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Bureaucracy has had it too easy



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Bureaucracy has had it too easy


PRADEEP S MEHTA

Only now are they in the line of fire. Some lateral thinking is required to reform the administration

This seems to be a season of some good news as far as administrative reforms for economic growth is concerned. The commerce department at the nudge of the Prime Minister’s Office is considering setting up a large specialised team to negotiate international trade deals. Such a team would comprise specialists drawn from the Indian Trade Service, Indian Foreign Service and trade lawyers.

This line of thinking has been influenced by the fact that on such issues, we are always short on government expertise compared to other countries, while the number of international trade deals continues to rise.

On the home front too, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently set up a task force to recommend more efficient deployment of bureaucrats to priority schemes and do away with the practice of sinecures.

These and other steps such as asking secretaries to attend to a set of grievances on a weekly basis clearly signals the Prime Minister’s resolve to usher in good governance which would indisputably involve elements such as responsiveness, transparency, accountability and predictability, amongst others.



Combined efforts

These elements do not fructify in isolation. They require sustained and seamless coordination amongst sections of society, industry and the government, thus necessitating the need for efficient bureaucratic machinery comprising capable and responsive public servants.

The importance of such a bureaucracy assumes special significance in a country such as India as it is largely still characterised as an apathetic state despite the Prime Minister’s clarion call of “Maximum Governance and Minimum Government”.

In order to get an efficient, proactive and a responsive bureaucracy, a number of factors need to be considered. For instance, it will serve us well to understand administrative norms that bureaucrats in different States are socialised into. A recent study by Akshay Mangla, assistant professor at Harvard Business School, reinforces this point.

His research establishes that different bureaucratic cultures are a significant cause for significantly different primary education outcomes in the socially comparable hilly States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Another point that this study reinforces is that bureaucracies do not operate in a political vacuum. Public institutions evolve in response to how political leadership conducts itself.  This perhaps explains why certain bureaucrats perform better under an outcome and performance oriented political leadership compared to others. Bihar’s chief minister, Nitish Kumar, and Modi are both examples of leaders who have turned around things at the State and Central level using largely the same administrative machinery.

They brought in some changes at the helm to get the subordinate staff to deliver outcomes. They have also inspired other political leaders to follow suit.

Sustainable solutions

There needs to be a more sustainable solution — a solution that ensures that adverse and deeply entrenched bureaucratic norms do not slow down the development process and most, if not all, bureaucrats deliver.

This is where a rather old but perhaps an ever more relevant call for lateral entry and exit would make sense. The debate for lateral entry into the civil services has been going on for a while. Many individuals, committees and commissions have espoused or seconded this idea, and instances of lateral entry have even taken place in the past, but a recent reform by the Jharkhand government lays out a template for other States.

Jharkhand, which has also carried out other reforms such as reduction in the number of government departments and improvement in ease of doing business, has allowed lateral entry in the appointment of advisers at the special secretary level.

It is indeed a positive step and one that acknowledges the lack of expertise amongst the generalist civil servants. This step makes even more sense in light of the fact that the so-called next generation economic reforms that India is looking to unleash actually vest at the State level.

Therefore, bureaucratic expertise will make a significant difference in the trajectory of India’s economic and inclusive growth. The Prime Minister’s Office has already asked the NITI Aayog to circulate this innovative practice of lateral entry from Jharkhand among fellow States so that the model could be replicated. 

Hopefully, other States will follow soon. But just as we move ahead, it is important to note that it is equally crucial to have an institutionalised system of lateral exit and weeding out of non-performing bureaucrats.

Complementary function

An institutionalised system of lateral exit would complement the lateral entry system by providing exposure to serving bureaucrats in an organisational set-up outside of government, such as in the private sector or with civil society. As Indian States trudge along the path of competition with each other, such lateral exit for bureaucrats will make them more empathetic, proactive and responsive towards the needs of businesses, consumers and citizens. But, most of all, the institutionalisation of lateral entry and exit will obviate the need for the PMO always showing the path — which is not only unsustainable but also undesirable.

Another important element to revitalise the bureaucracy is to weed out non-performers.

