PM to meet all ministers last Wednesday of each month

With his government having completed 20 months in office on Wednesday, which is a third of its five-year tenure, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi told his council of ministers that he will hold a meeting with them on the last Wednesday of every month to take stock of the impact of government policies on the ground.

The PM met his entire 64-member council of ministers. The focus at Wednesday’s meeting were ministries of agriculture, rural development, consumer affairs, food and public distribution, chemical and fertiliser and water resources. With a slew of Assembly elections on the anvil, particularly the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in early 2017, and the Budget session of Parliament scheduled for end-February, the government is said to be keen to showcase its initiatives in the farm sector.

The PM expressed concern over the soaring prices of pulses. Modi spoke about long-term measures to increase production of pulses and proposal to create ample buffer stock of pulses through price support scheme and price-stabilisation fund. He also talked about the need to take measures against hoarding. The PM asked all ministers to do their homework on the government's schemes and policies so they are better able to communicate these to the public.

The focus on the farm sector could also help the Bharatiya Janata Party counter opposition propaganda that the Modi government is anti-farmer, particularly as it prepares for state polls in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Assam by April 2016, and to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh polls by early 2017.

On Namami Gange, the PM said there was need for taking on board 'out of box' ideas to increase people's participation. He also reveiewed Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana and production subsidy to sugar mills and soft loans to sugar mills. Sources said the agrarian crisis in Bundelkhand was also discussed.

The dinner meeting came on the heels of meetings with senior bureaucrats, including one in the morning where Modi took strong exception to people's complaints and grievances related to the Customs and excise sector and directed strict action against the officials responsible.

The PM’s holding end-of-the-month meetings will both be to bridge gaps in government’s policies and programme implementation and remove delays due to inter-ministerial overlap. The meetings will also help the PM get feedback from his ministers about the obstacles they might be facing and whether the Prime Minister’s Office could intervene to ease these. The ministries and departments would be encouraged to give presentations about their work.

The evening meeting with the ministers also took stock of the progress made on revival of three fertiliser plants — Sindri, Barauni, and Gorakhpuar — and setting up of an agriculture university in Bihar. Financial restructuring of Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL) and setting up of an ammonia urea complex on the premises of BVFCL Namrup were also discussed, along with fixation of nutrient-based subsidy rates for phosphatic and potassic fertilisers for 2015-16. Officials said some other issues that cropped up were corporatisation of Delhi Milk Scheme and state of Krishi Vigyan Kendras.  

"The prime minister also gave a pep talk to secretaries and ministers on maintaining timeline for implementation of the cabinet decisions," sources said. According to sources, the PM emphasised there should not be any delay in moving fresh proposals for Cabinet approval and the timeline should be maintained for implementation after the nod.

Earlier in the day, the PM chaired the ninth meeting of Pragati (Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation), an information technology-based multi-modal platform under which he interacts with top officials of central departments and state governments via video conferencing. There he asked all secretaries to the government, whose departments have extensive public dealing, to set up a system for top-level monitoring of grievances immediately, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The PM reviewed the progress of vital infrastructure projects in the road, railway, coal, power and renewable energy sectors, spread over several states, including Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, the statement said.

Among the significant projects reviewed were the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the Jal Marg Vikas Project from Allahabad to Haldia, it said. The Prime Minister also reviewed the progress of the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY). He also took stock of the implementation of the National Old Age Pension Scheme and emphasised the need to ensure that beneficiaries receive the payment on time.

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