thousands of crores of public funds are spent, putting a heavy burden on government finances.
As a part of the mid-term review of programmes and projects of each ministry, the PMO sought suggestions from the sectoral groups formed last month to include them in the coming Budget. In fact, it was after the suggestion by one of the earlier groups that Mr Modi had formed in December 2015 that the government had decided to advance the Union Budget’s presentation by nearly a month. This time the Union Budget will be presented on February 1, instead of the usual date of February 28, or the last working date of the month. This newspaper had been the first to report this change by the government.