The latest circular issued by the department of personnel and training asking Union ministers not to appoint their kith and kin as their personal staff but take them from the common pool of qualified officers will go a long way in curbing political indiscretion. In quite a few cases, these handpicked officers develop agendas of their own, and even decide who can or cannot see the minister. This is also where corruption starts. With qualified assistants, ministers will hopefully perform more efficiently and with greater transparency. Many ministers would predictably gnash their teeth over the order but knowing what a no-nonsense man the new prime minister is, they will have no option but to fall in line. In the bargain, the system will go through a much-needed cleansing process.
It has been made clear that these appointments would now have to be routed through the appointments committee of the cabinet headed by the prime minister. In the past, ministers have had the freedom to appoint even so-called officers on special duty, who, in some instances have served as conduits for lobbyists looking for a quick-fix solution. Some die-hard businessmen will still try to win over the gullible ones in the personal staff of ministers but they will have to reckon with the fact that somebody may be watching over their shoulder.
The prime minister’s call to the ministries to be more proactive in the digital medium is also a progressive step towards spreading the culture of using technologies. Several ministers have already announced their intention to put online all information about proposals and clearances. This too should help in cutting red tape and corruption and modernising the way government offices are run. Work in the government is being run in an archaic manner. Any movement towards digitalisation would streamline government functioning and make retrieval of files that much more functionally efficient. One hopes a new culture of accountability and transparency will take shape in the coming months in government offices.