On September 2, 2020, the Union Cabinet approved ‘Mission Karmayogi’, a new capacity-building scheme for civil servants aimed at upgrading the post-recruitment training mechanism of officers and employees at all levels. Dubbed the biggest human resource development programme ever, while announcing the scheme, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said: “Mission Karmayogi aims to prepare Indian civil servants for the future.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this exercise will “radically” improve the government's human resource management practices and asserted it will use state-of-the-art infrastructure to augment the capacity of civil servants.
Going forward, Department of Personnel and Training secretary C. Chandramouli said the Mission has been constituted to build ‘future-ready’ civil servants with the right attitude, skills and knowledge, aligned to the vision of a "New India." Since the Mission is to subserve the New India vision, we need a critical look at this vision and the reality on the ground.
The New India Movement 2017-2022, which was launched by the PM, envisages an India free from poverty, corruption, terrorism, communalism, casteism and uncleanliness; an entire country united by good governance and using technology.
Under this ‘movement’, the Government of India has launched flagship schemes such as Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Jan Suraksha Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana, Food security for the poor, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana, Mission Indradhanush, Swachh Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), Start UP India, Stand UP India, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Make in India and Housing for poor etc.
According to PM Modi, the idea of a ‘New India’ is to offer opportunities to the poor: “A new India where the poor do not want anything by way of charity, but seek opportunity to chart out their own course … Indians today are not waiting for governmental sops. They only want opportunities to be created for them, so that they can work for their livelihood and prosperity.” The New India dream is to double the farmer’s income and to create a USD five trillion economy by the year 2022. This 'New India' inspired the Indian diaspora, who launched an unprecedented campaign with a large number of professionals working across the world voluntarily, spending their own money, time and resources to support Modi and getting him elected for a second term.
After all this, ‘Mission Karmayogi’ is now being launched to build ‘future-ready’ civil servants to carry out the ‘New India’ vision and agenda by catching them young. What exactly is this miracle mission?
It is a nationwide programme to lay the foundation for capacity building of civil servants so they remain entrenched in Indian culture while they learn the best practices across the world.
Called the National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB), the mission seeks to transform Human Resource Management from ‘rules-based’ to ‘roles-based’.
Preparing bureaucrats for the future and bring post-recruitment reforms in the government.
Making civil servants more creative, constructive, imaginative, innovative, proactive, professional, progressive, energetic, enabling, transparent and technology-enabled. This will help end subjective evaluation, and ensure scientifically-devised, objective and real-time assessment of employees.
An endeavour of the mission is to end the culture of working in silos and to overcome the multiplicity of training curriculum and institutions spread all over the country, with the introduction of a common platform for uniform realisation of nation's vision and of our shared aspiration and our shared future goals.
The Mission Karmayogi programme will be delivered by setting up a digital platform called iGOT-Karmayogi. Empowered with specific role-competencies, a civil servant will be able to ensure efficient service delivery of the highest standards. The platform will act as a launchpad for NPCSCB, which will enable a comprehensive reform of the capacity building apparatus at the individual, institutional and process levels.
The NPCSCB will be governed by the Prime Minister’s Human Resource Council, which will also include state chief ministers, union cabinet ministers and experts. It will approve and review civil service capacity building programmes and will consist of a Cabinet Secretary Coordination Unit comprising select secretaries and cadre controlling authorities. There will also be a Capacity Building Commission, which will include experts in related fields and global professionals. This commission will prepare and monitor annual capacity building plans and audit human resources available in the government.
To hold all of this, there will be a wholly-owned Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will govern the iGOT-Karmayogi platform. It will be set up under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. The SPV will be a “not-for-profit” company and will own and managethe iGOT-Karmayogi platform. The SPV will create and operationalise the content, market place and manage key business services of the platform, relating to content validation, independent proctored assessments and telemetry data availability. The SPV will own all Intellectual Property Rights on behalf of the Government of India.
To cover around 46 lakh central employees, a sum of Rs 510.86 crore will be spent over a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25. The expenditure is partly funded by multilateral assistance to the tune of $50 million. There will be a sense of participation by each civil servant who will subscribe at Rs 431 per annum. Besides the setting up of the SPV, an appropriate monitoring and evaluation framework will also be put in place for performance evaluation of all users of the iGOT-Karmayogi platform to generate a dashboard view of Key Performance Indicators.
At the end of the day ‘Mission Karmayogi’ will produce the ideal civil servant with all qualities of head and heart to serve the ‘New India’ vision under the direct command and control of the Prime Minister himself! (See Graph).
In design and content this is an excellent mission that could cater to the long-felt need for civil servants to gather the attributes described above. What is unique is that instead of confining it to the upper echelons of civil services like IAS, IPS and other Central Services, this mission will cover all the civil employees of the Union Government, and would later take in those in uniform too. Though initially not applicable to those in state governments, employees and civil servants working in them can avail of the platform and take advantage of the services.
This augurs well for ‘New India’ and its governance. But the problem is the direction in which this ‘New India’ is moving. Civil servants are only an instrument of governance and not governance itself, which comprises elected political leadership and policies it lays down. The New India movement is supposed to free India from poverty, corruption, terrorism, communalism, casteism and unite the entire country by adopting good governance practices. But what has been happening on the ground over the last few years is just the opposite.
Governance has been at its nadir and with the enslavement of institutions of democratic governance, democracy is being shred to pieces. “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance”, the slogan of 2014, which should have been the hallmark of democracy in the NDA regime, has been turned on its head with the imposition of a highly centralised and autocratic system sustained by a harsh ‘police raj’. Critical legislations or policies—Agriculture, Electricity, Environment, Education, Public Sector privatisation etc—are being pushed with breakneck speed with no involvement of the people, who are the sovereign.
A colossal mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inhuman lockdown has led to a double whammy. While India is on the verge of clocking the maximum number of infections in the world, its economy is at the bottom of a pit. Small enterprises have collapsed and millions are being pushed into joblessness, poverty and penury. And this is happening even when there is extreme iniquity in the economy. While the richest 10% of Indians own 77.4% of the country’s wealth – with the super-rich one percent’s share at 51.5% – the bottom 60%, own just 4.7% and are out of the mainstream economy. With increasing number of millionaires and billionaires by the day, this divide is widening fast.
Ironically, while swearing by the poor, over the last few years the Centre has been assiduously building up a crony-capital driven ‘techno-commercial monopoly/duopoly’, an idea which is being accelerated under the draconian lockdown.
While the GDP has tanked by close to 24%, the wealth of certain crony-capitalists has doubled or trebled. Now, with several rich public sector undertakings with vast assets on the bidding block and available for cheap, this monopoly/duopoly would become stronger. Such a perverse and perverted economy would bring the vast majority of the poor and not-so-poor to their knees, subjecting themselves to the whims of these predators for the price they pay for products and services they consume. The tragedy is that this is being actively promoted by the state!
As predicted by Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, fascism happens when the State merges with the Corporations. This seem to be happening now. The question is, are the ‘future-ready’ civil servants going to serve this ‘New India’?
The writer is a former Army and IAS Officer. The views are personal.