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GOVERNANCE
reforms prabhat kumar
 
Turn a new leaf
Today, bureaucrats are doing their job for sure, but the question is whether they are doing enough to bring about change?
 
In the May issue of Gfiles, I had ventured to start a conversation on the role of the civil services. And indeed, it has evoked a number of responses. A senior bureaucrat suggests a policy for utilisation of the large resources available in the form of retired officials. Let me clarify that I did not suggest that retired civilians should be employed by the Government. In fact, I am of the view that there should be absolutely no reemployment of any civil servant after superannuation, however indispensable he may be. I only meant that these retired civilians should analyse the issues in the light of their own experience and tell their serving colleagues where they had gone wrong.
 
Another friend asked how civil servants should voice their views in public when the media projects them as the greatest hurdle in serving the interests of the people. Now, this is a serious problem. But they can first decide what to say and then find a way of saying it.
 
There is no magic recipe for curing the ills of civil services. You can’t get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the impact. I think there is nothing new in the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission II. Everything which needs to be said about civil service reforms has already been said many a time. I had once counted the number of committees and commissions which have gone into this subject: the number was more than 30.
 
In their lunch club meetings, junior and middle-level officers laugh at such repeated exercises because they know that most of the recommendations of such committee’s will remain just that only.
 
We should, I think, grow up now. We have seen that no reform idea emanating from the civil services is accepted by our political masters. I had put up two proposals before the Union Cabinet. One, regarding a code of ethics for civil servants was turned down. The other regarding no extension of service beyond superannuation was accepted but reversed when the first case for extension came up before the Prime Minister.
 
The civil services can deliver even without any reforms. Haven’t we seen exemplary
performance in several cases in districts and states? The same civil service
system exists in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.
 
Now is the time to spread information about the reality of the Government among the people. They must be told that civil service reforms are necessary but not sufficient. The malady is much more severe than just being cured by mere reforms of the IAS and IPS.
 
This century of networked intelligence is not a century of smart machines, but of humans who through networks can combine their intelligence, knowledge and creativity for breakthrough in the creation of welfare and social development. It is a time of internet-working human ingenuity. Can our civil servants network and present a new face to the people of the country?
 
In my view, the civil services can deliver even without any reforms. Haven’t we seen exemplary performance in several cases in districts and states? The same civil service system exists in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. The officers of the All India Services are indistinguishable from each other in these states. The field officers of Tamil Nadu and Gujarat perform better than their counterparts in Bihar and Orissa. And more pertinently, the officers of Bihar outperform others in the Central Government.
 
The other day, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth said in an interaction that only a confident bureaucracy can be an effective bureaucracy. And I couldn’t agree with him more.
 
Chetan Bhagat says, “While politicians entertain us, babus ensure that the country doesn’t completely shut down. Railway officers ensure trains run, municipal corporators get garbage collected, junior IAS officers manage districts and senior IAS officers run entire ministries….Hence, some of the brightest people in the country, close to the corridors of power, aware of what is right and wrong; do little of what is required.”
 
“They are doing their jobs for sure. However, they are not fighting for change.”
 
For the last five years, the Civil Services Day is being celebrated on April 21. The celebrations start with the Prime Minister giving away awards for excellence in civil services. The awardees are given some coverage in the responsible media. But very few know that besides this handful of selected teams and individuals, there are hundreds of other nominees in the race. They may not be the best, but they are good examples of innovative solutions to people’s problems. No newspaper writes about them, they do not appear on any television channel.
 
A couple of weeks ago, I personally requested a senior officer of the Ministry of Personnel to provide a complete list of all the nominations received by the Government for the Prime Minister’s Excellence Awards. The purpose was to give them wider circulation through training programmes and publications of the IC Centre for Governance. And now, the Centre has been entrusted by the same ministry to design training templates for State Administrative Training Institutes and Central Training Institutes.
 
But despite reminders, we have yet not been able to get the material. Clearly, the civil servants themselves are their own worst detractors.
 
It may be mentioned that the IC Centre has been showcasing these exemplary initiatives by presenting their architects to other civil servants and opinion makers. It is the Centre’s endeavour to celebrate the initiatives of civil servants who raise the bar of their performance higher than their normal call of duty. An IPS officer introduced community policing in Andhra Pradesh, a young district officer in UP took upon himself the task of removing human scavenging in his district, a district development officer in Maharashtra transferred the management of all district board schools to the rural community, a joint commissioner of police in Delhi established care centres for destitute children, a chief secretary in Nagaland was instrumental in the enactment of a law to communitisation of public services, a joint secretary in the Labour Ministry has developed a insurance-based health cover scheme for people below the poverty line.
 
And there are hundreds of other similar examples.
 
I believe it is the joint responsibility of all civil services to highlight these initiatives so that more and more are prompted to follow the example. This might also help them in building a composite leadership of the civil services.g
 
(The writer was the Cabinet Secretary and the First Governor of Jharkhand. He can be reached at pkumar1511@hotmail.com)
 

 

Comments :-
Mallk
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
I was struck by the honesty of your posntig
Vipen Mahajan
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Running a sub-continent, where many systems, procedures, processes and cultures and service values/styles were developed under a colonial dispensation in an agricultural economy. Then transforming it that to an independent democracy, universal adult franchise, industrializing the economy, urbanization, and off late even moving onto an Information Age or Knowledge economy, has meant a LOT of change, nay disruption ! It is indeed surprising that India did not crumble. We MUST thank our Civil Service for this. At the same time, we must organize and plan for change, rather continous improvement and change, and re-engineer our archaic systems, train our staff, and have proper HR policies and practices which enable process improvement. Have JIT,TQM, kaizen clubs and process improvement clubs in each department. We have made progress in eGov, and using IT , however after automating existing systems, we now need to integrate and streamline them. These changes will be resisted by people who lose their power/importance etc and welcomed by others. However you cannot improve if you cannot measure the process. A simple universal measure is to define the "Customer" for every service provider/department. Measure the time taken to provide the service to the customer, and the customer's satisfaction rating. Compile this data, and graph out, the trends, and make inter-district/department/state comparisions,on a weekly/monthly basis, to see the impact of improvement/change initiatives. Then compare the best practices, and standardise the procedures. Train the staff, and thereby replicate the good practices across the country. More information is available at www.indiaahead.net/wiki/tiki-index.php?page=Re-engineering+the+Govt
Sarosh Ghandy
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
As usual, Prabhat has hit the nail squarely on the head!! Most of us end up being our own worst enemies because we spend so much time trying to find fault with the system around us that we have no time to work out how we could do better within the present system. Pride and arrogance do not contribute to better leadership, it is humility, credibility and courage that are appreciated far more. Our Civil Service has shepherded our country through many a difficult situation, however, the need of the hour is for it to guide us through the present crisis of confidence in the Country with humility and courage.
Anil Maheshwari
Friday, June 08, 2012
Apt and considered observations. Participating in a debate in the U.P. Assembly veteran leader Raj Mangal Pandey said that horses were the same but they failed in U.P. while were successful in the neighbouring state of Haryana. The fault was with the horse-riders not with the horses. Secondly, bureaucrats must undertake exercises to educate the media, the most illiterate class. A regular interaction bordering on educating the ego-inflated media is the need of the hour. A senior officer got a very favourable story on the PAC, the much whipped reserve police force in U.P. from none but by a veteran journalist Mr. Shastri in the Times of India. There are umpteen examples of such incestual relationship between the media and the bureaucrats, making their positive impact on the development of the country in the right earnest.

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