Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with the Union Secretaries on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth has sent them a note listing 11 directions to ensure “an improved work culture and work environment including hygiene and cleanliness of the work space”.
The note dated June 5, which has been accessed by The Indian Express, asks the Secretaries to ensure the directions are followed on “an urgent basis”.
First on the list is a cleanliness drive of all offices. “Passages and stairs should be cleaned up to make them unobstructed and no office material/ almirah etc should be found in these spaces,” says the note. “Inside the rooms too, the files/ papers etc should be neatly stacked so that a positive work environment is created,” it adds.
The note says an “action taken report in respect of sprucing up of work space/ building” should reach the Cabinet Secretary within a day, “by June 6, 2014, positively so that the PM can also be apprised”.
Each department has been told to identify and repeal “at least 10 rules or processes and even archaic acts that are redundant and would not lead to any loss of efficiency”.
The Secretaries have also been asked to “identify forms that are in vogue and shorten them, where possible, to one page only”. The note says “decision making layers should be reduced, to a maximum of four layers”.
According to the note, files and papers should be weeded out within three-four weeks, “in accordance with the rules of record keeping, including digitisation, wherever necessary”.
As per the central government’s rules, while recorded files can be kept for not longer than a year at the sections and desks concerned, the remaing files should be weeded out, unless there are sufficient grounds warranting their retention. However, the rules on record retention, review and weeding out are seldom followed.
The instructions have had an an immediate effect. The ministries in Shastri Bhawan on Friday were busy sifting unnecessary files — some dating back to the 1950s.
Nearly 5,000 files are said to have been set aside by the HRD Ministry under Smriti Irani. It is learnt that Irani, during her round of the ministry last week, had drawn attention to the piles of files lying in and around the offices, besides the general uncleanliness in Shastri Bhawan where her ministry is housed.
While a huge number of files are set to be shredded, truck loads of out-of-use files are being sent to the government record room in R K Puram, New Delhi.
Among the other instructions, the Secretaries have been told to ensure “effective and timely resolution of public grievances”, encourage “use of ICT in submission of information and eventually universalise it”, and work out “modalities of fulfilling promises made to the people”.
The Cabinet Secretary has also asked each department to analyse the goals set for the period 2009-14 and their present status. The note adds that “this information should be submitted in the presentation to be made before the PM”.
The note calls on all departments to ensure team work, seeking inputs and value addition at all levels. Emphasising the need for “collaborative decision making”, it adds that in case an issue remains unresolved, the Cabinet Secretariat or Prime Minister’s Office should be “apprised for resolution”.
The Cabinet Secretary has convened a meeting of all the Secretaries on Saturday to discuss follow-up action.