Friday, March 12, 2010

Beyond Cabinet Secy’s Letter and Spirit: 3 don'ts for Indian bureaucrats

WITH India’s top bureaucrat, cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, directing his fellow civil servants to turn more image-conscious in a letter dated March 3 last, BoI presents once again a quick guidebook on a few things that an Indian bureaucrat must not do under the current circumstances. Though the cabinet secretary’s letter was written in the backdrop of the recent I-T raids in IAS officers’ premises, here are a few additional tips for an Indian bureaucrat.

A) Don’t take a casual approach when you write on an official file. After the DoPT finally conceding that disclosure of file notings comes under the Right to Information (RTI), it is now clear that every word you write on hitherto secret sarkari files is like a spoken word in a press conference. When you write something in a file, imagine you are writing on a big black-board in front of millions of people with everyone having a mike and lots of queries. And it’s not file notings alone, that are in public domain. Every word you speak in an internal meeting where minutes are being taken, you imagine you are in front of a large gathering. Remember how CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat took the RTI route to get what additional secretary of rural development ministry Arvind Mayaram (1978 batch, Rajasthan cadre IAS) said in an internal meeting. In 2010, more journalists and politicians are likely to file RTI applications than to wait for answers of Parliamentary questions.

B) Yours is no longer just a 9 to 5 job. Reason? Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s second innings of UPA will be judged on the basis of performance as the Congress this time got a pure positive mandate. That means many of the ministers would make it a point to prove their mettle and the fallouts will be more work-load on backroom boys like you. But you can’t take your career too lightly either. The numbering system of appraisal which is now being practised now only for some select cadres like IAS and IFS would be followed for all Group A services. Also, third party assessment of bureaucrats has already begun on a pilot basis as 1990 batch IAS became the first officers in the country to be appraised by a group of outside experts, all former bureaucrats, when they were picked for joint secretary’s posts. The bottomline is clear --- your performance will now be better monitored.

C) You have always been careful of CVC and CBI. But now, threats have come from various other quarters thanks to the new-age technology. India has 500 million cell phone users with many of those handsets having advanced feaures such as camera, MMS etc. That means almost every person around you is carrying a camera with him and he may click your picture and record your conversation with anyone knowingly or unknowingly. The moment you step out of your white ambassador, remember, you are amid millions of photographers though they are not paparazzi following celebrities. Last year, White House gatecrasher socialite Michaele Salahi photographed herself with India’s deputy chief of mission in US Arun K Singh (click here to see the actual photograph) and happily posted the picture in her Facebook! Not a big deal as she even shook hands with US president Obama and hugged American Vice President! But remember, you can easily be featured in much popular social networking sites and make you an instant hero or a villain. No harm in trying out such platforms yourselves to understand the power of new-age media like blogs, facebook, twitter etc. But don’t wait for first committing a mistake as minister Shashi Tharoor repeatedly did, or wait for a formal DoPT clarification to come on how to use such a medium. Frame your own set of dos and don’ts while reaching out to the young audience. Already, a British bureaucrat’s guide to Twitter etiquette and strategy has drawn a laxman rekha. Simply follow that!
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1 comment:

  1. sad show... if cabinet secy has to remind our elite babus on these basic and simple things now, what use is there for the prestigious training academies in mussoorie, nagpur, baroda....???????