With less than 18 months remaining of his government—if the general elections are held in April 2019, as they are scheduled to be—Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to do one final major “surgery” of the top bureaucracy and replace the “dead wood” and inept officials with new ones.

Officials aware of the development said that the bureaucratic shuffle will be carried out while keeping the past service of the bureaucrats in view. The bureaucrats, who have not yet accepted PM Modi’s way of working—which is more work and less talk—will be replaced.

The all powerful Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is also going to witness the introduction of new faces.

Sources said that inputs received from multiple organisations, governmental and non-governmental, are being taken into account to identify bureaucrats who have not mended their ways despite repeated notices and have continued to stall work or do it at a very leisurely pace.

Official sources said that officials working with the “economy” related department will come in for special scrutiny as the feedback received by the PMO suggest that demonetisation and GST would have given much better resultd if they were executed more professionally. The lack of seriousness on the part of some bureaucrats regarding effective implementation of demonetisation, as was visualised by the PM, has led to a negative perception of the whole exercise in some quarters.

Feedback from organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BMS (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the RSS-affiliated labour union), as well as inputs from the intelligence agencies regarding the conduct of the officials outside office, including spending habits, are one among the multiple criteria that will be adopted to effect the reshuffle.

Ever since coming to power, PM Modi has tried to rein in the notorious Indian bureaucracy, which was treated with kid gloves during the time of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Sources said that a large chunk of the bureaucracy was still not happy with the Modi style of functioning. PM Modi is a workaholic and some bureaucrats view him as someone who had taken away their “powers” and hence they were “waiting and even working to see him fail”.

In living up to his mantra of “perform or perish”, the Modi government has repeatedly acted tough against bureaucrats, something that has not been seen before, leading to widespread resentment, that is not being expressed overtly, by senior bureaucrats.

In July, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) released a report card, which stated that the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has taken actions such as premature retirement and a cut in remunerations against 381 civil services officers, including 24 officers from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), for being non-performers and for allegedly being involved in illegal activities.

As a result of this “new” disciplined culture in the bureaucratic circles of Delhi, the number of officers seeking Central deputation, especially in the IAS cadre, has decreased.

As per the report, a total of 25 Group A officers, including one IAS and two IPS and 99 Group B officers, were prematurely retired by the government; 21 civil servants, including 10 IAS officers, “resigned” and penalties like dismissal, removal or compulsory retirement and cuts in pension were imposed on 37 Group A officers, including five from the IAS.

In addition to this, 199 Group A officers, including eight from the IAS, were penalised in terms of remuneration cuts.

 

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