India needs new-Age babus, time to bring sewaveers into service

India aims to become the fourth-largest economy in a few years, but the race to become the third-largest may test the strength of various organs of governance.

Published: 16th April 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2023 02:55 PM   |  A+A-

India aims to become the fourth-largest economy in a few years, but the race to become the third-largest may test the strength of various organs of governance. By 2047, when India commemorates 100th year of Independence, the aspiration of the people would be to attain the status of a developed nation. The country has another 24 years to scale up capacities in all walks of life.

India and China currently occupy fifth and second slot respectively in the rankings of the world’s largest economies. China is roughly six times bigger than India, and is hoping to grow its gross domestic product by 5 percent in the current financial year. 

India, by conservative estimates, will touch 6.5 percent GDP growth. Economists suggest that it may hit a higher growth trajectory hereafter, reducing the gap between India and China. The next five years are crucial. By 2026-27, when India would be a $5-trillion economy, it should take a leap by becoming a critical player in the global supply chains. Officially, China remains a middle-income country after exhausting decades of high growth. Experts concur that historically decades of growth bring about two decades of squeeze. China awaits such a fate. 

It’s worth reflecting if the current administrative structure can guide the country onto a path of high economic growth. The next two decades will make it incumbent for the officials to exhibit electric agility to cope with the demand of time. They have to be a powerhouse of ideation. Out-of-the-box thinking has to be a norm, innovation the mantra, and execution has to meet the yardstick of perfection. 
The hierarchy of the officials who look after the affairs, from Gram Panchayat to the Cabinet Secretariat, must be imbued with the sole mantra of speed and scale of policymaking and execution.

There cannot be space for deadwood or unimaginative bureaucracy. This brings the urgency to replicate the Agniveer scheme for bureaucracy. It must be said at the outset that it’s not the sole responsibility of the government of the day to make India a developed nation. The onus lies on each of us. The private enterprises, startups, self-help groups, Farmers’ Producers Organisation, non-profit organisations and every other constituent of the socio-economic ecosystem has to share responsibility. The capacity to churn out such a large number of policy leaders is currently constrained. Thus, the urgency to prepare and train a large pool of human resources to take on the challenges of the next 24 years. 

The Agniveer scheme offered an innovative solution to the needs of the armed forces in a quick time frame. It also provides various organs of the country, including the states, a well-trained pool of youngsters to dip into and utilise them with a short-term customisation. The scheme brought a much-needed solution when a growing private sector also required trained manpower that could respond 
to their security needs. 

The Sewaveer scheme should address the challenges of capacity-building in service delivery. It can generate trained resources who have the exposure to the functioning of the government at all levels. Since they will be deployed in a cross-section of departments in the three-tier democratic system, the scheme can also make available a reserve of resources for private enterprises. Roughly 10 percent of such Swaveers should be absorbed by bureaucracy for a fixed tenure. Also, this may bring flexibility in their employment for short-, medium- and long-term. It may also be structured in a way to ensure that 
a certain number of Sewaveers are released after fixed durations—five, 10, 15 years to a maximum of 25 years. 

Only a few who exhibit extraordinary leadership in policymaking and execution should be allowed to move into the last three categories of 15, 20 and 25 years of service. An extremely low number of such Sewaveers must qualify to serve the country for 20 and 25 years. 

With this radical shift, the country can achieve bureaucratic reforms in one stroke. Besides, this may even accelerate capacity-building of the institutions, which must also proliferate across the country. The training can be customised to the requirement of the categories of Sewaveers.

By freeing the bureaucracy from British legacy, Sewaveers adjusted to the current needs of the country can bring the much-needed reforms, which have ducked all attempts of the political leadership.

Sumeet Bhasin

Director, Public Policy Research Centre

Twitter: @sumeetbhasin


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