With a major focus on e-governance and to ensure better delivery of public services by achieving greater efficiency, the state government has decided to reduce the number of departments from 63 to 52. For this purpose, 21 departments have been merged into 10 new ones. The decision to merge the departments was taken at Friday’s Cabinet meeting.
Amit Mitra, the state Finance minister, said in a press conference after the meeting that the step has been taken to give more stress on e-governance and to achieve greater efficiency, reduce costs in running the government and for better delivery of services to people. State Education minister Partha Chatterjee and state Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee were also present.
“E-governance will be given a major focus in administrative reforms and it will be transferred to the present department of personnel and administrative reforms. This will be thereafter designated as the Department of Personnel, Administrative Reforms and E-Governance,” Mitra said.
Citing an example, he said: “The functions of Directorate of Sericulture are related to the work of the Agriculture Department. But it was under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise and Textile department. Thus, it has been brought under the Agriculture Department for better functioning.”
A statement by the government stated: “With the merger of the 21 departments into 10, the net reduction in the number of state government departments is 11.” The merger of departments will come into effect from the day it will be published in the gazette.
Describing the step taken by the Chief Minister as a “major” one, he said the Home Department and Department of Hill Affairs would be merged into one Home and Hill Affairs department. Departments of Finance and Excise from now on will be called department of finance.
The department of Youth Services and the department of Sports would be merged to form “department of youth services and sports”, he told reporters. Department of women development and social welfare and the department of child development will also be merged. It was also decided to merge the departments of disaster management and civil defence.
The Land and Land Reforms department, also headed by the CM, will be known as Land and Land Reforms and Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation department. The Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation department was previously headed by Irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee, who in turn, had taken over from Abani Joardar. Science and Technology department and Bio-Technology department will be merged with the Higher Education department. It will be renamed Higher Education, Science and Technology and Bio-Technology department.
It needs to be mentioned that all the ministers will continue to hold their previous offices. Multiple departments with similar functions have been merged and will be headed by one minister, who previously was in charge of the multiple departments. Sources said that with the merger, secretaries of two particular departments could be transferred to some other posts in the same rank. The first central level administrative review meeting after the merger is scheduled to be held in the next months at Town Hall.
It may be recalled that many separate departments were created during 34 years of the Left Front rule to accommodate more MLAs in the Cabinet. It, however, resulted in less efficient governance.