Government’s action plan to ‘weed out’ ‘dead wood’ and ‘dark sheep’

Perform or perish: Need of the hour

By Amar Krishna Paul

We are celebrating the 75th Independence Day from August 13 to 15, 2022. Glad to say, a slew of innovative celebrations and events are being chronicled in the books of history. But sad to say, lakhs of inefficient and non-performing employees who are currently working in different Government departments, never realise the value and importance of our “Home Rule”.
The 75th year of Independence is, indeed, the perfect occasion to look back and cherish our glorious past. Lakhs of our revolutionaries, freedom fighters and Indian soldiers who had sacrificed their lives for achieving the country’s political and economic welfare.
“When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.” This evocative epitaph is enshrined on the Kohima War Memorial in Nagaland, which was built to commemorate soldiers of the empire who laid down their lives to repel Japanese assault in 1944 during World War-II.
In her first address to the nation on July 25, 2022, President Droupadi Murmu said, “…today, in the 75th year of Independence, I have been assigned this new responsibility. It is my great privilege to be given this responsibility at such a historic time when India is engaged with full vigour in realising its vision for the next 25 years.”
That is, our forefathers, freedom fighters and intellectuals had to sacrifice their precious time, money and everything, even their lives, to get freedom from British rule. They wanted to see Free India with power, name, fame and glory led by a dynamic leadership and performing workforce. Practically speaking, we find very few performing people in the Government Departments and State-run organisations throughout the country.
A few years ago, the State Bank of India, the largest public sector bank of the nation, implemented and premature retirement plan called “Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS)” for its staff. A large number of SBI employees had availed the scheme and superniated.
In fact, both the Central and State Governments may formulate, announce and implement VRS like new or revised retirement programmes for their non-performing employees to vacate lakhs of posts in various Government institutions. The move would definitely generate employment avenues for the computer-friendly young educated boys and girls of our native motherland.
Most Governments have VRS for the employees who attained 50 years of age. But this age barrier may be curtailed to 40 years for the non-performing staff. Those who work should get salary, perks and facilities. For the non-performers, there should be a Compulsory Retirement Scheme (CRS) instead of VRS. Actually, the employees’ performance review is conducted under the Fundamental Rule (FR) 56 (J) and 56 (I), and also under Rule 48 (1) (b) of the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, that gives “absolute right” to the appropriate authority to retire a government servant, “if it is necessary to do so in public interest”.
Of late, Delhi Government sought the list of ‘ineffective’ officers with ‘doubtful’ integrity for early retirement. Accounts officers nearing retirement age and those found to be ineffective may have to proceed on early retirement as per the Delhi government finance department’s order in July, 2022.
All department heads (HODs) have been asked to treat the matter as “most urgent” and submit the report at the earliest. According to officials, the directions were given following guidelines from the Central Government’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). “The services department has issued detailed instructions dated July 12, 2019 in this regard stating that Lieutenant Governor (L-G) has taken a serious note on the issue and has desired that periodical review of all categories of government servants working under the government of NCT Delhi under the FR-56 (J) and Rule 48 of CCS (pension) rules 1972 may be taken on priority basis to “weed out” the “dead wood” and the “dark sheep”. An action report is to be submitted to the services department on 15th of each month in the prescribed proforma,” read an order issued by the Finance Department.
In an unprecedented step, the Indian Railways on May 11, 2022 removed from service 20 top class one officials, including eight joint secretary level officers, and top electrical and mechanical engineers. With this, around 100 top level officers have either been dismissed or forced to opt for Voluntary Retirement Services (VRS) in the last 10 months. They include three secretary rank level officers.
Kautilya, the Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, had indirectly focused on the fruits of accountability in his book ‘Arthasastra’. To him, accountability does always pay. Nothing more than the following story explains the idea of accountability as perceived by him. One night he was writing a book as assigned by his King Chandragupta. Then, one visitor came to his house. Kautilya looked at the visitor, smiled, put off the lamp and asked his wife to bring another lamp. She came with the lamp. After he finished with his visitor, Kautilya lit the lamp and resumed his writing. He had put off the lamp to save the fuel supplied by the king to write the book. The story is very simple. But it leaves a thought-provoking lesson for us for the effective implementation of different schemes of the country today. That is, it is now our turn to be accountable along the lines of Kautilya since accountability is the key to transferability and, hence, higher productivity. The reason is not far to seek.
Our nation has completed 75 years of Independence. We have to achieve breakthrough, especially in poverty eradication, curbing unemployment, checking population growth, creating favourable balance of payment, arresting factors of price-spiral, minimising deficit financial, increasing growth rate and, above all, slashing unproductive expenditure like subsidy, concession, exemption et al.
During the 200 years of the British administration, ‘the land of plenty’ was reduced to ‘land of hunger and misery; widespread poverty’ had established its roots, and all-round backwardness set in.
The challenge of poverty eradication was taken up immediately after independence in the form of the five years plans. All along our narration of the story we have tried to focus on the fact that our economy is in transition from poverty to plenty. The process of this transition has been sluggish but it has been steady which augurs well for the new millennium.
In other words, if we properly diagnose the real economic scenario of the nation today, we will realise that we are in a better position in free India than under the British Raj.
Today, we do apply the guidelines given by Kautilya in the book directly or indirectly. For instance, he prescribed a system of price controls to protect the interest of the consumers. He also suggested a balanced budget. We are applying the controlled price system in pursuit of a so-called public distribution system and administered price mechanism. Some states are in the process of initiating a slew of measures to work out a balanced and fruit-bearing budget with a view to pump-starting the emerging market economy of corporate India.
Likewise, we are implementing Kautilya’s treatise on Economics, which strictly engineers drives against corruption. Can we accept his pragmatic views on accountability to bail out the country from stagnation and push it towards long-run recovery ?
To sum it, we have seen that Kautilya saved fuel when the visitor came to meet him, although there was no instruction to do so. We have been instructed in our day-to-day life by the Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas to “save energy to save the world” by stopping the vehicle engine when there is a “traffic jam” that takes long to clear. However, very few people follow these instructions. Perhaps we need to learn more from Kautilya.
(The writer is a Freelance Journalist, may be contacted [email protected])

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