The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tiff over women’s plan
- President & minister in dispute over modifications

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Major changes to a proposed flagship women’s empowerment plan by women and child development minister Krishna Tirath are threatening to inject rare tension between her ministry and President Pratibha Patil, who envisioned the scheme.

An unhappy President has snubbed Tirath, concerned over the creation of a “parallel bureaucracy” following the minister’s modifications to the National Mission for Empowerment of Women, top government officials revealed to The Telegraph.

Tirath had requested Patil to launch the proposed mission to empower women on September 11 to showcase the programme as an achievement of the UPA government within its first 100 days in office.

But the President turned down the request, asking Tirath to first obtain approvals from the Planning Commission and the cabinet before finalising the launch, the sources said.

Patil is learnt to be unhappy with Tirath’s modifications to the proposal because she feels that they effectively render the mission unrealistic to implement. The President’s office has also advised the ministry to “revise” the modifications it has made to the mission and present the revised version to it.

Tirath, however, dismissed the differences, suggesting that the President agreed with the changes she had made.

The President had late last year proposed a new mechanism to streamline the delivery of existing women’s programmes. She set up a committee of governors to prepare a national blueprint for such a mechanism. The committee recommended a national mission and a group of ministers backed the panel.

In her address to the joint session of Parliament on June 4, the President announced the mission and said the government would “initiate action” within its first 100 days in office.

But Tirath, in consultations that followed, revised the structure of the proposed mission, introducing multiple layers that critical sources said were tantamount to creating a parallel bureaucracy.

“The President is uncomfortable with the creation of an entirely parallel structure to implement and monitor the mission. The structure proposed by the minister makes the mission unrealistic,” a source closely associated with the programme said.

The President, it is learnt, wanted to create a national-level structure to co-ordinate efforts between different ministries working on women-related programmes.

A similar co-ordination mechanism was suggested by the President at the grassroots — or village — level to streamline delivery. But existing programmes will remain under the jurisdiction of the ministry currently running the scheme.

For instance, girl child education programmes are to remain under the human resource development ministry, according to the President’s vision.

The women and child development ministry has, however, modified the structure of the mission to include administrative and monitoring mechanisms at the state and district level in addition to the national and village co-ordination structures proposed by the President.

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