In my own experience of over 30 years in public policy, I have often found senior officers whom I will not even hire as upper divisional clerks. They reach high levels through sheer sycophancy while their capacity to perform drops in proportion over time.

The recent sacking of 15 customs and central excise personnel on the grounds of non-performance shows that such practices can also be made routine as the enabling rules exist but are seldom used.

In short, the need is to bring in a ‘perform or perish’ culture in the bureaucracy as the stakes are really high and the country cannot wait.

The writer is the secretary-general of CUTS International

(This article was published on April 14, 2016)


ECONOMIC TIMES, APR 13, 2016

Government employees to file asset details for three years by July
NEW DELHI: All Central government employees were today told to file details of their assets and liabilities, along with that of their spouses and dependent children, as part of mandatory obligations under Lokpal Act by July. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has asked secretaries of all Central government ministries and chief secretaries of state governments to ensure that employees working under their control file the declarations in time. The move comes as the deadline for filing of these returns was yesterday extended for the fifth time, till July 31. Employees have to file three declarations­­one each for 2014, 2015 and 2016. There are about 50 lakh Central government employees. The declarations under the Lokpal law are in addition to similar ones filed by the employees under various services rules. Employees have to give details like cash in hand, bank deposits both in domestic and in foreign, investment in bonds, debentures, shares and units in companies or mutual funds, insurance policies, provident fund, personal loans and advance given to any person or entity, among others. They also have to declare expensive furniture, fixtures, antiques, paintings and electronic equipment if the total current value of any particular asset in any particular category (e.g. furniture, fixtures, electronic equipments) exceeds two months' basic pay or Rs one lakh. As per rules, notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year. For 2014, the last date for filing returns was September 15 of that year. It was first extended till December 2014, then till April 30, 2015 and third extension was up to October 15. The date was then extended to April 15, this year for filing of returns for 2014 and 2015. Now it has been extended till July 31, 2016 and employees have to file one returns each for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by this new date.
ECONOMIC TIMES, APR 13, 2016

No disciplinary action against employees with more than 2 children: Rajasthan government
JAIPUR: Rajasthan government will not take disciplinary action against its employees who have more than two children. The decision was taken at the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje here today. "After considering the demands of employees unions, the government decided to not take action against those employees who have more than two children on or after June 1, 2002," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore said. As per a government notification in June 2000, a candidate having more than two children is not eligible for government recruitment. An employee, whose third child is born after recruitment, is not given promotion for five years. Decision to execute 'Gram Uday se Bharat Uday' scheme from April 14 to April 24, approval to financial restructuring plan under UDAI scheme for power discoms were taken in the meeting, he said. The Cabinet also approved jal swavalamban abhiyan from April 17 to 24 and exemption from development tax to 25 solar solar projects, the Minister said.
DECCAN HERALD, APR 12, 2016

Babus get fifth extension till July to file assets details
The deadline for central government employees to file details of their assets and liabilities, along with that of their spouses and dependent children, as part of mandatory obligations under Lokpal Act was extended for the fifth time today till July this year.

The relevant rules under the Lokpal law have been amended to extend the date of filing returns from April 15 to July 31, 2016, a senior official in Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said.

This is the fifth extension in the deadline after the Act came into force.
With the latest extension, employees will have to file three declarations--one each for 2014, 2015 and 2016. There are about 50 lakh Central government employees.
The declarations under the Lokpal law are in addition to similar ones filed by the employees under various services rules.

Employees have to give details like cash in hand, bank deposits both in domestic and in foreign, investment in bonds, debentures, shares and units in companies or mutual funds, insurance policies, provident fund, personal loans and advance given to any person or entity, among others.

They also have to declare expensive furniture, fixtures, antiques, paintings and electronic equipment if the total current value of any particular asset in any particular category (e.g. furniture, fixtures, electronic equipments) exceeds two months' basic pay or Rs one lakh.
As per rules, notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year.

For 2014, the last date for filing returns was September 15 of that year. It was first extended till December 2014, then till April 30, 2015 and third extension was up to October 15. The date was then extended to April 15, this year for filing of returns for 2014 and 2015. Now it has been extended till July 31, 2016 and employees have to file one returns each for 2014, 2015 and 2016 by this date, the official said. 



