CHANGE THE WHOLE SYS­TEM

Gfiles - - FRONT PAGE - The writer is for­mer Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary

It can­not be dis­puted that there is a se­vere lack of the spirit of ser­vice in the gov­ern­ment as well as in the pri­vate sec­tor. Search­ing for per­sons with proven record of pub­lic ser­vice should be at the top of gov­ern­ment’s agenda to in­duct new en­ergy in the sys­tem

WHAT started as a pro­posed idea has now emerged in a con­crete form with the Depart­ment Of Per­son­nel and Train­ing is­su­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment for in­duc­tion of ten per­sons from out­side the gov­ern­ment to man joint sec­re­tary level posts in the Union gov­ern­ment. I had then wel­comed the ideas of open­ing win­dows to let fresh air in the corridors of power in­vig­o­rate the much abused civil ser­vice, IAS in par­tic­u­lar. In my piece in gfiles one year ago, I had sug­gested that “…the is­sue should be given a care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore an ir­re­versible de­ci­sion is taken, since a de­ci­sion of dis­turb­ing the pre­car­i­ous ad­min­is­tra­tive equi­lib­rium could lead to se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions. Per­haps an ini­tial pi­lot pro­gramme in­volv­ing tech­ni­cal and in­fras­truc­tural min­istries is in­di­cated. There are places where the gov­ern­ment can use th­ese lateral en­trants more gain­fully; for in­stance, they can be en­gaged in or­gan­i­sa­tions like NHAI and DGFT. The process of in­duct­ing lateral en­trants into se­nior po­si­tions of Civil Ser­vice should also be sub­jected to the same high qual­ity of re­cruit­ment process as UPSC se­lec­tion, so that un­scrupu­lous de­ci­sion mak­ers do not take ad­van­tage and re­cruit peo­ple of their choice”. The idea of lateral in­duc­tion is not new. It was rec­om­mended by the 2nd Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­form Com­mis­sion, high level com­mit­tees ap­pointed by dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments and a num­ber of think tanks. In fact, this ap­proach has been adopted in the past with dis­tinc­tive suc­cess. Nan­dan Nilekani did a cred­i­ble job of cre­at­ing a plat­form for unique identity for a na­tion of a bil­lion peo­ple. Vi­jay Kelkar spear­headed the min­istries of Petroleum and Fi­nance with dis­tinc­tion. Man­tosh Sondhi and DV Kapoor are still re­mem­bered for their sig­nal con­tri­bu­tion to in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment. Loveraj Ku­mar is fondly re­mem­bered by dozens of IAS of­fi­cers who worked with him and is cel­e­brated through an an­nual LK Memo­rial Lec­ture. It is re­ported that with a view to bring fresh think­ing and dy­namism in the White­hall, the UK gov­ern­ment tried in­duct­ing peo­ple from the pri­vate sec­tor dur­ing Tony Blair’s ten­ure. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, the ex­per­i­ment did not work well and most of the ap­pointees left or their con­tracts were not re­newed af­ter ini­tial two years. The rea­sons for the fail­ure were their frus­tra­tion with the pace of de­ci­sion mak­ing and en­act­ing laws; ab­sence of a clear-cut boss like In pri­vate com­pa­nies; their in­abil­ity to grasp the nu­ances of gov­ern­ment func­tion­ing; a feel­ing that vested in­ter­ests cre­ated hur­dles in pol­icy for­mu­la­tion; non­co­op­er­a­tion from ca­reer bu­reau­crats; non­recog­ni­tion of out­stand­ing work and no faster pro­mo­tions like the pri­vate sec­tor. I think that af­ter three years, the 10

Ac­count­abil­ity is a gen­uine con­cern with short tenures in any or­gan­ised sys­tem as they are not con­ducive to au­then­tic ac­count­abil­ity. If some­thing goes wrong on ac­count of the outof-the-box think­ing af­ter the in­cum­bent leaves the gov­ern­ment, it would be dif­fi­cult to fix re­spon­si­bil­ity

joint sec­re­taries would be giv­ing us sim­i­lar rea­sons/ex­cuses of why they, de­spite their best ef­forts, could not im­prove the work­ing to their re­spec­tive min­istries. They would, in all prob­a­bil­ity, be blam­ing the sys­tem or bu­reau­cratic non-co­op­er­a­tion to ex­plain their fail­ure. This, there­fore, is not the best way to bring new en­ergy in the work­ing of the gov­ern­ment. I be­lieve that there are some is­sues that must be con­sid­ered be­fore a ma­ture de­ci­sion on the prob­lem of sus­tained in­er­tia in gov­ern­ment can be taken. Ac­count­abil­ity is a gen­uine con­cern with short tenures in any or­gan­ised sys­tem as short tem­po­rary short tenures are not con­ducive to au­then­tic ac­count­abil­ity. If some­thing goes wrong on ac­count of the out-of-the-box think­ing af­ter the in­cum­bent leaves the gov­ern­ment, it would be dif­fi­cult to fix re­spon­si­bil­ity. One should not for­get that joint sec­re­tary in gov­ern­ment is a vi­tal level in pol­icy mak­ing. Sim­i­larly, the im­por­tance of an unas­sail­able re­cruit­ment pro­ce­dure can­not be over­es­ti­mated. Cae­sar’s wife should ap­pear be­yond re­proach in ad­di­tion to be­ing in­cor­rupt­ible is the old adage. How will we pre­vent the per­cep­tion that ev­ery­thing is not well with the se­lec­tion. One would not be sur­prised if fin­gers are raised. Adopt­ing a fool proof pro­ce­dure like re­cruit­ment through UPSC like the civil ser­vice re­cruit­ment could ob­vi­ate such ques­tion­ing. UPSC could eas­ily for­mu­late nec­es­sary se­lec­tion cri­te­ria based on the re­quire­ments of the gov­ern­ment. In the present case, this as­pect has been com­pletely over­looked by re­sort­ing to an ad-hoc process of se­lec­tion. It is of­ten for­got­ten that there is spe­cial­i­sa­tion in the IAS too, and not as an ex­cep­tion to the norm. I know of scores of IAS of­fi­cers who have worked in the same sec­tor for 15-20 years. Be­sides, IAS of­fi­cers spe­cialise in un­der­stand­ing the prob­lems of the peo­ple liv­ing in the hin­ter­land, in the coun­try­side, in forests and hills, in

