Get to know how PM Modi is silently, but effectively transforming the bureaucratic structure in the country

PM Modi has had a distinctive style of functioning. The PM knows how to work and most importantly how to get the work done. The bureaucrats in India for long have been criticized for not taking the system seriously. In reality most of them were part of a flawed culture that never endorsed a service oriented outlook. After Narendra Modi became the PM, things have changed. There are no ‘golf lunches’ that provided a bureaucrat with the liberty to mix profession with pleasure.

The bureaucrats have been asked clearly to work very hard & make it on time to office. Several changes have been made in the mode of functioning, so that the service to the nation is the top priority. There were media reports about how some of the bureaucrats had switched to Yoga, to maintain a balance between professional & private life.

The bureaucrats are being closely observed these days. Their lives & careers are now dependent on merit. The sense of security that existed during the UPA era, is a thing of the past. Government of India’s latest move to shortlist a bench strength of secretary-equivalent officers, alongside the enrollment of new secretaries, has further created an insecure feeling among the assured pitch that usually comes with such appointments.

The rules of bureaucratic play have changed and the man who is dictating these terms is none other than the “Pradhan Sevak” of the nation.

360-degree review system

The 360-degree review system is an appraisal system to select, promote and indirectly warn officials. This helps in reducing the impact of confidential reports that were decisive in shortlisting and enrollment. This has an important bearing on the final selection of a bureaucrat for a top job.

Bureaucrats won’t be able to get to a high-profile minister’s cabin and influence the crux of the matter. These things which were practiced on a large scale, have significantly come down. If the same style of functioning continues, the influential system, may soon become obsolete.

The PM has made it clear that bureaucrats who don’t clear the 360-degree test, will be dropped from the list. The PM has maintained that he will also be a part of the 360-degree system & there won’t be any different rules for him. But there are a few questions that arise.  What is the review? How is it done? And why is it so important to GOI?

Let’s start by answering the last question first. The Narendra Modi led Government was determined to change the abysmal system of functioning among bureaucrats during the UPA rule. This system was mainly introduced to imbibe a sense of discipline & counter the Congress misrule. Change doesn’t come easy. It’s important to ‘kill’ old habits and bring in new, reformative ones.

Is this possible, given the fact that corrupt bureaucrats during the UPA tenure were happy with the laid back style of working. Some of these bureaucrats had ‘outstanding reports’ and recommendations. Any direct move against the ‘obsolete’ style of functioning would be termed as vendetta.

PM Modi was given an overwhelming mandate against the corrupt. He has been trusted by the masses to deliver on his promises against corruption. This was the reason that the Modi led Government was able to carry out more reshuffles than what was expected. A decisive mandate always makes the difference. It can make or break a country. In this case PM Modi is leading us towards a new India.

What is the 360-degree review system. This is basically a system which is similar to the corporate style of evaluation. A holistic evaluation is conducted across talent, skills, social and personal parameters, instead of simply giving preference to file work. This means that confidential reports won’t continue to have the ‘final say’ in Indian bureaucracy.

A few important calls have been made to change the prevailing system. Many GOI top level bureaucrats believed that the system is rigged & many officers were not making it to the shortlist because they had one ‘outstanding’ less than the other. All eligible officers will come under the review system.

Any minister’s recommendation will not have the ‘firepower’ to override the review system.The integrity of the the officers will also be assessed by a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) clearance.

So how is this process conducted?

The exercise is a tightly held secret conducted by three retired secretary-level officials. These officials have been appointed for a two-year period, subject to health considerations and their identities are supposed to be classified. The group is expected to work independently collecting information from a large number of sources in an unsuspecting and unassuming manner, figuring out the general reputation of the officer among subordinate staff, paint an overall perception picture on integrity, besides making any other relevant observations.

It’s quite possible that this group wouldn’t be made aware of the job an officer is being considered for. Who are the ones to be approached by the review  group and who will be the ones to present their views is open to interpretation. What we know is that the report is placed before a panel headed by the Cabinet secretary in case of secretary-level appointments, and the establishment officer, who heads the panel for joint secretaries. Both panels have PMO representations.

All other inputs, including intelligence reports and ministerial recommendations, are on the table. The recommendation of this panel is largely final. The time has changed. The appraisal system and reports will not be considered over the 360 review system. The system gives many honest officers a second chance, who had earlier lost out due to the wrong reasons. Young, dynamic and honest officers will also get an opportunity to prove themselves. The new system is open and any officer who works with conviction and has nothing to fear, can make the most of it. It’s a service-driven mindset that matters. This is PM Modi’s vision, to cleanse the system of commission.

Credit: Economic Times


Alok Shetty