No witch hunt, take bold decisions: PM to bureaucrats

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 Asking civil servants to take bold decisions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said the government would not indulge in “witch hunting” against them in the name of fighting corruption and was committed to protecting the honest.

He also said they should not be affected by the “nature and colour of the political leadership”.

“..it should be our endeavour that there is no witch hunting in the name of fighting corruption,” the prime minister said while inaugurating the 7th Civil Services Day event here.

“It is our government’s commitment to put in place a system and create an environment in which our civil servants are encouraged to be decisive, and no one is harassed for bona fide mistakes of errors of judgment,” Manmohan Singh said.

“We stand committed to protecting honest and well meaning civil servants who might have made genuine errors in their work. And I sincerely hope that these intentions of our government are shared by the state governments too,” he said.

“On their part, the civil servants in our country should fight the tendency of not taking decisions because of the fear that things might go wrong and they might be penalised for that,” Singh stressed.

The prime minister’s assurance came after remarks by chief economic advisor to the finance ministry Kaushik Basu that major economic reforms in India were unlikely to happen before the next parliamentary elections.

Media reports said Basu told a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace meeting in Washington Wednesday that decision making had slowed down because of a series of corruption scandals that had spooked the bureaucracy into not taking risks.

Singh said: “We cannot have a bureaucracy which is hundred percent risk averse. In fact, we should encourage boldness in decision making, provided that the decisions are well considered and as per the law of the land,” he said.

He added for good measure that a civil servant who does not take decisions might always be safe, but at the end of the day he or she would have contributed nothing to the society and country.

“Many of our civil servants would rank among the best in the world…There is a growing perception, right or wrong, that the moral fibre of our civil servants and public servants in general, is not as strong as it used to be some decades back and that our civil servants are now more likely to succumb to extraneous pressures in their work.

“These perceptions might be exaggerated but I do think that there is a grain of truth in them,” he said.

He also cautioned them that the decisions they take “must be fair and objective in nature, based on sound evidence and deep analysis and designed to serve the best interests of our country”.

Singh said the civil servants’ “judgment and advice” should not be affected by the “nature and colour of the political leadership”.

“If this does not happen, the impartiality and fairness of the decision making processes in public administration would get compromised and the quality of our output would be sub-optimal.”

The prime minister asked the civil servants that in the times of technology, they should “keep pace” with the changing times.

Singh, who also gave excellence awards to civil servants, said they should send a message to the people that the government and bureaucrats are “determined” to make the services “more professional”.

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