As a Parliamentarian
- You are here:
- As a Parliamentarian
MoS - Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs
Synthetic tracks for athletes, world class swimming pools, new Hockey surfaces and multi-discipline halls were a few of the infrastructure facilities created during my time in the ministry. This period also saw increased investments in sports from private firms and the sports budget itself was tripled. For the first time, a Prime Minister National Sports Fund was set up to encourage people to take up sports as a career. I always encourage sportspersons from the popular and the not so popular sports alike. A case in point is when the hockey star Jugrag Singh suffered from injuries, I ensured that the sports ministry took care of all his medical expenses. This is to encourage those with an extraordinary performance that made an ordinary game popular.
It feels good to know that I am still remembered as the sports Minister in the NDA government who brought the Common Wealth Games to India. In Aug 2003, when a seven-member delegation arrived in Delhi to evaluate and assess the capability of India to host the Commonwealth Games, as the MoS, Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, I took a lead by making a detailed presentation to actively project Delhi’s stature to host the 19th Common Wealth Games in 2010. A dinner was hosted in honour of the Commonwealth Games Federation Evaluation Commission then headed by Mr. Richard McColgan. A cultural program based on the heritage of the old city of Chandni Chowk was also presented. I was confident of India bagging the bid for the Common Wealth games. India’s potential was further strengthened when we managed to successfully host the 1st Afro-Asian Games in Andhra Pradesh end of 2003. It showcased India as being capable of organising large international sporting events. Further, the games also helped the nation to build the infrastructure for future events. The infrastructure, facilities and security arrangements provided by the organisers and the government were praised by all. The 54 delegates of commonwealth nations were impressed with the success of the event. However, the Afro-Asian Games was not the only event that was held during my tenure. The very next year, we were ready to host the under-17 Cricket Asia Cup with 14 countries participating in it. During my tenure, the ministry’s only motto was to conduct as many international sporting events as possible and encourage more Indians to win medals. I personally congratulated the Indian Hockey team on their winning the prestigious Asia Hockey Cup in 2003.
I left no stone unturned when it came to sports promotion. Ahead of the inaugural edition of the Afro-Asian Games, we organised a grand exhibition at the Games village depicting the history of Indian sport, particularly profiling some of the finest sportspersons of the country including Arjuna Awardees to create awareness amongst the visitors and delegates. When the Ministry of Sports was included in the Republic Day Parade in 2004, we introduced the theme ‘Go for Gold at Athens 2004’. A large number of well-known sportspersons like Dhanraj Pillay, Gaganjit Singh, Anju Bobby George, Anjali Pathak, Malleshwari, Beenamol, Palwinder Chima, Mohammed Ali Qammar, Dola Banerjee, Jitendra Kumar, etc. participated and performed in the tableaux.
MoS – Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation and MoS - PMOSpeeding the pending projects
When I became the Minister of Statistics and program Implementation, over 160 projects of the Central Government were running behind schedule. Some of the major causes for the delays were the constraints in funding, delays in land acquisitions and the awarding of contracts, lack of latest management techniques and problems related to law and order These delays drastically increased the cost of the projects. Therefore, I first ensured that the timely completion of the projects becomes the government’s top-most priority. I focused my attention on the 28 major projects which contributed to nearly 93% of the overall cost overrun in all the projects.
I convened a meeting of the concerned bureaucrats, discussed the nitty-gritty of the pending projects and fixed accountability at an appropriate level for any delay caused while fiscal incentives were announced for the completion of projects before schedule. I started convening inter-ministerial coordination meetings at regular intervals to resolve problems between ministries and removed the critical bottlenecks. Besides roping in independent agencies, the chief executives of mega projects were invited at regular intervals. To ensure smooth monitoring and early completion of projects, I released the ‘Standard contract management system’, tabling of a Bill to seek amendments in the Land Acquisition Act and provide a standard rehabilitation package. I toured across the country, conducting an exhaustive survey of more than 400 of the central government sponsored prime projects ranging from multi-crore express highways to huge petro-refineries. Some of the toured projects were the Delhi Metro, the Indian Oil Pipelines, Ahmedabad-Baroda Express Highway, Gomti Action Plan, the ultra modern GK General Hospital, the Integrated Cargo Terminal Project and MRTS in Chennai and projects related to the Ministries of Surface Transport, Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Railways.
