Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told top officers of the government to review all antiquated Acts that can be removed from the statute books for governance to improve. He has also told them that he will support them completely in their decision-making.
“Give me 10 laws each in your department, which we can repeal,” the Prime Minister is learnt to have told the secretaries of all ministries and departments who met him Wednesday evening at his office.
The secretaries briefed Modi on reasons why some of them have not been able to achieve results in several key sectors. They mentioned the threat of action by the CBI against several serving and retired officers for policy decisions and also mentioned the lack of support from former ministers for their actions at times.
According to a release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi “encouraged the officers to take decisions and assured them he would stand by them. He empathised with the sentiments expressed by the secretaries and their anguish in not being able to realise their potential because of circumstances. He assured them he will always be ready to give an account of the decisions taken by him”.
An official who attended the two-and-a-half hour meeting said, “It was a highly frank discussion as it ought to be at this level”. The comments by some of the officers were in response to the series of botched policy actions in key economic ministries, including coal, telecom and power in the past few years that had resulted in charges of corruption, vigilance and audit inquiries creating policy paralysis in the government.
“The PM listened to the secretaries carefully. The discussion was not sector specific. Officers could speak on any of the challenges or issues they thought were the most pressing and how it can be addressed,” said another source.
The PM said through use of information technology, administrative and schematic convergence among departments is possible. “Only through collective action faster results can be achieved,” he said explaining why he had converged some ministries. Modi asked the bureaucracy to work on the implementation of policies by creating long lasting institutions and simplified governance structures. The secretaries will be later called in groups to make presentations on their departments.
Reacting to the meeting with secretaries, Shashi Tharoor said, “It is entirely the prerogative of the PM whom we wants to meet. He can meet the lowliest officer in the Government of India if he so chooses.”
“And if indeed he is going to run such a hands on government, then he is going to be working very long hours. But that is his prerogative and the Congress party will not sit in judgement on those issues. But having said that I am a little curious about whether he has forgotten that he does have ministries in all these ministries. Having dismantled the Empowered Group of Ministers, has he now given us dis-empowered ministers,” the Congress MP added.