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Modi Government’s reforms scorecard: Governmental and Administrative reforms

Even though the media is crying hoarse about demonetisation, it appears that people continue to support Modi, for attempting something radical. So much so that even a radical left wing propaganda site had to publish something about why demonetization is getting wide support. This should embolden Modi to undertake more reforms that are palatable to the common man. If politically feasible, this should drive Modi to ensure all the reforms initiatives that are listed in the 2014 BJP election manifesto see the light of the day.

To see how Modi has performed, based on his own criteria, here is the “Reforms Scorecard” halfway through PM Modi’s tenure. Here are the promises made on the reforms front in BJP’s 2014 election manifesto and their status as on December 2016:

A. Open Government and Accountable Administration

1. Digitization of Government records will be taken up on top priority so that they are easily accessible

The DIGILocker facility to keep all documents from birth certificate to business records has been created. Launched on July 1, 2015.

Status: Done.

2. Performance review, social and environment audit would be mandated for all Government schemes and programmes

This has been initiated and is an ongoing process. PM Modi has initiated PRAGATI – Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation – aimed at monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the central and state governments. Launched on March 25, 2015.

Status: Done.

3. Open up Government to draw expertise from the industry, academia and society into the services

This has been an ongoing process and here are some examples:

KV Kamath – Ex-ICICI Bank and Ex-Infosys – BRICS Bank Chairman
Kris Gopalakrishnan – Ex-Infosys – Digital India
Arvind Panagariya – Professor of Economics at Columbia University – Vice-Chairman NITI Aayog
and many others

Status: On-Going

4. Government will be redefined by elimination of whatever is obsolete in laws, regulations, administrative structures, practices and would be purposive

  • As for eliminating old laws, by July 2016, the government had already repealed 1,175 laws by legislation
  • As for changing regulations: There have been changes in regulations in almost all sectors. Here are only few examples:
    • Changes in visa regulations
    • Modi government has cleared the Model Shops and Establishment Bill, which will allow shops, banks, cinema halls, malls, restaurants and other retail commercial establishments to stay open 24 hours, seven days a week—if they choose to. (June 29, 2016)
    • There have been changes in the The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill through legislation
    • Amendment in the First Schedule of Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 has been made. This amendment eliminated long standing confusion about jurisdiction of Central and State Governments on Alcohol – Potable Alcohol and Industrial Alcohol has been resolved. This Amendment was made to create a balance between the Union and States.

Status: Done.

5. Changes in Administrative structures and practices

Abolishing the Planning Commission and bringing in NITI Aayog is a significant example. However, there needs to be further impetus in changing the old structures. Decisive action seems to be lacking in other areas. Though a committee had been formed under Shyam Benegal to bring changes in the CBFC, nothing has changed on the ground yet. Though the intent was visible, no changes were made in the institutions like FTII – where government must have no role whatsoever.

Status: Half-hearted effort.

6. We will generate ‘Kartavya Bhavna’ among public servants as lives and productivity of people is dependent on the quality and efficiency of public services
Well…! This one is tough to evaluate, isn’t it?

Risking the ire of some, I would rate the performance of the bankers has been exceptional. Be it in opening new Jan Dhan accounts to marketing of various insurance schemes (example: Atal Pension Yojana) to demonetization, they have done a commendable job. To include such a huge share of population in a short span of time is indeed worth applause. Of course, black sheep exist. Nevertheless…

Unfortunately, the “Kartavya Bhavana” has not been instilled in all elected MPs of BJP and NDA. Their performance in the “Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana” has been dismal to say the least. I would place the blame of this squarely on the shoulders of BJP President Amit Shah. He needs to ensure that his flock get serious about this, lest the opposition and media will have something to beat Modi with in 2019.

Status: Hence, I would rate this as not yet done!

B. Administrative Reform

1. The administration and its members will be made truly accountable to their tasks as well as the people through rigorous evaluation process

The government redrew the empanelment process for civil servants deputed to the Centre and made merit and integrity the cornerstones. The old system of Annual Personal Appraisal Reports (APAR) of civil servants has been removed, as more than 90% of them were found to have very high grades. Please click on this report to find more details regarding the changes.

Needless to say, some areas of the government – the finance ministry in particular – continues to confuse. Am not sure if competent people are handling decision making and public communication. The recent fall-outs during the demonetization implementation drives the point, if the new evaluation process is indeed working.

Meanwhile, other ministries do not make front page news (or on any page) and hence it is difficult to ascertain the positives.

Status: Hence, this will remain a question mark as of now!

2. Good performance will be rewarded; non-performers will be given opportunities and training support to improve

On the two year anniversary of Modi government, Swarajya had filed this to evaluate this criteria. Modi government has undertaken tough decisions like enforcing voluntary retirements and dismissals of civil servants. Rewards have been given in equal measure. The aforementioned Jan Dhan Yojana saw many bankers being rewarded. So were Railways employees, who completed their projects before schedule. Also, giving cash rewards (in cheques) to employees in the public sector seems to be the go-to option of Indian governments since time immemorial.

Status: Done

3. Rationalization and convergence among the Ministries, departments and other arms of the Government will be ensured to focus on delivery
One of the first decisions taken by the Modi government was the abolishing of GoMs and and EGoMs (Empowered Group of Ministers) – as if the first lot were not empowered. Anyway, such chaff have been removed. Also, the role of erstwhile Planning Commission has been changed to focus on delivery.

Another early move by the Modi Government was to combine 17 related ministries into seven different groups, including some infrastructure departments, in a bid to ensure synergy and better results. One major example is that of the infrastructure sector, where he combined Road Transport and Highways and Shipping in the ministry to be eventually headed by Nitin Gadkari

Status: Done

4. Services of youth in particular will be tapped to contribute in governance with Fellowship and Internship programmes launched at various levels

  • A National Scheme of Apprenticeship Training has been started.
  • On 2 Aug 2014, the HRD ministry rolled out a special internship programme that seeks the involvement of young talent to get a fresh perspective on formulation of policies, implementation of projects and various initiatives in the education sector.
  • Likewise, internship programs are ongoing in Ministry of External Affairs, Finance Ministry, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and so on.
  • Also, the Press Information Bureau has been regulary sharing many such internship/apprenticeship programs on it’s website.

In addition, it must be mentioned that the government also increased fellowship amount for research scientists in October 2014 (though it’s implementation has not been smooth).

Status: Done.

In the next part, we will look at some of the Judicial, Police and Electoral reforms which the BJP had promised to undertake in its manifesto, and the status thereof.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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