the dessert and on the is­lands. You can see their ag­gre­gate per­for­mance in a neg­a­tive light or in a pos­i­tive light de­pend­ing on the colour of your glasses you wear. My an­swer to the weak­nesses of the bu­reau­cratic sys­tem is not to tinker with the in­duc­tion process but to re­form the whole sys­tem. You can­not achieve much by bring­ing peo­ple from out­side when the lead­er­ship re­mains un­changed. Merely to say that the top leader works for 18 hours a day with­out tak­ing a day’s leave is not enough. En­light­ened lead­er­ship should be dis­played at ev­ery politico-bu­reau­cratic level in the gov­ern­ment. There are ar­eas cry­ing for re­forms. In­sti­tu­tions are be­ing bat­tered de­spite an in­spir­ing lead­er­ship at the top. But that is an­other story. Cre­ative in­di­vid­u­als can be brought in to in­fuse some dy­namism in the hi­er­ar­chi­cal gov­ern­men­tal struc­ture even to­day with­out any re­sis­tance from any­one, but to in­sti­tu­tion­alise it in the form of a reg­u­lar re­cruit­ment on the lines of civil ser­vice re­cruit­ment (that too through the pro­posed un­even se­lec­tion process) is an­other thing al­to­gether. We should do it with a lot of de­lib­er­a­tion and prepa­ra­tion. What we are look-

You can­not achieve much by bring­ing peo­ple from out­side when the lead­er­ship re­mains un­changed. Merely to say that the top leader works for 18 hours a day with­out tak­ing a day’s leave is not enough. En­light­ened lead­er­ship should be dis­played at ev­ery politi­cobu­reau­cratic level in the gov­ern­ment

ing for should be ex­plic­itly de­fined. Merely say­ing that, “...Qual­i­fi­ca­tions: Grad­u­ate from a recog­nised Univer­sity/ In­sti­tute. Higher qual­i­fi­ca­tions would be an added ad­van­tage…” is not ad­e­quate. Are we look­ing for in­di­vid­u­als who have al­ready dis­played cre­ativ­ity else­where? Good, take them in, not only at the level of a joint sec­re­tary but much higher. Want to give IAS of­fi­cers a run for their money? OK, give the new en­trants sep­a­rate ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity where IAS of­fi­cers can­not thwart their ef­forts. Or bet­ter still, set up ex­ec­u­tive agen­cies with clear-cut ob­jec­tives and give them the lead­er­ship of the agen­cies. Want to im­prove the de­liv­ery of pub­lic ser­vices? Cre­ate new in­sti­tu­tions with lead­ers from the pri­vate sec­tor rather than adopt a half way mea­sure. Why stop at a half way house, go the whole hog. Don’t walk with a stone in your shoe. An­other way to ben­e­fit from the ex­pe­ri­ence of the pri­vate sec­tor is to es­tab­lish so­cial busi­nesses in col­lab­o­ra­tion with cor­po­rate houses (like Mohd Yunus of Bangladesh) and place the se­lected in­di­vid­u­als at the head of the busi­nesses.

FI­NALLY, in my view, search­ing for per­sons with proven record of Pub­lic Ser­vice should be at the top of gov­ern­ment’s agenda to in­duct new en­ergy in the sys­tem. It can­not be dis­puted that there is a se­vere lack of the spirit of ser­vice in the gov­ern­ment as well as in the pri­vate sec­tor. This point is al­ways missed in any dis­cus­sion on gov­er­nance that be­sides ef­fi­ciency and cre­ativ­ity, a spirit of serv­ing the peo­ple is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial for good gov­er­nance. With proper se­lec­tion and scru­tiny, we can get scores of in­di­vid­u­als whose to­tal con­cern would be ser­vice to the peo­ple. Bring proven lead­ers from Non-gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions like Su­labh In­ter­na­tional, Swami Vivekananda Youth Move­ment, Vikas Bharti, Tarun Bharat Sangh; Ma­ha­rash­tra Knowl­edge Cor­pora-tion, or Bare­foot Col­lege, and no fin­gers would be raised. End­point: We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are told to see.

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