Asepia-tinted photograph from the early days after independence tells us a lot about the nature of the scramble for a ministerial berth in our times.
Twenty men and one woman are seated for an official photograph. This was the first cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru. Those were the days of Partition, bloody communal riots and economic troubles. Evidently, 21 men and women of calibre were all that was deemed necessary to run the country.
The Manmohan Singh government that ruled India between 2004 and 2009 had—at last count—75 members. Other recent councils of ministers have been equally well staffed.
This can partly be explained by the fact that the Indian government has taken more tasks upon itself. But that is not the entire story. A seat at the ministerial high table has become more a perk.
The result: scores of useless ministries that should have little role to play in national affairs. We wonder what a minister for earth science really does. Small can really be beautiful in this context.