Civil Services: Modi’s ‘Karmyogi’ not enough; need is for systemic change, says NC Saxena

By Naz Asghar (With video)

Sep 9, 2020

New Delhi: Will Prime Minister’Narendra Modi’s  ‘Karmyogi’ schemes to imrpove the quality and qualifications of civil servants bring about a qualitative change in the Services? The answer is no if we go by the view of one of the country’s most respected former IAS officers NC Saxena, who is know for having influenced several government policies during his tenure.

”The Prime Minister’s ‘Karmyogi yojna’ focusses on individual qualities  in IAS officers, but what is needed is systemic change for the civil services to deliver,” said the veteran civil servant, who has also served as member of the planning commission and on the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi during the UPA regime.

The system is not delivery oriented as the administration is just satisfied with spending money on schemes, and not on implementation and final outcome, he said in  an interview with India News Stream.

In the ‘Karmyogi’ scheme, the emphasis is on enhancing individual capacities of civil servants, but that is not enough as there should be a conducive system for a capable servant to function, Saxena said.

There are not strong mechanisms for measuring the outcome once any scheme is introduced. The administration at the top would be satisfied just with having the data of the number of teachers or doctors appointed, and not ask how the teacher is teaching, or the student is learning or the doctor is performing, he said.

The former IAS officer stressed on third party monitoring of government schemes and their comparisoon with the monitoring done by the government as, he underlined, there was marked difference in the field data collected by government departments and the data gathered by non-government agencies. For example, the government data says child malnutrition was only one per cent in the country while the UNICEF data places it at 17 per cent, which shows a major difference, he pointed out.

So,  the way the civil services and the system function needs a sea change, as there was a marked contrast between what a civil servants was required to do in 1950s and 1960s and what he or she was expected to do now. Earlier, services were not people-orineted but today a lot of responsibilities have been placed on civil servants and they need the proper system to be in place to fulfill them, Saxena said.

Also, in the early decades after Independence, political corruption was not so much a problem but today corruption in the political system was having direct  impact on civil services, he added.

Moreover, he pointed out, the tenure of posting of an IAS officer is very short because of which it is very difficult to bring about a change or implement any programme successfully..

When asked whether it was very difficult for an honest officer to survive in the system, he replied in the negative.” I wont say it is too difficult. You can survive if you deliver. There are officers who have done quite well. But there are officers who are too unrealistic and expect too much from the system, so they are transferred frequently,” Saxena said.

He said corruption can be minimised by more privatisation and by improving governance, going increasingly online for as many services as possible to have contactless delivery.

(Pls click at the following link to listen to the full interview) )