Home/ Politics / Policy/  Clock is ticking on a makeover of bureaucracy

New Delhi: To make India’s notoriously huge bureaucracy agile and manageable, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked a task force of senior officials to suggest ways to restructure the administrative machinery as per the government’s financial resources and focus areas of development.

Additional secretary in the department of personnel and training (DoPT) Rajiv Kumar, who heads the panel, will be assisted by his juniors and other officers from the cabinet secretariat and the expenditure department in the finance ministry in identifying global best practices for selection of staff in the government, public sector enterprises and in various tribunals. The panel will review the eligibility criteria for senior posts, the selection process and their roles.

The move coincides with finance minister Arun Jaitley announcing a 28% jump in the government’s pension liabilities in 2016-17 at 1.23 trillion from 9,570 crore in the current fiscal year, on account of implementing wage hikes suggested by the Seventh Pay Commission.

“A task force has been constituted for rationalization of human resources in various ministries. A comprehensive review and rationalization of autonomous bodies is also underway," Jaitley said in his budget speech. The five-member panel has a month to report its suggestions.

Salaries, pension, interest payments and defence spending pushed up the government’s non-Plan spending for 2016-17 by over 9% to 14.3 trillion in spite of a lower subsidy outgo on food, fertilizers and oil, which also come under the same head. When fully implemented, the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations will cost the exchequer over 1 trillion. There are about five million government employees and about an equal number of central government pensioners at present.

Shaking up the country’s bureaucracy, which has been considered for long as lethargic, has been the priority of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which promised minimum government and maximum governance. The panel will recommend ways of optimizing manpower at senior levels including by converging business allocation rules of different departments. This will help in fixing accountability, said a person familiar with the development.

Recently, the ministry of overseas Indians was merged with the external affairs ministry led by Sushma Swaraj.

In contrast to the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government under Manmohan Singh which relied on ministerial groups for decisions involving different departments, Modi followed the approach of integrating different ministries with similar roles into a cluster and assigning a common minister. The NDA government has 46 ministers, including Modi, compared to 71 during the UPA-II regime.

Gireesh Chandra Prasad
Gireesh has over 22 years of experience in business journalism covering diverse aspects of the economy, including finance, taxation, energy, aviation, corporate and bankruptcy laws, accounting and auditing.
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Updated: 02 Mar 2016, 09:24 PM IST
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