In a move that seems to be aimed at roping in the bureaucracy for the implementation of his larger political vision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has convened a meeting with all the Secretaries to the Government of India on Tuesday evening, in which he is expected to outline his agenda of governance and his expectations from them.
This is the first time that a Prime Minister is holding such a meeting with Secretaries in the absence of their ministers. While former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had convened a meeting of all State Chief Secretaries to discuss the drought issue, he did not hold such a meeting with GOI Secretaries. “The meeting is meant to ensure synergy between political guidance and administrative experience,” said an official source.
Sources said the meeting with Secretaries, which follows the PM’s meeting with his Council of Ministers on Monday, is modelled on a practice followed by some Chief Ministers who “directly interact” with the bureaucracy.
“Earlier, you would do a lot of work to prepare a Cabinet note, and then the matter would be referred to an EGoM or GoM, which would seldom involve bureaucrats in taking a decision. A direct dialogue with the bureaucracy not only makes them a direct stakeholder in the decision-making process but also makes them more accountable. This system is more effective,” said a senior bureaucrat.
Modi’s direct interaction with the bureaucracy, which is set to become more frequent, is also likely to help him keep a tab on the functioning of his ministers.
Modi has also scheduled separate meetings with Secretaries of different ministries and departments, bunched together in 16 groups, from Wednesday onwards. In a circular issued by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Secretaries have been instructed to give presentations to the PM in not more than 10 slides, which should not take more than 10 minutes. Each of these presentations will be followed by discussions.
While the circular does not mention whether the respective ministers will be present, sources said they could be called. Even before Modi took oath as Prime Minister, the Cabinet Secretary held similar meetings with Secretaries, apparently at his behest.
While the PM had earlier restructured the ministries, clubbing some together, the departments that have been called together for presentations do not follow the same pattern. For instance, one group has Secretaries of Textiles, Steel, Chemicals and Food Processing; another has Commerce, Information Technology, Tourism, Housing and Culture Secretaries, and Railways, Telecommunications, Road Transport and Highways, and Civil Aviation Secretaries have been called together.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.