It has been just a mite more than a month since the NDA government under the helm of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister assumed office. While a lot has happened since then, the overall sentiment in the country remains optimistic, despite some disappointment over the ‘bitter pills’ that the aam aadmi has had to swallow, including spiralling inflation, rise in railway tarriffs, et al. However, one month is too short a period to judge a government, so a wait and watch approach is not only advisable but desirable aswell, what with the budget expected within a week from going to print. NRI Achievers puts together herea timeline of some telling steps taken by Modi and his government, which not only ought to give an indication of things to come … but also tell us something about Modi the man …
Even as PM Narendra Modi completed one month in office last week, there are some crystal clear signals of a marked shift from the previous UPA regime in terms of the style of governance. Exceptions apart, as in the case of rail fare hike, which had to be partially rolled back on suburban journeys due to pressures from poll-bound Maharashtra, the NDA government has so far been quite firm and decisive in it’s approach. Modi began his stint in Delhi by sending a stern message to his BJP colleagues, leaving out children of party veterans, and even heavyweights who were 75+ out of his Council of Ministers. Most likely he will soon accommodate the senior party brass in Raj Bhawans and the many commissions though. And if at all some ministers like Jitendra Singh or V K Singh diverted focus from the main agenda of governance with their controversial remarks about Article 370 or the next Army Chief, they were promptly reined in. If there was a legal hurdle in the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as his Principal Secretary, it was removed through an ordinance. The PM reconstituted the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet to include just himself and the Home Minister, leaving out the “concerned ministers.” These measures have underlined the sharp contrast between Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh, who had been found wanting in decisiveness due to dual power centres or otherwise. If people expected Modi to get overwhelmed by the popular mandate and shower bonanzas on them in the forthcoming Budget, the new PM has instead chosen to prescribe “bitter medicine” to rescue the economy. Liquidation of the LPG and kerosene subsidies are said to be next on the agenda. Concerns about fiscal health due to such subsidies had been repeatedly discussed by the previous UPA dispensation, but were mere half-hearted attempts to address them. Also very much unlike the UPA regime, in which some infl uential ministers loyal to 10, Janpath often managed to torpedo the PM’s agenda, Modi’s ministers seem to have decided to put their heads down for now to carry out his instructions.
The PM also reached out to Secretaries to the government of India seeking their views and feedback and asking them to reach him on his personal email whenever needed. While many in the bureaucracy are hardly convinced by the PM’s instructions to his ministers not to appoint private secretaries who had served ministers of the UPA regime—the move, they say, has painted all private secretaries in the current regime as saff ronites—but nobody seems to be protesting. On the administrative front, Modi has shelved the Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGoMs) and GoMs to remove bottleneks in the decision-making process. The PM is further set to take measures that may STRONG MESSAGE TO THE BABUS From ones reading of the scene as reflected on mainstream media, India’s archetypal babus (read Bureaucrats), have now been put on notice. Stern orders have been issued for being in office on time, to stay back as late as needed at night, not to have files pending on their tables for more than two days, and to even work on weekends. For India’s quint-he is there to back them up. Strictures, however, are not just for bureaucrats. Ministers too have not been spared, who have also been asked to reach office on time, and administer the administrators. They have also been given clear deadlines to finish projects.
TIGHT CONTROL OVER FOREIGN TOURS
Junkets and freebies that were more the norm than the exception have been cur back, with restrictions being put on needless not be very popular with a section of foreign travel that most ministers people, but Modi seems to be look- often resort to in the name of offiing at long-term solutions. His camcial work. Not only have ministers paign promise of “achhe din aane and bureaucrats been told to notify waale hain” was certainly not set their itinerary 10 days before any in any timeframe, and Modi surely such scheduled tour, but they have is not looking at any temporary, or also been asked henceforth to creshort- term delivery mechanism. ate reports about what all they have All said and done, one cannot implemented out of the learnings but deny the impressive pace with from their previous visit before get- which he has begun this ‘perestroiting sanction for the next. Extremeka’ of the Indian system, bringing ly critical and bold steps, we would about strong institutional changes, say, on the path to improving goverespecially in the way the nation is managed from the North and South blocks. While some of his decisions have reaped instant approbation, through some others Modi has shown his resolve to take strong but unpopular but indispensable decisions. In both respects, governance seems to be taken in a far more serious manner now than it had been for quite a while in our country. Lets sample some of the more quirky ones to understand what is in store …essential civil servants’ oft laid back attitude, leisurely and casual approach, daily engagements with cocktail parties, indulgence in long lunches and periodic offi cial vacations are all on the way out. Its time for hard work, and that too with accountability and within defi ned time limits. However Modi has also assured departmental secretaries that they should take decisions with conviction, and nance and curbing the tendency of the people in power. Bold decisions indeed that no PM in the past had the gumption to take.