EDUCATION
HINDUSTAN TIMES, APR 13, 2016

NET not needed for those who registered for PhD before 2009





Scholars who completed a PhD or registered for one before 2009 would be eligible for lectureship without clearing the national eligibility test (NET), HRD minister Smriti Irani announced on Tuesday.
The move will help create a larger talent pool for teaching jobs. Women researchers will get more time to complete their research — an additional year for MPhil and two more for PhD — along with maternity leave benefits, Irani said.
At present, a student who has a postgraduate degree or an MPhil and has cleared the NET/SET (state-level eligibility test) is eligible for lectureship in a college or university. If the student fails to clear the eligibility test but has an MPhil degree, he or she can teach in a college, but not a university.
If a student does a PhD in accordance with UGC (University Grants Commission) regulations, such as publication of research papers and presentations in seminars/conferences, he or she is eligible for the post of assistant professor in any college or university.
In 2009, the UGC made NET and a PhD the minimum eligibility criteria for the post of assistant professor in colleges and universities.
On Tuesday, the ministry gave the go-ahead to the commission to exempt such students from NET/SET for teaching jobs in universities and other educational institutions.

However, students will have to fulfil a number of conditions, including that the PhD is offered in regular mode and researchers have published papers as part of their work.

The ministry and the UGC did not have a specific figure on the number of beneficiaries but officials said the decision would benefit hundreds of thousands of aspiring teachers who were so far ineligible as they could not clear the NET or SET.
“There has been a long-standing challenge faced by researchers/aspiring teachers. The UGC today in conjunction with the government has taken this decision,” Irani said.

UGC chairman Ved Prakash said the move would create a greater pool of eligible candidates for recruitment as assistant professors. It would also address the shortage of faculty in educational institutions, he said.


Irani said female students would be given maternity leave of 240 days that would be excluded from the duration of their research. They would also be given eight years compared to the existing six for completing their PhD and three years to complete their MPhil instead of two. The same benefits will be provided to people with disability.
Also, in case of relocation of a female MPhil/PhD scholar due to marriage or other reasons, research data will be allowed to be transferred to the university to which the scholar intends to relocate provided other conditions are met.
Granting more freedom to autonomous institutions and to incentivise quality education, the UGC and the ministry have done away with mandatory inspection of such institutes, nor will they require a no-objection certificate from the state. An autonomous college has academic autonomy to design its curriculum, prescribe syllabi and evolve its own pedagogy.
“They will only have to provide an NOC from the affiliated university and if they are accredited with the highest grade for two consecutive cycles, they would be granted autonomous status,” Irani said.
DECCAN HERALD, APR 12, 2016

Narayana Murthy calls for Pay-per-performance system in schools
 IT czar N R Narayana Murthy today said he wants pay-per-performance system be implemented in every school and the students should vote on the competence of teachers based on certain attributes.

"What is my vision for primary and secondary education in India? I want India to go from its current 130th position in HDI in 2015 to the top 10 by harnessing education.


I want every child to receive the best help from teachers to rise to its best potential commensurate with his or her capacity without being hindered by financial constraints," Murthy said, delivering convocation address at the University of Mysore.


"I do not want the access to high quality, high leverage education to be restricted to only the elite as it is today but to be available to the poorest of the poor also," he said.


Murthy was conferred honorary doctorate by the University, which is celebrating its centenary year.

"I want the Indian schools and universities to become  inspiration for children all over the world. I want our children to focus on problem-solving, orientation to improve the context rather than the current focus on learning by rote," he said.


Noting that market will be the "ultimate decider" of the efficacy of every school, he said the only function of the government was to regulate the quality of education by setting standards.

The committee for standards will consist of well proven teachers, academicians, parents who have a global outlook.

He said the syllabus and examination system will have to be validated once in five years by comparing it with the best global standards by a committee of experts with Indians from around the world as well as experts from countries that have done better than India.

He said many people think that education is expensive and would like to remind them of the words of Derrick Bok, a former President of Harvard University, who said, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".

"Many people call for democratisation of excellence in education. This is obviously a much needed thing but such a thing does not exist since excellence is rising above the  normal," he said. 


INDIAN EXPRESS, APR 12, 2016


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