Beefing up regulators

September 12, 2005, The Hindu Business Line

THE Consumer Unity and Trust Society, based in Jaipur, has been in the forefront of efforts by means of well-documented studies and purposefully organised workshops to evolve policies and measures bearing on the process of liberalisation, demands of competitive environment and consequences of globalisation, with consumer interests as its primary focus.

With its constructive spirit, it has been able to forge fruitful relations with official agencies, corporate enterprises and other players and stakeholders, and establish productive links with kindred organisations abroad.

It owes not a little of its success to the perseverance and drive of its Secretary-General, Mr Pradeep S. Mehta, and the band of knowledgeable, experienced and eminent advisers associated with him.

One of the most notable contributions it has made is to prepare, based on a series of seminars, a set of recommendations for ensuring the autonomy, credibility, effectiveness and accountability of regulatory bodies, particularly in the infrastructure sector so vital for faster economic growth.

The qualifications, selection, appointment, tenure, service conditions and compensation of the heads and members of these bodies, and those of the appellate tribunals, are at present entirely within the discretion of the administrative Ministry concerned, resulting in wide disparities and variable tenures.

Their independence is often compromised by the appointment of political favourites. They are bereft of basic financial powers, being treated as “subordinate offices” of the Ministry. Absence of statutory checks over Ministerial interference further hamstrings them.

The Society has forwarded to the Government salutary recommendations on all these and other aspects, including the entrusting of selection of appointees to a group of eminent persons of impeccable credentials, making the Cabinet Secretariat responsible for drawing up and applying uniform service terms, with emoluments and tenure attractive enough to highly qualified professionals in their prime, requiring the line Ministry to get the concurrence of the regulatory bodies before issuing a policy directive and vesting them with full control over their own finances and internal administration.

The sooner the Government acts on them, the better.

B. S. Raghavan

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