Intro: Modi Government is overhauling India’s Civil Services with a view to get the right team in place for implementing government's agenda.
Intro: Indian Administrative Service and allied
services initially were termed as the “steel frame” on which India’s government machinery was based.
In the din of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit something important got lost. The Times of India on September 25, 2014, reported: Centre moves out 50 bureaucrats in ‘midnight massacre’. On my attempt to decipher the 'midnight massacre', I found that not only the title was misleading, but also the fact that all this while a part of media was spreading false information by reporting that “NDA government was against the bureaucrats appointed by the previous Congress led UPA regime”, e.g.: KM Chandrashekhar, former Cabinet Secretary (2007-2011), has been included in committee to restructure the Railway Board. Officers, who had served earlier as private secretaries of UPA ministers have been appointed as joint secretaries in ministries of revenue, power, and home.
Infact all of these dawned on Indian media couple of days later and Economic Times on September 27, 2014 reported, “Government ignores seniority and political allegiance; appoints babus on the basis of merit”. The report said “Merit and competence have replaced seniority and political allegiance as buzzwords in Delhi's corridors of power as Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes about strengthening India's steel frame.”
Modi led government has done 300-odd senior-level transfers and appointments including the transfer of 46 joint secretaries just before Prime Minister left for the US.
Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and allied services initially were termed as the “steel frame” on which India’s government machinery was based. From last decade it was being said that it has rusted, some said it has become steel cage. And that the last decade also saw large scale exodus of competent bureaucrats.
NC Saxena who was director of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) was scathing in his assessment of the Indian bureaucracy in his “Administrative Reforms for Better Governance” paper. (Apparently the paper was launched on November 26, 2012.) He said: It is “a troubled institution” riddled with “a lack of professionalism, the creation of redundant posts, unsatisfactory structures of reward and punishment, and an inability to deliver services adequately”. Postings are often “dictated by vested interest of mafia gangs, organised criminals, builders’ lobby, and contractors”. He observes that “over the years, whatever little virtues the civil services possessed—integrity, political neutrality, courage and high morale—are showing signs of decay”. Newer values emphasise “political loyalty, flexibility” and several senior officials “have become a link between politicians and the business class” (The rusted steel frame, by Harsh Mander, The Hindu, December 16, 2012, Harsh was also a faculty member at LBSNAA). And best example in case is of A Raja. Former telecom minister, he selected all the officials of the department, who allowed wrong doing and led to a gigantic scam.
Former IAS officer, who resigned in 2001 to fight corruption and misgovernance, Sanjeev Sabhlok points out that “What is important here is that both NC Saxena and Harsh Mander had direct access to Sonia Gandhi, being members of the National Advisory Council. Yet it is self-evident that they have no influence in changing any policies.”
NC Saxena is not alone in his harsh criticism. Successive, ‘Administrative Reforms Commission’ and ‘Depart-ment of Administrative Reforms’ have said the same thing.
When seen in this context one can truly understand and appreciate the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government. The instruction to focus on merit while suggesting bureaucrats was issued to all departments on September 5, after several instances in which alternatives were recommended to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet without being ranked in order of merit or detailing the choice of the selection panel appointed for the recommendation.
It is evident that the Modi Government is overhauling the human resources with a view to getting the right team in place for implementing its agenda. This initiative started long back when government issued a gazette notification, dated August 6, amending the 46-year-old All India Service (Conduct) Rules, 1968. Former conduct rule for the bureaucrats said, “All members shall at all times maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and shall do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the Service.”
But now, the amended conduct rule states that every member of Service must:
- Maintain principles of merit, fairness and impartiality while discharging duties.
- Maintain accountability and transparency, responsiveness to the public — particularly to the weaker sections.
- Maintain courtesy and good behaviour with the public.
- Maintain discipline in discharge of duties.
- Be liable in implementing the lawful orders duly communicated to them.
- Maintain confidentiality in the performance of duties as required by law, particularly with regard to information, disclosure of which will prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the nation or friendly relations with foreign countries.
- Commit them to the Constitution and uphold its supremacy and democratic values; defend and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency and morality.
- Take decisions solely in public interest and use or cause to use public resources efficiently, effectively and economically.
- Maintain high ethical standards, integrity and honesty.
- Maintain accountability and transparency.
- Promote the principles of merit, fairness and impartiality while discharging duties.
- Make choices, take decisions and make recommendations on merit alone.
- Not misuse position and not take decisions in order to derive financial or material benefits.
- Not place themselves under any financial or other obligations to any individual or organisation which may influence them in the performance of their official duties.
- Refrain from doing anything which is or may be contrary to any law, rules, regulations and established practices.
- Declare any private interests relating to their public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts in a way that protects the public interest.
- Perform and discharge duties with the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to the best of their abilities.
- Act with fairness and impartiality and don’t discriminate against anyone, particularly the poor and the under-privileged.
- Ensure courtesy and good behaviour with the public, display responsiveness to the public, particularly to the weaker section.
(Source: Modi amends All India Services rules, makes bureaucracy citizen-friendly, Saswat Panigrahi, Niticentral, 8 August 2014)
Narendra Modi is the first Prime Minister who has taken a much needed step to revive Indian bureaucracy. Much has already been written about him installing punctuality and cleanliness in Indian bureaucracy. With focus on governance backed with transparency; merit based Indian bureaucracy can not only inflict a massacre on corruption and inefficiency but also in the process regain its glory.
Sandeep Singh (The writer is a weekly columnist “Narendra Modi & CXO Leadership” in his website www.swastik.net.in)