India’s radical and much needed civil service reforms
Mission Karmayogi, the Modi government’s much needed initiative to radically reform India’s gargantuan bureaucracy could well become a global benchmark and help in the drive to make India much more globally competitive, writes India Inc. Founder and CEO Manoj Ladwa.
The Indian government has launched what is, arguably, the biggest civil service reforms ever attempted in India. In keeping with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stress on the need for continuous capacity building, especially in the field of human resource development, his government has launched Mission Karmayogi to train civil servants to upgrade their skills to match their competencies with their roles. Sounds like common sense, right? Well, until now, common sense has not always prevailed in this sector.
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When talking of civil servants in India, there is a tendency to think only of the elite IAS, IPS, IFS and other Grade I services. People often forget that below this very narrow apex there is a vast, almost five-million strong bureaucracy that operates the nuts and bolts of governance across the country. The performance of the government is critically dependent on the capability of those who do the real drudge work below the level of the Grade I officers. This new mission aims at providing continuous lifelong training not only to the elite services but also to officers at lower grades.
#MissionKarmayogi – National Program for Civil Services Capacity Building approved in today’s cabinet will radically improve the Human Resource management practices in the Government. It will use scale & state of the art infrastructure to augment the capacity of Civil Servants. pic.twitter.com/RNl3uDS7IL
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 2, 2020
Defining a Karmayogi
According to Indian philosophy, karma yoga is the spiritual practice of selfless action performed for the benefit of others and provides a path to attain Nirvana (spiritual emancipation) through work. It calls for total dedication to one’s duty and an absolute commitment to achieving one’s goals while remaining neutral to the outcomes that accompany success or failure. A person who follows such a path is a karmayogi. Modi’s panache for naming projects with a link to India’s cultural or spiritual roots is well now, and here is another example.
Civil services a mixed bag
The Indian bureaucracy is a mixed bag. At the top, it has some of the brightest minds, which is not surprising considering that many graduates of elite institutions like the IITs and IIMs, doctors, Ivy League alumnus and university toppers join the services. But it is no secret that below this level, the quality of officers is not consistently good.
I have for years advocated the need for reforming the Indian bureaucracy and I am delighted that the government has now embarked on this path.
The goals of Mission Karmayogi
Like many large private corporations, the government is planning to provide training that will help officers fulfil defined organisational goals to meet the requirements of the people they are meant to serve. It also proposes to match an individual’s competencies to his role in order to bring about more specialisation at all levels of governance.
Deficiencies of present system
Mission Karmayogi has clearly identified some of the key HR problems faced by the government. For example, the training modules are too diverse and fragmented at present as every department functions within silos. Then, there is no common platform for the exchange of knowledge, nor is there any provision for providing officers down the hierarchy with lifelong and continuous learning, as is the norm in many leading private corporations. There is also often a duplication of efforts as there is little or no coordination between departments on HR-related issues. The net result of these shortcomings manifests itself in the lack of synergies in overall government functioning.
#MissionKarmayogi result of long drawn thought process that triggered in 2017 when Sh @narendramodi became 1st PM after 42 yrs to visit Mussoorie Academy.His observations during 2 day stay prompted the cue to come out of silos &together develop common Vision for Nation. @DoPTGoI pic.twitter.com/Dz9gGpQyzL
— Dr Jitendra Singh (@DrJitendraSingh) September 2, 2020
The emerging new order
The mission seeks to transform HR practices in the Indian civil services from a rules-based order to a role-based one. It proposes to set up the National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building that will facilitate, among other things, the linking of training and development to the competencies of civil servants, the transformation of civil service training institutes into Centres of Excellence, encourage ministries to invest in and co-create common learning platforms and bring in leading experts from industry and academia to ensure quality.
Setting a new global benchmark
Will this mission succeed in making India’s gargantuan bureaucracy more nimble and responsive to the challenges of governing a huge, diverse and complex country that is also the world’s fifth largest economy?
It will be premature at this stage to pass judgment on this. What I can say with certainty is that Mission Karmayogi is a bold and innovative initiative aimed at aligning the Indian civil services with the best practices of governance in industry. If it succeeds, it can change the face of public service delivery in India and set a new template for addressing the emerging challenges of governance around the world.
Manoj Ladwa is the Founder and CEO of India Inc. publishers of India Global Business.