Governors' panel to monitor SC/ST schemes

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JULY 13. The two-day Governors' conference ended today with the President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan, announcing that a Committee of Governors would be formed to look into the serious inadequacies in the implementation of programmes about the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. The Committee of Governors would also examined underutilisation of funds allocated for these pro-poor programmes.

This seems to be the most ``pro-active'' outcome of the conference, where the Governors also talked about the scope and content of their constitutional role as heads of State, especially in times of political uncertainty. The Governors, whose role was lauded by the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, as ``the crucial component of the constitutional mechanism to make India a vibrant democracy'', discussed at length what they ought to do or not do in taking inherently controversial decisions related to formations of Governments. The constitutional heads shared with one another their understanding of their roles and various judicial decisions about the scope of Governors' powers and discretion.

In particular, the Governors were exercised about their role as Chancellors. A number of BJP-appointed Governors have had differences with their non-BJP Chief Ministers in the administration of universities. Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister for Human Resource Development, intervened to suggest that there ought to be a balance between ``the chancellors, the State Governments and the university administration''.

Later in the afternoon, the Governors heard presentations from four senior Ministers - Foreign, Home, Finance and Defence. Mr. Jaswant Singh sought to impress upon the Governors about the ``upswing'' in the country's foreign policy. Mr. Advani, who followed next, gave, according to one Governor, a thoughtful overview of the complexities and difficulties in the internal security area. He told the Governors about the four expert groups - on border management, internal security, intelligence, and defence management - that had been formed after the Kargil conflict. More significantly, Mr. Advani also deplored recent attacks on Christians and Christian institutions and urged the States to investigate the cases thoroughly to determine who was behind the attacks.

Mr. Advani was followed by the Finance Minister, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, who, predictably, told the Governors that the economy was in sound shape, while the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, talked about what was being done to strengthen the country's defences.

After these senior ministers, it was the Prime Minister's turn to assure the Governors that they played an important role in the polity, and that they were a valued link between the Centre and States. Mr. Vajpayee thought that apart from discharging their normal constitutional responsibility, the Governors could provide leadership and guidance to the non- governmental organisations in their States. The Prime Minister believed that ``strengthening of such non-governmental organisations'' was worth the effort and the Governors' involvement could make these organisations tools for the ``overall betterment of society''. Mr. Vajpayee later hosted a lunch for the Governors and Lt. Governors.

In his valedictory remarks, the President stressed, like the Prime Minister, the Governors' role as ``a strong link between the Centre and the States''. Appreciating that many Governors had pointed out that the programmes meant for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes were not being properly implemented, Mr. Narayanan decided to constitute a Committee of Governors, whose composition would be announced ``in due course''.

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