New Delhi : The Vice President of India, M.Venkaiah Naidu has noted with concern that all is not well with the civil services in the country and called for reforms to enable promotion of meritocracy in bureaucracy so as to meet the emerging challenges and complexities in changing times. He spoke at length on a range of issues impacting civil services while addressing Trainee Officers at Dr. Marri Chenna Reddy Human Resource Development Institute, Hyderabad on the occasion of Civil Services Day today.
Shri Naidu said that while the Indian Civil Service (ICS) was set up by the British to perpetuate the exploitative colonial rule unmindful of the concerns of the people, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) was envisaged to work for and with the people in pursuit of the welfare and development agenda of free India, guided by the broad Constitutional objectives of ensuring Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and ensuring dignity of living of people based on certain rights and entitlements. He noted with concern that the civil services are perceived to be falling short in actualizing this vision.
Tracing India’s developmental journey since independence, Shri Naidu said there is still work to be done in eliminating poverty, illiteracy, gender and social discrimination, among other issues. Calling upon the civil servants to strive harder on addressing these issues, he said the Civil Services Day offers an opportunity to introspect and understand the opportunities and challenges for the services.
Shri Naidu noted: “The civil services have played an important role in this journey of ours (since Independence) but all is not well with the services and they are in need of revamp, reawakening and reorientation to meet the challenges of the time”.
Shri Naidu called for addressing the causes so that effective decision making is enabled and service delivery is substantially improved. He elaborated on the need for incentivizing and rewarding performers and promoting meritocracy in civil services instead of mediocrity.
Shri Naidu highlighted the flawed system of incentives and penalties and performance evaluation in which the performers and shirkers are not properly differentiated. He stressed that “Continuation of the civil servants should be based on regular assessment of their contribution to formulation and execution of policies and programmes through new ideas, initiatives and practices”.
The Vice President voiced concern over the perceived rising nexus between the political executive and civil servants and its consequences for the people and the country. He urged the civil servants to be frank and honest and stand for what is right and to speak truth to the political executive. He further said that politicians being wise and receptive to good suggestions would not like the risk of being punished for any bad decision and wrongdoing and hence, the officials should present the truth and various scenarios in a convincing manner.
Shri Naidu said: “When you (civil servants) are instructed to present a particular issue in a particular manner that suits the political executive, all you need is to speak for the right and if required, to do so in writing. If you are overruled, the concerned authority would be taken to task. Political and permanent executive should work in tandem and in the right manner. Political executive should definitely change”.
Referring to the recent reports of concern over the state of finances in several States by incurring huge expenditure on ‘freebies’ in the name of welfarism, Shri Naidu stressed on the need to harmonize the welfare concerns and development needs, Shri Naidu urged the senior civil servants in particular, to shoulder the responsibility of enabling such reconciliation by being frank and honest to the political executive on the consequences of such approach.
Shri Naidu elaborated on some of the constraints and challenges faced by the civil servants in the prevailing functional ecosystem. He noted that frequent transfers not allowing internal specialization, handpicked officials being given plum postings to promote committed bureaucracy, rising expectations of the people and their impatience for delivery of services, rapid technological advances and growing public scrutiny, rising global interconnectedness and emerging challenges are subjecting the civil servants to pressure all the time.
To address those challenges, Shri Naidu urged the officials to keep evolving at personal level by cultivating equanimity, calmness of mind, moderation, self-confidence, empathy and skill upgradation. He urged them to inculcate courage, character, capacity, compassion, camaraderie and communication skill to better handle their responsibilities.
While urging the civil servants to be politically neutral, the Vice President asked them to be driven by the idealism of being with the poor and the needy sections, who need their support the most. He reminded the officials that in every FILE, there is a LIFE and the progress and life of the nation depends on effective processing of files through proper and effective decision making.
Stating that a capable public service is essential for the progress and transformation of the country, Shri Naidu urged the civil servants to equip them with all the necessary means so as to “Perform, Reform and Transform” as proposed by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
Shri Naidu suggested that civil servants should focus on service delivery mechanisms. Citing the instance of Direct Benefit Transfer, he called for ensuring that the benefits of governance reach the people in the most efficient way. The aim should be ‘Antyodaya’ – the upliftment of the poorest of the poor, he underlined.
Urging the civil servants to never be in doubt while discharging duties, and in case they so find themselves, Shri Naidu advised them to recall Mahatma Gandhi who suggested thinking of the last poor man in the queue in such situations to find the way forward. “When in doubt, follow the constitution and your conscience”, he said.
Stressing the importance of using local Indian languages as the medium of administration, the Vice President encouraged civil servants posted in various states to learn and interact with people in their local language for better outreach. He also suggested giving importance to local and Indian languages in official communication of the state.
Shri Harpreet Singh, Director General, MCRHRD, Shri Benhur Mahesh Dutt Ekka, Additional