Don’t waste talent

It needs political will to rein in babus so that private sector professionals in govt can deliver

Written by The Indian Express | Published:April 2, 2012 2:28 am

It needs political will to rein in babus so that private sector professionals in govt can deliver

It is no surprise that topnotch professionals imported from the private sector to bring expertise and efficiency in the government are finding it hard to navigate the bureaucracy. Some have had to fight even to get office space,others have been on the verge of giving up more than once. As reported in this newspaper on Thursday,Sam Pitroda,who chaired technology missions during Rajiv Gandhi’s government in the 1980s,has stood up for them and presented a five-pronged strategy to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the need to empower these experts so that they deliver outcomes without getting bogged down by processes. It is not going to be easy.

In fact,the bureaucracy may not be the real bottleneck either. Even the most liberal babu today thinks twice before signing files that would allow private sector professionals bypass government rules,especially with the shadow of the CVC,CAG or the CBI,looming large. While Pitroda did not exactly say this,hidden between his lines is the message that a strong political will is a pre-requisite for exploiting private sector expertise to its potential. Bureaucrats,prisoners of red tapism themselves,will do what it requires to empower outside talent only if their political bosses ask them to. It is equally important to institutionalise a mechanism by putting in place clear and detailed guidelines or norms that confer varying degrees of operational freedom,independence and autonomy to entities carved out by the government to execute or implement specific national objectives. And this needs to be approved by the cabinet. The level of autonomy that a Sangeet Natak Academy needs is different from that of the National Skill Development Council or regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Reserve Bank of India.

The UK,which has left its Raj legacy behind,has been farsighted in its approach and has moved far ahead by bringing in a policy specially for what it calls Non-Departmental Public Bodies. This provides a framework for “agencification” — where the entity executes or implements national objectives with sufficient autonomy,but within a mandate provided by the government. Specialised programmes like unique identification or the national intelligence grid require intense technological inputs and project management skills. It is incumbent upon the government at the highest level to facilitate such talent to perform and deliver. That’s good governance and good politics too.

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