Building India to be the world's master

Amar Krishna Paul *

Let's start with a beautiful statement of Lord Krishna. In the Battle of Kurukshetra, he says to warrior Arjuna that discharging one's prescribed duty is far better than performing another's duty perfectly.

Sometimes, we confuse our roles, thereby creating a lot of problems for ourselves and for society. A 'sage' is not supposed to get into politics but if he does, he creates a lot of confusion in the minds of people. Similarly, a civil servant or a political master is not supposed to adopt the role of a sage and show mercy to the wrongdoers. Forgiveness is a virtue of a sage, but not of an administrator or civil servant.

The Central Government has fixed "April 21" as the National Civil Service Day. On this day, India's first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel addressed the newly appointed Administrative Services Officers in 1947. The historic occasion took place at the Metcalf House in Delhi. Patel referred to civil servants as the "steel frame of India" in his inspiring speech.

This is, indeed, an occasion for the civil servants to rededicate themselves to the cause of citizens and renew their commitment to public service and excellence in work. The first such function was held in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on April 21, 2006.

India can definitely become a 'Vishwa Guru' once again only if we can make the quest for excellence the norm. The country can elevate the institutions of learning into world-class institutions if we foster a culture of research and innovation, of instructional leadership and ethical behaviour. An honest and sincere civil servant can do a lot in this regard. They can leave a mark behind them.

Our country's claim to world's guru status is based upon the classical thinking: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family. Since we were the first to say so, and the only people who follow the precepts, we are uniquely qualified to be the 'Vishwa Guru'.

With geopolitical shifts taking place following the Russia-Ukraine invasion and the US slowly drifting from its global leadership role, India finds itself at an interesting juncture on its journey towards the new world order as a "Vishwa Guru".

India was being recognised as a global leader post-Covid-19. This has gained even more traction after the Covid-19 pandemic. Our country was lauded by over 70 Nations for humanitarian assistance and the supply of vaccines.

Accordingly, our great Nation has established 'Yoga' as a pure science in the entire globe. It happened after the United Nations had approved June 21 as the International Day of Yoga in 2014. Of late, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said India would play a bigger role in the new world order emerging post the pandemic.

On 75 years of Independence, he has shown the foresight to call for the 'Amritkaal' of Azadi laying the roadmap of unparalleled growth and a vision to be a Vishwa Guru by 2047, when India will be celebrating 100 years of Independence.

Bureaucracy is, in fact, the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country. Indian bureaucracy forms the permanent executive branch of the Government. They have played a crucial role in many National activities such as the conduct of free and fair elections, disaster response, construction and maintenance of critical infrastructures such as highways and railways.

The civil servants are, thus, responsible for Nation building. For example, carrying out agricultural development, land reforms, building irrigation projects, industrial development, etc. IAS officers lead in these efforts from the front. Above all, the role of bureaucracy in the preservation of National unity and integrity is unimaginable. This is why our Indian Constitution through Articles 310, 311, and 312 confers the protection from political interference and unwarranted harassment.

Urging trainee civil servants to focus on the 'biggest goal of the 21st century' Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Modern India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 17, 2022 asked them to 'reform, perform and transform' to the next level.

He was addressing a valedictory function of the 96th Common Foundation Course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie virtually. He further said that the country has been facing many problems due to a lack of coordination between different Government departments.

To harness the adventurous and innovative spirit of the youthful batch, new pedagogy guided by the principles of Mission Karmayogi was designed. Emphasis was put on transforming the Officer Trainee from a student /citizen into a public servant through initiatives like interaction with Padma Awardees in the spirit of "Sabka Prayas" and village visit for a field experience of rural India.

However, a paper titled "Civil Services: Accountability to People — A Discussion Note" puts, "It is widely recognised that governance in India today faces a serious crisis of accountability. The very fact that despite significant economic growth, and substantial increases in social sector expenditures, India continues to perform far worse than countries much poorer than her on key development parameters is an indicator of just how deep the problem of accountability is.

Accountability failures have meant that absenteeism, incompetence, inefficiency and corruption characterize every core service that the state is obliged to deliver to its citizens…

There is little doubt that civil service accountability to the people is both desirable and necessary. Ensuring this accountability is arguably one of the greatest challenges that confront India's civil services. This discussion note has touched upon a few instruments and processes that can create platforms for greater citizen engagement and accountability.

In the final analysis, however, for accountability to take root, incentives need to be built into the system. To be sure, greater transparency and resultant public scrutiny do create incentives for better performance.

But is this enough ? If not, how can accountability to the people be institutionalized ? Can measures of performance be incorporated into the formal appraisal system as one of the benchmarks through which internal bureaucratic performance is assessed ? Can promotions and pay increases be linked to these benchmarks ? These are some of the key questions that need to be addressed in order that civil service accountability to people is realised."

Flasback : The British began administering the Civil Service Exam in India in 1854, following Lord Macaulay's report to the Select Committee of Parliament. Previously, public servants were recruited by the East India Company's Directors, who were transferred to India after receiving training at Haileybury College in London. Following the formation of the Civil Service Commission in 1854, competitive examinations were introduced in London in 1855. The minimum and maximum ages were 18 and 23, respectively; however, the examinations were extremely challenging for Indians.

Satyendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore's elder brother, was the first Indian to qualify the Civil Services Examination in 1864. In 1862, Satyendranath Tagore travelled from India to England to study for the exam. In 1863, he was chosen for the civil service, and after finishing his education in England, he returned to India in 1864. After that, he was assigned to the Bombay Presidency, and then to Ahmedabad City after a few months.

In 1920, Subhas Chandra Bose ranked 4th in the Civil Service Examination. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose did not join the Indian Civil Service even after clearing the exam. This shows his firm determination to serve the native people during the National freedom movement.

Mark Twain describes India as "the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."

In fact, civil servants are the torchbearers of our native motherland. They are considered as good examples in society. Our sincere bureaucrats are serving the Nation and the global community from the front to make India a Vishwa Guru by 2047.

(Published on the occasion of Civil Service Day 2022. )

* Amar Krishna Paul wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is the Principal, Creative Academy, GS Road, Lachit Nagar, Guwahati-7
This article was webcasted on May 03 2022.

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