Kiran Bedi Calls For a New Mindset in Civil Services to create a New India

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New Delhi: Indian Civil Services Association (ICSA)- a think tank of senior retired bureaucrats in association with IAS Gurukul – a leading institute for civil services exam preparation in the capital; organized a national symposium with the theme “Civil Services in India- A Blueprint for the Future” for civil services aspirants today. The symposium was inaugurated by Dr. Kiran Bedi, India’s first female IPS officer and the current Lt. Governor of Puducherry in the presence of senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Union Cabinet Minister for Youth Affairs; Shri. TSR Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary and Chairman, Committee for the evolution of a National Education Policy (2016) and Mr. Pranay Aggarwal, Director, IAS Gurukul and Convenor, Indian Civil Services Association. The symposium was attended by senior serving and retired officers from Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Foreign Service (IFS), successful candidates of the last civil services exam, civil services aspirants and students.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pranay Aggarwal underlined the need for urgent civil services reforms and outlined some of the challenges facing civil services today, namely “a difficult relationship with the political bosses becoming even more challenging with the deepening of democracy, charges of corruption and allegations of favouring class interests; and being termed as outdated and inefficient.” He detailed how globalization, new technology, acts like RTI and an increasingly assertive civil society and media are fast changing the social and administrative environment in which civil services today operate.

Dr. Kiran Bedi made a strong appeal for “a new mindset” in civil services to help create a “new India”. She urged civil services aspirants and students of IAS Gurukul to be problem solvers and “put service before self”. She further urged public servants to be accessible to the public, communicate with all stakeholders, collaborate with other government departments, invest in their own technological upgradation and exhibit sensitivity towards the needy sections of society. She also shared some mantras of becoming a successful civil servant with the young aspirants.

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar recalled his own first career as a diplomat and emphasized the need for civil services reforms in light of challenges thrown up by the institutionalization of the panchayati raj system as the third tier of government. He made out a strong case for empowering district panchayats for district level developmental activities and highlighted that “grassroots democracy can potentially dismantle patriarchy and rigid caste hierarchies in the countryside”.

TSR Subramanian dwelled on managing the politician- bureaucrat relationship, emphasizing that “bureaucrats must not follow illegal orders from their political bosses”. He lamented that youngsters join the civil services with a lot of hope but get co-opted by the system. Finally, he emphasized that civil services continue to be the bulwark of Indian democracy but is in dire need of reforms.

Summing up the mood at the symposium, Mr. Pranay Aggarwal, Director, IAS Gurukul and Convenor, Indian Civil Services Association said that “The central government has exhibited political will to take some bold decisions such as demonetization, pushing GST, raising Balochistan, etc. Civil services reforms, it is hoped, will be next on the agenda. We expect the central government to push through major administrative reforms.” Ending on a hopeful note, he said “It is hoped that civil servants will continue to serve as the ‘steel frame of a New India’ ”.

The overall tone of the symposium was brimming with hope and enthusiasm quite uncharacteristic of Indian bureaucracy.