On May 18, while addressing the nation from the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Prime Minister (designate at that time) Narendra Modi highlighted the need for a clean, transparent and efficient government of India. Within days of assuming office, the clean-up, quite literally, of the corridors of power began.
The government got down to work from day one. The presence of Heads of State and Government of the SAARC countries at the swearing-in ceremony on 26th May was historic. It set the tone and tenor for the diplomatic path ahead. The opportunity served well for subsequent individual interactions between Prime Minister Modi and his counterparts. Fishermen were released by both Pakistan and Sri Lanka as goodwill measures. This was followed by his first foreign tour to Bhutan in mid-June and the visit to Bangladesh by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. The sudden crisis in Iraq continues to be monitored on an hourly basis.
A quick set of decisions between May 27 and June 4 followed. Ministries were more organically organized and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe black money was announced after the first Cabinet meeting. On May 28, the message of probity and a stand against nepotism was driven home when Ministers and MPs were asked to not have relatives as personal staff. On May 29, the Prime Minister announced a 10-point directional emphasis to encourage innovation and transparency in government; he asked for emphasis to be placed on education, health, water, energy and roads, and said his administration must address concerns relating to the economy and ensure time-bound delivery of policies.
A couple of days later, the Prime Minister scrapped the Group of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs). This mechanism, that rarely met, was seen to have contributed towards the "policy paralysis" and decision deficit of the earlier government. Simultaneously, ministers were also asked to correct the laxity in the policy -making mechanism of their ministries.
Clearly, the focus of Prime Minster Modi's government has been swift decisions and their efficient implementation. Ministries have already made Powerpoint presentations outlining concerns, solutions and agendas for governance before the Prime Minister. This new approach has replaced long-winded discussions and meetings. Efforts are now being streamlined instead of being dispersed.
A former Governor recently visited North Block after a few years. He was pleasantly surprised to find the corridors clean, uncluttered by cupboards, odd furniture and piles of old files. "Things have suddenly changed," he said to me. "It's not just cleanliness, but that there seems a sense of purpose in people. Work is now the focus and not talk."
Clean corridors and good housekeeping may not seem a big deal for some, but the moot point is the message it sends top to bottom. It also importantly raises the question - why wasn't this done earlier? This in itself sums up the stance of the new government. This is a government that has decided to set its own pace and not emulate ineffective standards of earlier dispensations. Prime Minister Modi recognizes the importance of time. For him, evidently, every day and minute counts. The vote for change that ushered in a full majority government under his leadership after 25 years believes in his capabilities of delivering an India that can unleash their aspirations and not shackle them. That's what he and his team are working on.
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