New Delhi,21 Apr:The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, inaugurated the 3rd Civil Services Day in New Delhi today. Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said that the civil service has contributed positively to the functioning of our vibrant democracy, our plural society and polity and our growing economy. “If inclusive growth is our agenda, there could be no better champions for it, than our civil service,” he added.
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:
“I am very happy to be here once again on the occasion of the third Civil Services Day. The idea of observing this day as Civil Services Day took shape because it was felt that such an occasion gives our civil service an opportunity every year to reflect on what has been achieved, acknowledge the good work done, address the challenges at hand and re-dedicate itself to completing the tasks and challenges that lie ahead.
Such an occasion is also of great value to us in the political executive. It offers an opportunity to share our perceptions on governance, our feedback from citizens on where we fail to meet their aspirations and engage with the civil service in forging a shared understanding on our collective agenda for efficient and equitable governance.
If we look back at the history of modern administration in India, we can take justifiable pride in what has been achieved. The civil service has contributed positively to the functioning of our vibrant democracy, our plural society and polity and our growing economy. In our quest to build a modern nation, absorbing the best from the outside world, epitomizing Gandhiji’s vision of an inclusive society, the civil services have played an admirable role.
If we have charted our own “Indian” version of economic reform, that many saw as too gradualistic but today acknowledge as a stable and sustainable process, it is because of the guiding hand of the civil service leadership. If we have been able to deepen our democracy through empowerment of local government, and broaden it through civil society action, this is also because the civil services have been supportive of all these creative initiatives.
I therefore compliment the civil services for their contribution to processes of nation building. Our professional civil services have also made a signal contribution by ensuring free and fair elections time and again. The regularity and efficiency of our electoral process have become the envy of many developed democracies, and inspire many other societies to also demand democracy for their people.
Our civil services have also remained loyal to our pluralistic traditions and to the secular fabric of our polity. They have been helpful and supportive of our political leadership in reconciling competing demands of a growing and diverse nation.
The Government is responsible both for accelerating the pace of growth and also for making the growth process inclusive. The former calls for economic modernization and liberalisation, for making government less intrusive and more transparent. The latter calls for greater attention being paid to public service delivery systems, in areas like education, health care, urban and rural infrastructure and services, and employment generation. That the same service is able to address both these challenges facing us today is a testimony to the versatility of our civil services.
If inclusive growth is our agenda as it must be, there could be no better champions for it, than our civil service which by its very nature draws people from all over the country. People from Kanyakumari work to sort out issues in Kashmir, and vice versa. This inclusive character of civil service reinforces our diversity, our common purpose, and our shared destiny.
The contribution of the civil services to the process of deepening our democracy through local bodies and evolving collaborative frames of action with civil society is also very significant. Contrary to expectations, people from within the civil service emerged as champions of our decentralization process breaking stereotypes of bureaucratic fiefdoms and worked on models of decentralized and citizen-friendly delivery. Two such models are today being recognized by us through the civil service awards. I extend my congratulations to all the winners of these awards. So much for the good news! To complete the picture we must introspect and recognize that there is a great deal of public dissatisfaction with the functioning of Government, at all levels of Government. This challenge the civil service must endeavour to address as a collective entity. The most important challenge is of instilling confidence in our people that our civil services are fair, honest as well as efficient.
Sometimes perceptions may be more adverse than what reality really warrants. But perceptions matter. Hence, not only should the civil services be fair, honest and efficient, but they should be seen to be so, and endeavouring to be so. The poor and the under privileged complain that Government is biased against them. The business class complains that Government is excessively intrusive and slow to act. The middle class complain that government is corrupt and unresponsive.
Each section of society has its own grievance, and the civil service has its own. But not only are our civil service required to serve every section of society, but they should also do it in a professionally satisfying way. This is the challenge before all of us.
Considerable process reform can be undertaken by the civil service itself to address some of the perception issues. Consider the successes that have been achieved in public service delivery when initiative has been taken by officers of the civil service itself. Today’s award winners are fine examples of such self driven reformers within our civil service. They have walked that extra mile to invest in finding a creative solution to the problems of the citizens encountered in their line of duty.
Professionalism is a state of mind. As Gandhiji used to say, "we must endeavour to be the change that we want to see”. To encourage such professionalism, the civil services require a renewed commitment to knowledge. We live in a knowledge-based society. Modern firms often value the intellectual capital of their professionals as part of the net worth of the company. People make institutions. We must therefore invest more in opportunities that enhance the knowledge base of our civil services. Our Government has renewed such commitment to knowledge through the efforts of the Department of Personnel in strengthening training programmes for the civil services.
Opportunities for being part of the new knowledge revolution are more widely available today than ever before. It is up to you to make use of such opportunities and to empower yourselves with enhanced capabilities. The new information technology and improved connectivity have vastly improved the infrastructure of governance for young officers. A young sub-collector in a remote village can today access information from across the globe in trying to address a local problem. This explosion of knowledge and revolution in communication should be better utilized to address the tasks at hand.
We need in our civil services a renewed commitment to placing oneself on the side of the disadvantaged in society. Special attention must be paid to the needs of the poor, particularly the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities, Women and Children. Ethics and concern for equity are central to the concept of good governance in a democracy. Good governance is not merely about more efficient management of organizations, important as that is. It is also about humane and ethical management. Such a commitment is vital to the success of our strategy of promoting “Inclusive Growth”.
As Government moves away from running industries and controlling economic activity, to managing public services delivery, it must pay greater attention to improving its human face. In sectors like education, health and employment generation, the challenge is one of effective and equitable delivery of public services. At the same time, we need a new paradigm of public-private partnership that will enable government to work with others in society efficiently and with speed.
Our early feedback on some of our flagship programmes like Bharat Nirman, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, National Rural Health Mission and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are generally positive though not uniform across states. There are certain programmes especially in areas like food distribution, nutrition and basic health services where we need to and we must do much more. We have increased outlays, so the financial constraint has eased, but it is your managerial challenge to ensure that the outcomes are also now better than ever before.
The All India Services have validated Sardar Patel’s vision that they are an imperative for a strong, stable and free India. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of ending poverty, ignorance, disease and the inequality of opportunity is a challenge that is still very much with us. The higher rate of economic growth that we have been able to register has made this challenge easier than before.
The challenge now is, for effective public management of our resources and to create open, transparent and accountable systems of delivery. The challenge now is one of increasing professionalism that our civil services are seen to be among the best in the world when it comes to delivering public services to one-sixth of humanity. Our civil services operate in a much more complex environment than before and I would be the last one to minimize the constraints that they face in their jobs. We need to address them systemically. We would welcome your suggestions on that point as well.
The Administrative Reforms Commission and the Pay Commission are all part of our effort to redress systemic deficiencies. The Pay Commission has recently submitted its report and some concerns and apprehensions have been expressed by some sections of the Civil Services on some parts of the report. Government has already set in motion a mechanism for hearing and redressing these grievances. I would like our Civil and Defence Services to be properly rewarded. I also believe that the tax payers will not grudge anyone of us better remuneration as long as we are serving the best interests of our people, our country most efficiently. Hence, improved conditions of work must go hand in hand with improvement in work on the ground. Given Government’s deep commitment towards the welfare of all its employees equally, I would also expect the highest standards of discipline and decorum from our Civil Servants.
I am sure you will all work with commitment to ensure that our civil services rise up to the expectations of our people and maintain the best standards of professionalism. I wish you all well.”