The next issue was public grievances. Through the Janata Adalats - the face to face interaction of people with the authorities/bureaucrats, I had been addressing the public grievances in Chandni Chowk. But, being Minister in PMO, addressing ministerial grievances needed different approach. The PMO then was receiving over 6000 complaints monthly, out of which nearly 2000 were of a serious nature. These complaints would reach the PMO only when they were not cleared or addressed by the related ministries/departments. I started holding weekly meeting with officials from different ministries to ensure that these serious grievances were cleared on time. Senior officers of all ministries were further directed to conduct surprise checks on their respective grievance cells to assess the status of public grievances and identify the reasons for delay and delegate responsibilities for fixing the same. The erstwhile Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee appreciated my move and helped me further by passing instructions for the immediate suspension of those officials who failed to resolve the grievances on time. In Railways, we made officials mention the telephone numbers in train coaches for passengers to register their complaints. Other proposals included the construction of a modern washing terminal, clearing the issues of refund, opening of food plazas and expansion of online reservation.
The largest number of pension-related complaints received by the Grievance Redressal unit of the PMO was connected with the Defence Ministry: 300-350 petitions. The delay in clearing the retirement and pension packages of Jawaans was due to the huge workload at the sole office designated to do the work. Moreover, the administrative apparatus for handling pension related grievances was archaic and the process tortuous. Hence in a bid to streamline the payment of pensions to retired Jawans, war widows and their families, I directed the Defence Ministry to set up a monitoring mechanism for the speedy payment of pension. A senior officer was put in-charge of this with a mandate to report to the PMO once a month with a status report. This quickened the process of redressing cases of delayed pensions and settled myriad pre-1983 pension cases.
Income Tax was another area where my intervention made several reforms possible. The grievances cell in the Prime Minister’s Office was receiving over 150 complaints monthly on pending claims of non-receipt of income tax refunds. On the Prime Minister’s directive, I asked the revenue department officials to speed up the refunds in a transparent manner sans corruption. Another proposal rooted by many was to outsource the delivery of the refund orders to curb corruption in the Income Tax department. I further suggested that post offices be mandated to collect income tax returns to avoid serpentine queues by taxpayers. Another such proposal of mine led the Finance ministry to propose the filing of bulk income tax returns by residents’ welfare associations, group housing societies, traders, industry and exporters as an association for its members. In order to file the returns on behalf of their members, such bodies needed to be registered with the income tax department. This was also an extension of the government policy to allow the filing of returns by companies on behalf of their employees, a policy first announced by the Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in the year’s fiscal budget.
There was another long-pending issue that I addressed during my tenure as the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. It was the issue of casual leaves for Delhi Police Personnel. I recommended the enhancement of the casual leaves from 10 days to 15 day indicating that it had a direct impact on the morale of the personnel. I took up the issue with the Home minister and put forward across the Standing Committee attached to the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry finally accepted the demand and increased the casual leaves of personnel of Delhi Police as was the case with the Central Police Organization.
MoS - Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation & Ministry of Parliamentary AffairsDuring the period of 2002-03, for few months, I was also the MoS in Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation where I tried my best to bring positive changes in MPLAD scheme. I inaugurated a photo exhibition on the MPLAD scheme at the Parliament Annexe. I asked the district collectors to clear the MPs’ recommendations under the MPLAD scheme within 45 days. Going a step further, I also decided to set up a dedicated website to give the status of the works recommended by the MPs. The website had details of projects sanctioned in each constituency, the funds allotted, the work status, progress and detailed accounts. This provided visibility to the citizens and the MPs into the ongoing projects in the constituency. This step was applauded by various quarters for being the right step in the direction of increasing transparency and accountability. We also organized the grand photo-exhibition featuring the best works implemented under the scheme all over the country.
For the month of January 2003, I also held the role of the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs where I supervised the business and procedures related to functioning of the Parliament. A journalist once asked me how I look at the functioning of the Parliament. I replied that I find it to be a lottery, a race and a request; a lottery because the selection of questions is fate-dependent as they are picked up randomly from the question boxes, a race because when the speaker raises an alarm, the members run towards the hall and a request because it’s necessary to seek the speakers’ permission each time a member asks a question or provides information.
There were two minor yet important changes that were made during my very brief tenure. The fist change was in the visitors’ form of the Parliament. I noticed that visitors were filling in 7-8 names in the form instead of the stipulated two fields. To put things in order, I increased the names’ fields from two to five. This not only improved the formal process for visiting the Parliament but also helped in tackling the security issues more effectively. The second change I sought was in the procedure of using the word ‘summon’ in Standing Committees and Halls when members were asked to attend meetings. I objected to the word in this context as it is used in the judicial parlance while addressing the accused, victim or witness and hence it is advised to refrain from using the word for the elected representatives of the people.
I was pleased to see your reply. You are the first politician who care what his supporter wants and reply in a very humble manner. It's very praise worthy. My all best wishes for upcoming election. It's a changing moment of history.
Sir, it's a request to you kindly raise the issue of unalloted plots to DDA Rohini 1981 scheme. We are waiting for it for 33 years as well as 25000 families are waiting too but DDA has given just paper assurance. Kindly look into the matter sir.