No ‘oral’ orders
Oral orders from ministries or their personal staff will be a passe if the advisory issued as part of an office memorandum at the behest of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) becomes a reality to the staff across ministries. In June, during his first direct interaction with some 70 secretaries who head the bureaucracy in various ministries, the Prime Minister urged them to work without fear. Now he has taken a big step in protectiveness by issuing the memorandum. In exchange PMO expects Babus to be on time, clear files and no piling of work at the end of the day. The memorandum has sounded death knell for leisurely laid lunches at elite clubs for Babus. In recent times ministers have often been reluctant to record their observations and have instead instructed officials verbally. By issuing latest missives, the PMO has also put ministers on alert. The adversaries are part of orders to toning up the government and improving the overall decision making process. Narendra Modi’s efforts through this memorandum are to bring in accountability clause in government and to change the age-old thinking of lethargy. During his June interaction, he had made it clear for a responsive bureaucracy. Though the government manual talks about certain exceptions during emergencies or when minister is on tour it still insists that the officers should obtain the order in writing from the minister or his Private Secretary and get it confirmed later on. In recent years ministers have often been reluctant to record their observation and have been instructing officials verbally. This gave them an excuse to ease out from difficult situations comfortably without having any accountability for wrong orders. After these directions ministers or their personal staff may no longer be able to get away from the responsibilities of oral orders. Modi cannot afford to have a demoralised bureaucracy if he has to bring in Ache Din Back.