Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that mobile phones were banned from his meetings because he often found officers checking social media sites in the midst of official discussions. “I see these days that district-level officers are so busy, busy, that most of their time goes into it (social media). I have stopped the entry (of mobile phones) in my meetings as they (officers) would take them out and start (checking out social media sites),” he said at a meeting of bureaucrats to mark Civil Services Day. He added that the social media should be used for the welfare of the people and not for self-praise
Modi also asked bureaucrats to become an enabling entity from being a regulator. Modi said, “Our experience should not become a burden. Hierarchy remains an issue, a legacy from the British which we did not leave behind.” He said no reforms commission can replace the suggestions coming from the serving officers. “To reform, political will is needed. I do not lack it,” he said.
The prime minister, in his speech, said that there is a need to bring a qualitative change in the functioning of civil services. “Changing trends in the last 15-20 years have altered the dynamics. Competition can play a big role in bringing a qualitative change,” Modi said. The prime minister also said that there is a need to change the working style with changing times. “With quantum jump in work must also come a qualitative change. With changing times, a need may arise that we may have to change our working style.,” he said.
Speaking about political will in bringing reforms, PM Modi said, “Political will can reform but bureaucracy performs and public participation transforms. We have to bring them in one wavelength.”
Modi asked bureaucrats to learn to take advice and ideas from junior-most person and asked them to take ownership. “A spirit of ownership is essential. Let us believe that through this set up we can bring a positive change in people’s lives.” he said. Criticising the role of hierarchy in civil services, PM Modi said that ‘we inherited hierarchical traditions from our colonial rulers but we have not left them behind.’
Modi, whose speech was often met with cheers and laughter, said that he was not a part of the bureaucracy because he did not get the chance “to attend coaching”. The reference was to tuition classes which many would-be bureaucrats join to be able to qualify for the civil services.
If he had, he said, he would have become a bureaucrat of the rank of a director after serving the people for 16 years. “It is my good luck that I am in public service for the past 16 years…I did not get the chance to attend coaching,” he said.
As his audience applauded, he turned to Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary in the PMO–who was sitting on the dais–and asked him what rank he would have reached after 16 years in service. “Deputy Secretary? Director,” he said, after consulting Misra. “So I should have come in the director category.”
Modi added that there had been several committees and commissions on administrative reforms, comprising officers from central and state governments. “But all those who made all these reports, they must not have read them completely,” he said.
“I feel that those working in this system have enormous experience. What you (bureaucrats) have, the kind of suggestions you have, no reform can be bigger than that. But we don’t value this (experience),” the Prime Minister said.
(With inputs from PTI)