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Two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had heard out secretaries to the Government of India about their apprehensions and also suggestions for good governance, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth has convened a meeting of all secretaries Saturday morning to discuss follow up actions.
One of the major issues likely to come up for discussion is the recent Supreme Court ruling quashing a law requiring the CBI to obtain prosecution sanction from the government before proceeding with an FIR concerning allegations of corruption by an officer of the level of the joint secretary and above. According to sources, many secretaries had also told the PM that questioning the bureaucrats years after their retirement for the decisions taken during service was “draconian”.
Also on the table would be many other suggestions made by secretaries, like the need to remove the requirement of Cabinet approval for land transfer even from one government department to another, changing the provisions of land acquisition, predictability in matters of policy, need for a campaign to restore India’s credibility as a safe tourist destination in the wake of the infamous Delhi gangrape and other such incidents among others.
While asking the secretaries to feel free to meet him or write to him directly by email, which, he said, he himself reads, Modi had reportedly told them, “Let’s create a positive environment. Tiredness is not because of working, but because of not moving forward. Vishwas ka setu bandhiya (build a bridge of trust). I trust you and you have to trust yourself. Be frank; you can even contradict me if you so feel.”
Quoting former Madhya Pradesh chief minister P C Sethi of the Congress, he had said, “If politicians learn to say ‘no’ and bureaucrats learn to say ‘yes’, that itself will solve most of the problems in governance.”
The Prime Minister recalled that when he had once gone to Pennsylvania, he had asked the hosts to show him the most ancient thing there. He had then been taken to a church where he was shown a 400 years old bell. “Here, we have five thousand years old things in every street. Imagine what all we can do with it (in tourism sector),” a source present at the meeting quoted the PM as saying.
What appeared to have floored the bureaucrats was the fact that the Prime Minister had taken pains to explain his 40-minute delay for their meeting saying he functions “by seconds” but sometimes he gets late because visitors take extra time.
Encouraging them to use technology, the PM had said, “you will find that one gizmo is equal to 10 PAs (personal assistants)”.
“It was good because the PM himself is now asking you to reach him directly. Earlier, it was so difficult to meet even Pulok Chatterji (Principal Secretary to former PM Manmohan Singh),” said a secretary.