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17 Dec 2016

Bengal merger pill to cut govt costs

TT, Calcutta, Dec. 16: The Mamata Banerjee government today reduced the number of departments through mergers in a bid to cut down on the cost of running the administration and utilise its manpower more rationally.
"The government will now have 52 departments instead of 63. It has been decided that 11 departments will be merged with 10 others," finance and industries minister Amit Mitra said.
According to sources, the government had no plan of slashing jobs and so, the officers of the merged departments would be redeployed.
"A department needs to spend on cars and electricity. It incurs several other costs to run its day-to-day activities. If one department is merged with another, expenses such as telephone and electricity bills and car rents will come down. On average, the departments that were merged used to spend Rs 10 lakh each on these heads," a finance department source said.
Moreover, many of these departments were being run from rented offices, costing the exchequer at least Rs 5 crore annually, the sources said.
Some Nabanna officials are of the opinion that more departments could be merged. "The agriculture marketing department could have been merged with agriculture, fisheries with animal resources, and environment with forest," a bureaucrat said.
Nabanna sources said initially the plan was to merge departments of similar nature but when it emerged that it could hurt the interests of some ministers, the government stepped back.
"According to the initial plan, the number of departments could have come down to around 45. Had that happened, a number of ministers would have been at the risk of losing their berths," a source said.
Bengal has 42 ministers, including the chief minister. According to the formula - 15 per cent of the Assembly's strength - the state can have 44 ministers.
Had the number of departments been brought down to 45, it would have been tough to accommodate all the ministers as the chief minister alone is in charge of eight departments and Mitra, five, the sources said.

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