Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday made it clear to bureaucrats that “political intervention” was needed in a democracy, but cautioned that “political interference” could destroy the system.
Addressing bureaucrats on Civil Services Day in Delhi, Modi said that “political interference” or the “bureaucratic way” were often cited as reasons for work not being done on time..
“In a democracy, bureaucracy and political intervention go hand in hand. This is the speciality of democracy. If we have to run this country, we do not require political interference. But political intervention is necessary and inevitable, otherwise democracy will not work. Political intervention is required in a democracy as legislators are elected by the people. Political interference destroys,” he said.
Comparing the permanent nature of bureaucracy to the tenures of politicians, the PM said, “Hum asthir hain…
aap sthir hain (We are unstable… you are stable).” Stating that the country was not built or run by just politicians, Modi underlined the role played by the bureaucracy in nation-building. He also urged civil servants to end the “silo-approach” and work as a team.
Originally slated to speak for 30 minutes, Modi addressed the crowd for close to an hour at the Vigyan Bhavan Plenary Hall, which was packed with bureaucrats ranging from Central government secretaries and state chief secretaries to officer trainees.
Pointing out that most bureaucrats appear very “serious” and lead “stressful lives”, Modi told the civil servants, “Do you spend quality time with your families? Has your life become like a page in a file? Has your life become like that of a robot? If yes, it has an effect on the government and the system.”
He added, “Mera ek bhi saathi murjhaya hua nahin hona chahiye (None of my colleagues should be depressed).”
The PM also exhorted civil servants to hold what he called the “yuva mitra day”. He said they should mark the day by going to colleges and talking to students about why they chose the civil services over more lucrative avenues and also about their experience as bureaucrats. “It’s time to inspire youngsters,” Modi said. He also told civil servants that their grandchildren will remember the life they led as bureaucrats, and not their material accomplishments.
Modi also mooted the idea of honouring retired bureaucrats over the age of 75 and making an effort to learn from their experiences. He also spoke in favour of a system in which anybody retiring from the service — from a peon to a chief secretary — would write down their experiences and learnings, which can then be stored on the “cloud” online.
“We are losing our institutional memory. Governments can’t run without that,” the PM said, ruing how the practice of leaving a “note to successor” had vanished from the bureaucratic system.
Reminding civil servants of the motto, “Sheelam Param Bhushanam” (character is the highest virtue), Modi urged them to maintain a positive outlook. He said that “good governance” requires “ART — accountability, responsibility and transparency”. He added that as the Indian economy moves from “scarcity” to “plenty”, there was a need for capacity-building in the civil services to better serve the people. He also referred to a Goldman-Sachs report which said it will take India a decade to reach the Asian average on government effectiveness.