PRIME Minister NarendraModi and his team have arrived with a big bang. There was an air of festivity in government offices as ministers began taking charge of their respective ministries. I met many officers during the formation of the government. The officers do not doubt the good intentions of their new political bosses, but they apprehend that in an atmosphere defined by ‘4Cs and 1R’, the hesitant bureaucracy will not move. As long as the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission, the Courts and the Right to Information law keep hanging around the necks of officers, the policy paralysis will continue. These constitute the ‘4Cs and 1R’ which is one of the causes of the policy paralysis in the government. How will Modi overcome this syndrome, as he must if he is to fulfil his promise to implement the reforms full throttle?
Our cover story on policy paralysis is an initiative to understand why this ailment is present. Policy paralysis is a disease of governance when the government has all the apparatus available yet nothing moves. Why? The straightforward reason is that the bureaucracy has not been trained and equipped to be a participatory tool in governance. It has a static existence. But times have changed and the bureaucracy must be dynamic and more evolutionary in suggesting ideas and their implementation. However, such a scenario will remain a dream until the political dispensation summons the courage and wisdom to own decisions and make the bureaucracy a powerful participatory instrument. No system of governance can work if the delivery mechanism of political agenda is intimidated. There has to be proper regard that whatever is carried out by the government is transparent and without ill will and only for the welfare of the people of India.
Former Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar has voiced concern with reference to the Supreme Court’s judgment on Section 6-A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. He says, “The question is whether, as a consequence of the removal of the Single Directive, senior officials would start giving professional advice without ‘fear’ of being persecuted at the whims and fancies of an unaccountable investigating agency. The question is how to restore the confidence of civil servants in policymaking and implementation of policies without fear of persecution.”
Associate Editor Neeraj Mahajan writes, “No Prime Minister, howsoever dynamic, and a handful of advisers can expect to change anything till the time the mindset of the file-pushing bureaucracy changes. Till the time people not just in the PMO but in every ministry decide to work, the famous policy paralysis may continue.” Writer MG Devasahayam has a different perspective in his story, “A challenge for Modi”. Devasahayam partly blames bureaucrats, “Too much of protection can reduce a person to cowardice. This is what is happening to IAS officials—they willingly become cowards since they do not have the courage even to face a transfer or some minor inconvenience for upholding principles of honest governance. Like a ‘coward who dies a thousand deaths’ they are compromising and acquiescing every time just to keep their posts and positions safe. This is rank hypocrisy born out of an extreme phobia for security and protection and must change.” Policy paralysis can be eliminated if the political master explicitly expresses decisions on-file or asks the system to suggest multiple choices and he chooses the best decision and owns it. It is too early to comment on the functioning of Modi. The Prime Minister’s performance should not be measured on a day-to-day basis, as decisions take time to turn into reality, but it appears Modi means business. Hope for the best.