26 September 2023

INDIA: PS ‘reeling’ from sweeping reforms

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The Indian Public Service was long known as “the steel frame” of the country’s governance; now it is reeling under the sweeping reforms being introduced by the Government of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi (pictured).

Social affairs commentator Sanya Dhingra says the once solid steel frame is being shaken, stirred and given a makeover like never before in its seven-decade history.

Among these changes, she lists: “A push for the lateral entry of domain experts, forced retirements of officers in bulk, concerted attempts to break the stranglehold of the Indian Administrative Service, experiments with the time-tested recruitment rules of Civil Servants, and instances of ‘protest resignations’ of officers.”

“The Indian Civil Service is undergoing an unmissable churn under the Modi Government,” Ms Dhingra says.

“The message is loud and clear: The rules of the relationship between the political class and the permanent Civil Service are being changed by a strong majority Government headed by a powerful leader who believes in being in control.”

She said the churn was part of a well-articulated agenda in the election manifesto of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“In its election manifesto, the BJP stated: ‘To transform India into a developed nation, we need to work with the guiding principle of minimum Government and maximum governance and we will bring reform in the Civil Service and implement it in a manner to achieve this’,” Ms Dhingra said.

“Translated into action, it means the Modi Government has no patience for the corrupt, the slackers, the naysayers, the entitled or the sceptics.”

She said the Government rewarded loyalty and performance, perhaps in that order.

“It has no space for those viewed with suspicion,” Ms Dhingra said.

She said it was nothing less than a serious attempt to realign the country’s Public Service with Mr Modi’s idea of a “New India”.

“As with most changes brought about by Modi, the reforms in the Civil Service remain polarising,” Ms Dhingra said.

“While some believe that the system — a relic of the colonial era — is in dire need of radical reform, others fear an ideological and political capture of the Civil Service.”

She said what is indisputable is that the fundamental blocks of the Indian Civil Services are shaking under the Modi Government.

“For better or for worse — it is too soon to tell,” Ms Dhingra said.

New Delhi, 19 September 2019

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