VisionaryTalksSeries: Anil Swaroop says, at NITI Aayog they have become 'Rai Sahabs'
GN Bureau | September 5, 2020
The education industry has been taken over by the mafia who are eating into the essentials of the system, says Anil Swarup, retired IAS officer, who also served as school education secretary.
Calling for reforms in civil services, he said that the focus should be leadership skills and not analytical skills as expertise and analytical skills can be outsourced but attitude has to be developed.
“After a month of taking over as education secretary when someone asked my opinion of the sector, I said, in the coal sector, mining was underground but the mafia was over ground. But in education, all mafia is underground, eating into the essentials of Indian system,” said Swarup who earlier served as coal secretary.
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Swarup, founder chairman of the ‘Nexus of Good’ movement, was speaking with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, on Friday as part of the webinar series, Visionary Talks, organised by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
See the earlier episodes of the VIsionary Talks series here: http://www.governancenow.com/visionary-talks-series
He recalled that at the education department they took on the better of mafia and even had to sacrifice their senior IAS officer, but the point was driven home. “The biggest mafia in school education is of BEd and DEd colleges and the New Education Policy without naming the mafia tries to eliminate them. There are 16,000 BEd and DEd colleges in India of which 4,000 exist only on paper. We took on this mafia and almost settled them but for the intervention of courts which forced an IAS officer to resign. The policy picks up from here and has integrated these courses into a four-year course. Now all these fraudulent colleges will have to shut down. Similarly the teachers entrance test… a former chief minister is behind bars… the policy says it will revamp the teacher entrance test. It aims to address some of those mafias,” he said.
Citing the example of the coal sector, he said the mafia came in because of shortage. “In education too you go into the cause of the problem and fortunately policy addresses some of those aspects. Though the New Education Policy is a visionary document, where will the allocated money of 6% of the GDP will come from? If the money does not come... it’s great to give ideas…for an idea to fructify and sustain it has to be politically acceptable, socially desirable, technologically feasible, financially viable, administratively doable and judicially tenable,” he said.
“As far as financial viability is concerned there is no money. Secondly, at the conceptual level the policy should have encouraged private sector education which it does not and thirdly there is only a passing reference to the phenomenal role played by NGOs,” he pointed out.
Speaking about civil service, Swaroop said that right from selection to the time of retirement, handling of civil servants is not worthy of mention. Given the manner of selection of civil servants, there are only accidental leaders. Those who can write an exam in three hours are selected and the questions merely test their analytical skills but not leadership skills.
Asked if the government allowing lateral entry in bureaucracy and Niti Aayog bringing down the retirement age limit to 60 years at the state and central levels will help improve governance, Swarup said, “At NITI Aayog they have become ‘Rai Sahabs’. The problem in civil services is not about expertise but about approach and that is critical. The ethos has to change. Because as you rise up the ladder you need to manage men and women so you need leaders not experts. I am not against their lateral entry but if they are not brought in a manner that is objective and transparent, in the process there could be serious trouble.” He also criticized the fact that no thought is given before postings.
Swarup also said the institutional framework of chasing corrupt people and Lokpal or Lokayukta has not solved problems of corruption which can be done by technology and transparency. “Railways managed to handle corruption through technology. Both the departments of coal and education that I headed, I dispensed with old papers and files. Everything was digitized. Why aren’t the ministries digitizing their processes and their files because much of the corruption is on account of ...which we call speed money… since I made the processes transparent the world knew which officer was sitting on which file for how much time. I am convinced that with the use of technology we can mitigate ill effects of corruptions substantially,” said the former bureaucrat.
“The prime minister is aghast as he wants technology to be used. I am shocked why it is not being done. Why shouldn’t the PMO ask for only digital files? If that happens every office will have to go digital. If we can’t digitize our processes we can’t keep chasing Vijay Mallya’s” he said.
How did he transform the coal ministry while he was coal secretary? He said it is very important to understand the depth of problem before finding solutions. The coal scams during the UPA regime were symptoms and the primary reason was that there was shortage of coal. When India was sitting on 300 billion tonnes of coal and our annual requirement was only 800 million tonnes and 25% requirements were being imported, why was there a shortage? For coal mining your require land, forest clearance and excavation of coal.
“During my stint as coal secretary for two years I did not convene a single meeting in Delhi. I used to travel to states, sit with the administration and give value propositions. This is critical for governance. You need to tell the other side what is in it for them, otherwise a mere mandate or order from the central government does not work, as the real action happens in states and you have to take them on board. In all successful schemes secretaries have gone down to sell the idea… it does not come easily to a civil servant, yet only a civil servant can get over politics. The key to governance is to take the stakeholders on board, convey a value proposition and go down to understand the problem,” he said.
Speaking on his initiative, ‘Nexus of Good’, he said its essence is to identify, understand, appreciate, replicate and scale a good practice through public-private partnership. “If all the rascals and ruffians of the world create hell for others why can’t good people come together? The tragedy of good people is that they don’t trust each other and that’s a wrong approach. If you look around people are doing brilliant work under the most challenging circumstances. Phenomenal work is being done in remote areas where children are using solar power tablets to study,” said Swarup who has authored two books, ‘Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant’ and ‘Not Just a Civil Servant’.
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