“Let me begin by congratulating you all for having made it to the IAS- a dream for many Indians.
It was Sardar Patel who foresaw the importance of a competent higher civil service. In his celebrated speech to the Constituent Assembly in October 1949, Sardar Patel had said: ‘You will not have a united India if you do not have a good All-India Service which has independence to speak out its mind’.
Over the last seventy years, the IAS officers have played a crucial role in national integration and national development. They are seen as the steel frame that harmonizes the social, cultural, linguistic, religious and economic differences in the country.
You are inheritors of an illustrious legacy left behind by a number of Indian civil servants who have served our country well since independence.
You have the most important role of translating “Swarajya” to “Surajya”. In other words, the fruits of development must reach each citizen and each person in this country must feel that there is a perceptible improvement in the quality of life. This is possible only if governance becomes corruption free, citizen-centric and business friendly.
You are all aware of a number of systemic reforms being introduced by the government to ensure that citizens are not inconvenienced and businesses are facilitated. We need to ensure that the legislative intent is translated into effective implementation. We must fully utilize the power of information technology to reach out to the intended beneficiaries. We have quite a few initiatives today like GST – making India into a single connected market, GeM – to reform government procurement process, Public Finance Management System (PFMS) – to make Just-in-time payments between various entities; eNAM - creating a national agriculture market by connecting the existing Mandis through an electronic platform, and JAM – Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile using Aadhaar to target government schemes to the poor and the needy sections of the society besides removing intermediaries.
The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) is the most significant innovation that cuts down multiple intermediaries.
Our efforts in the direction of Ease of Doing Business include cutting down on layers of regulations, simplifying procedures, putting applications online and fixing time-lines for approvals. However, none of these reforms will be able to deliver the outcomes, without changes in thinking and functioning. Please remember that unless we change how we think, we will not be able to change what we do.
Streamlining service delivery and effective, transparent, people-centred good governance are the need of the hour. We are still facing enormous challenges in delivering basic services to the common man.
Illiteracy, ill health, poor quality of education, lack of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, poor urban planning, inadequate attention to environmental pollution and a host of other issues continue to pose formidable challenges.
We have to gear up the implementation processes so that the intended benefits of the policies and programmes of our government reach the people on time.
The administration has to adopt a more empathetic, responsive and inclusive approach.
There has to be a genuine commitment at all levels of administration to spread the benefits of democratic governance to all sections in society without any discrimination in the spirit of the principle “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikaas”.
I have always believed that inclusive and rapid economic development will solve a number of the problems we face. However, we have to ensure that terrorism, communal violence, insurgency and Maoist extremism do not derail the processes of social and economic development of our country. Effective implementation of social development programmes with objectivity and honesty can help induce greater trust among the people leading to a just and peaceful society.
Today’s citizenry is an awakened one. They are educated and aware of their rights. They are connected to the world through technology and know about developments taking place elsewhere. They expect better services from the government.
I would like all of you to keep in mind four salient aspects that you should adopt as guiding principles: ‘empathy’, efficiency’, ‘impartiality’ and ‘incorruptibility’. This will enable each one of you to emerge as an effective, responsive administrator.
However, I would like to see you not only as an efficient administrator but rise to greater professional heights as a managerial leader.
I am also convinced that a Civil Service without honesty of purpose and integrity, cannot enjoy the trust of the people, and therefore will never be able to deliver change. We need a civil service that is focused on outcomes rather than on its own internal processes and files is the need of the hour.
You are intelligent and diligent, efficient and effective.
That’s good. But that’s not good enough.
The country expects more from the higher civil service. You would require new knowledge, skills and concepts in a world that is rapidly evolving and an India that is becoming more aspirational than ever before. You must be agile and proactive. You must learn from the good practices within and outside India.
A lot of good work is being done in the country by officers like you. Often, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. By replicating best practices that are being implemented elsewhere and scaling up good initiatives we may be able to deliver results far quickly.
You have a unique opportunity which comes only to a select few.
You can make a difference in the lives of our people through your work. I would urge you to use this unique opportunity fully and wisely.
I am hopeful that the Prime Minister’s call to ‘Reform, perform and transform’ would inspire you to acquire new competencies, scale new heights in efficiency and help you evolve into transformational leaders.
I wish you all the best!