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Thursday, Dec 09, 2021
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Governance

'There Is Little Public Tolerance Now For The Prevailing State Of Affairs'

'People expect swift and exemplary action and rightly so'

'There Is Little Public Tolerance Now For The Prevailing State Of Affairs'
'There Is Little Public Tolerance Now For The Prevailing State Of Affairs'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

PM's Inaugural address at Civil Services Day

I am very happy to be amidst you on the occasion of the sixth Civil Services Day. I welcome all of you to this gathering. I also extend my greetings to all members of the Civil Services on this occasion.

Let me also congratulate the officers who have won awards today for excellence in their work. I am sure their example will inspire other civil servants to higher levels of commitment and performance in the service of our nation.

I am happy that one of the sessions today is devoted to the issue of Ethics and Transparency in Governance. This is a subject which has attracted a great deal of attention in the recent days. There is a growing feeling in the people that our laws, systems and procedures are not effective in dealing with corruption. We must recognize that there is little public tolerance now for the prevailing state of affairs. People expect swift and exemplary action and rightly so. As I have said earlier, corruption is an impediment to faster growth, and hurts the poor most. It is a challenge that we must tackle boldly and we stand committed to doing so.

Our aim is to strengthen the legislative framework, revamp administrative practices and procedures and fast track a systemic response to fighting corruption. A Group of Ministers is looking into the legal and administrative measures that can be taken in this regard. The group has a wide ranging mandate and I expect its recommendations to be available very soon. A committee of Ministers and representatives of civil society is at work to finalize the draft of a Lokpal bill, which we hope to be able to introduce during the monsoon session of Parliament. Two bills relating to judicial accountability and protection of whistle blowers have already been introduced in Parliament. We will soon ratify the United Nations Convention on Corruption. We are committed to bringing more transparency in public procurement and to ensuring that disinvestment of public utilities and allocation of public resources are done in a manner that best safeguards the interests of the asset-owning public. I urge all civil servants to contribute to our efforts in fighting corruption. Each one of you is in a position to do so in many meaningful ways and I hope to see renewed energy emanating from you in this fight. I expect you to be honest and fearless in advising your superior authorities, especially the political leadership. Those of you who serve in senior positions would do well to also encourage your subordinate officers in this direction.

People value the work done by honest and dedicated civil servants and look up to them. I would like all of you to work to strengthen the trust and faith which people still have in civil servants. The spontaneous support of the people of Malkangiri, when the Collector of the district was kidnapped by left-wing extremists, is a pointer to the extent of goodwill that well meaning and honest civil servants can achieve. I do believe that the core of the Civil Services is sound and rooted in values of integrity and fair play. It is a pity that instances of individual waywardness, of lack of moral courage, and of surrender to pressures and temptations tarnish the image of the Civil Services and lead to immense criticism and dissatisfaction. I believe it is only upto the Civil Services as a whole to set the highest standards of probity and integrity in public and personal life and to create an atmosphere and a work ethic which encourages honesty and integrity. Disapproval and even ostracization by peers and colleagues can be a powerful deterrent for those who tend to stray from the path of rectitude.

I understand that another session today has been devoted to the challenges of economic management. Our economy has been in reasonably good shape in the past seven years. We have achieved an impressive rate of growth which we were able to sustain even in the midst of the worst global financial crisis of recent times. But, during the past year and a half, persistent inflation, especially in the food sector, has become a cause for concern. Our consistent policy has been to control inflation without hurting growth. We have strived for a delicate and difficult balance to achieve this. Food prices rose following the drought in 2009. Although the situation has improved in recent months, and food inflation has come down to single digit levels, the long term solution lies in increased production and productivity in the agriculture sector. The needs of a growing and increasingly more prosperous population can only be met by enhanced production of a diversified basket of agricultural products. We have to make a concerted effort to enhance our food security. The Civil Services again have a major role to play in achieving a higher rate of growth in the agriculture sector. I hope you will pay more focused attention to this area, and more specially to the preparation and implementation of district level agricultural plans. At the state level some of the brightest officers should be appointed to critical position of agricultural development commissioners and similarly every efforts should be made to upgrade extension services.

I would also like to take this opportunity to lay stress on the importance of strengthening local level governance through panchayats and municipalities. Our country is too large to be governed effectively from the Centre or even from the State capitals. We have to decentralize power, decentralize decision-making and decentralize the implementation of various development schemes. This is the only way to involve and empower people in shaping their own future. The success of the third tier of governance is critical to improved delivery of services and better design and implementation of schemes. While the constitutional framework has been in place for some time, most states have shied away from giving effective powers and responsibilities to the third tier. Our civil servants must do their utmost to facilitate real decentralization of governance in our country.

While our overall security situation has been reasonably satisfactory in the past few months, there is no room for any relaxation of vigil on our part. Combating Left Wing extremism, meeting terrorist challenges, countering insurgency in parts of the North-East and maintaining communal harmony and effectively dealing with atrocities on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes continue to be our top priorities. There is now evidence of better cooperation and coordination between the Centre and States in fighting terrorism. As I have stated earlier, we have drawn up an Integrated Development Programme for sixty districts affected with left-wing extremism. We are working in partnership with State Governments to provide employment to the tribal youth and to revamp the social and economic infrastructure in these remote areas. We are working for the development of the far flung areas of our vast country in an ecologically sustainable manner. We believe all these efforts will go a long way in strengthening our internal security.

The provisional population totals for Census 2011 have been released recently. While most of the news appears to be good, the falling child sex ratio is an indictment of our social values. Improving this ratio is not merely a question of stricter compliance with the existing laws. What is more important is how we view and value the girl child in our society. Our girls and women have done us proud in classrooms, in boardrooms and on the sports field. They have broken existing barriers to prove their worth in almost every sphere. It is a national shame for us that despite this, female foeticide and infanticide continue in many parts of our country. The social bias against women has to be fought with all the physical and moral resources at our command. There has to be a national campaign to counter this bias and I expect civil servants to play a big role in launching a crusade against it.

The need to re-fashion our Civil Services as effective instruments for delivery of services and as agents of improved governance is an ongoing process. The aim should be to evolve new and imaginative solutions for the problems facing us. Success would, to a large extent, depend upon a cultural change in the Civil Services. Excessive caution, reliance on precedents and following the beaten path have to give way to innovation and inventiveness and to trying out new methods. Merit, capability and quality should matter more than mere seniority. To deal with the newer challenges, civil servants also need to continuously update themselves. They have to continuously expand their horizons through learning and training. Only this would equip them to keep pace with the changing times. I hope the deliberations today will also focus on these aspects and attempt to chart a path for such change.

Before concluding, let me once again congratulate the officers who have received the Prime Minister’s Award for excellence today. I wish them and other members of the Civil Services all the very best in their efforts to build a modern and prosperous society and country.

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