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Ushering Reforms in Civil Services Capacity Building in India Through Mission Karmayogi

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Pooja Paswan
February 21, 2022

“Take to the path of dharma – the path of truth and justice. Don’t misuse your valour. Remain united. March forward in all humility, but fully awake to the situation you face, demanding your rights and firmness”—Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (first deputy Prime Minister of India)

Civil service refers to the body of government officials who are employed in civil occupations that are neither political nor judicial. The concept of civil service has been prevalent in India since ancient times. The Mauryan administration employed civil servants in the name of adhyakshas and rajukas. The examination for civil servants in those days was also very stringent as quoted by Kautilya’s Arthasastra. The expanse of the territory and the need to hold it intact made it imperative that the Mauryan administration recruit civil servants based on merit. The concept of civil service again became prominent when the British, in search of creating a framework to hold the territories of India, created the coveted “Indian Civil Services”, or the ICS.

Many changes took place in the ICS after Lord Cornwallis introduced it in India. The ICS were created to foster the idea of unity in diversity. It was expected to grant continuity and change to the administration, no matter the political situation and turmoil effecting the country. The Indian Civil Service has also played a role in providing continuous support to the nation. But what is appalling and needs serious consideration is the element of change. It can be said that the civil service as a whole has maintained its status quo instead of causing change in social and economic scenarios. Some may argue that it is the resilience of the civil service, but it is a fact out in the street that the Indian Civil Service was not able to deliver service based upon the expectations of the people or the founding fathers of the Constitution.

Why is reform within Indian Civil Services necessary?

In recent times, there has been accelerated change brought about globally by technological advances, greater decentralization and social activism. The ramifications of these changes are being felt by the government taking the form of increasing expectations for better governance through effective service delivery, transparency, accountability and rule of law. The civil service, as the primary arm of government, must keep pace with the changing times in order to meet the aspirations of the people. The purpose of “reform” is to reorient the civil services into a dynamic, efficient and accountable apparatus for public service delivery, built on ethos and values of integrity, impartiality and neutrality. The reform is meant to raise the quality of public services delivered to the citizens and enhance the capacity to carry out core government functions, thereby, leading to sustainable development.

The importance of the civil service to governance arises from the following:

  1. Service presence throughout the country and its strong binding character
  2. Administrative and managerial capacity of the services
  3. Effective policy-making and regulation
  4. Effective coordination between institutions of governance
  5. Leadership at different levels of administration
  6. Service delivery at the cutting edge level
  7. Providng “continuity and change” to the administration

What does Mission Karmyogi (National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building) entail?

Mission Karmayogi (National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building) has six pillars—Policy Framework, Institutional Framework, Competency Framework, Digital Learning Framework, Electronic Human Resource Management System and the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. This ambitious effort has long been considered urgent given the need for greater capacity building among public administrators, many of whom have little formal training or qualification in core topics of administration and governance upon joining the prestigious Indian Civil Services.

There has been renewed focus on capacity building for India’s civil servants. The central government’s Mission Karmayogi program is envisaged as the most comprehensive bureaucratic capacity building initiative to empower government employees to become more “creative, proactive, professional and technology-enabled.”  The focus of such reform is to enhance the administrative capacity and effectiveness of public administration in India. This initiative, announced in 2020, will task the newly formed Capacity Building Commission, comprised of experts from multiple fields, with creating and implementing capacity building plans.  

This approach will break silos in capacity building, and democratize knowledge on an equitable basis across civil services. Besides the delivery of training and capacity building, service matters such as confirmation—like the completion of probation, deployment, work allocation, work assignment and notification of vacancies—will be integrated within the proposed competency framework.

Institutional framework of NPCSCB (National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building):

  1. Prime Minister’s Public Human Resources (HR) Council 
  2. Capacity Building Commission. 
  3. Special Purpose Vehicle for owning and operating the digital assets and the technological platform for online training
  4. Coordination Unit headed by the Cabinet Secretary.

Way forward

Mission Karmayogi aims to prepare the Indian civil servants for the future by making them more creative, constructive, imaginative, innovative, proactive, professional, progressive, energetic, enabling, transparent and technology-enabled. Empowered with role-specific competencies, the civil servant will be able to ensure efficient service delivery of the highest quality standards. The capacity augmentation of civil servants plays a vital role in rendering a wide variety of services, implementing welfare programs and performing core governance functions. A transformational change in the capacity of civil service is proposed to be affected by organically linking the transformation of work culture, strengthening public institutions and adopting modern technology to build civil service capacity with the overall aim of ensuring efficient delivery of services to citizens. The future of the country cannot be progressive without a reformed bureaucracy.

Author: Pooja Paswan is currently enrolled at the John.F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, India. She has Ph. D in Public Administration and specializes in Public Policy. She was recipient of the ASPA 2019 Founders Fellow. She has worked extensively in the area of development administration and policy. She can be reached at https://jmi.academia.edu/PoojaPaswan and [email protected]. Twitter @poojapaswan

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