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'With reshuffle, there is an acceptance of some failures'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
July 23, 2021 07:44 IST
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'Visibly there is a posturing that everything is fine. That creates a bit of a problem.'

IMAGE: A view of the swearing-in ceremony of ministers at Rashtrapati Bhawan, July 7, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

The much anticipated ministerial reshuffle is over.

Can former bureaucrats perform better than politicians as ministers?

A retired Indian Administrative Service officer, Anil Swarup -- who last served as India's education secretary -- feels it is a good decision to induct former bureaucrats and technocrats in the Modi ministry.

The concluding segment of a two-part interview with Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

 

Some former senior bureaucrats I spoke to, were of the opinion that the PMO has too much power these days. Do you think that way?

There is a general feeling that the PMO has become a reference point in this government.

A lot of decisions happen through the PMO. The PMO also is determining the course of events.

The PMO is calling the shots on a number of occasions. There is no doubt about that.

I would not be the right person to comment on whether it is working or not.

When Narendra Modi came to power, he spoke about minimum government and maximum governance, but the criticism especially after the reshuffle is that it is a jumbo ministry...

We have had bigger Cabinets than what we have now. Even when the ruling party did not have so many members in Parliament, we had larger Cabinets.

Then, the Cabinet is not the only part of a government. From what I understand, overall, the prime minister wanted to trim the government.

I am not worried about Cabinet per se. But I don't think a government-trimming has really happened as was originally promised.

You can't just keep on expanding the government for governance.

The prime minister was committed to it ,but I was not sure that has happened.

Coming back to the idea that the changes in the ministry will bring in economic growth. Is that the magic formula the government has now?

There is no magic formula for economic growth. For the first time since Independence, the rate of growth has been coming down during the past 5 years.

We need not one single step or any magic formula, but it will require multiple steps to bring in higher economic growth.

We are now facing the consequences of a pandemic too.

Even before the pandemic, the economic growth was not up to the mark.

I don't think covid alone can be blamed for what is happening on the economic front.

There are many other issues.

Like many believe, you feel it all started with demonetisation?

That's the general belief, that demonetisation triggered the problems we see in the economy now though it may not be right to blame only demonetisation.

Next was GST. Yes, GST was the need of the hour, but the manner in which it was implemented left a lot to be desired.

All these decisions the government took were well intended, but poorly implemented.

But the most important factor for lack of growth is the investment climate in India did not change with slogans like Make in India.

The ground reality is that the entrepreneur is very apprehensive.

Despite climbing up the ladder of the World Bank ranking of ease of doing business, the fact is, doing business is not easy on the ground.

This aspect should have been taken into account.

As I headed the project monitoring group to fast-track projects of Rs 1,000 crores, I know that more than the availability of capital and such things, the most important factor is the comfort level of the entrepreneur.

If an entrepreneur doesn't feel comfortable, why would he invest?

I don't think there is any dearth of capital in this country.

What needs to be done is, to improve the investment climate so that an entrepreneur feels easy to invest.

He should have the confidence that his investment will get him the returns, he will not be harassed, the procedures will be improved, tasks will be made easy for him....

Entrepreneurs I had spoken to said the government must be talking about ease of doing business, but there was no ease of doing business in India even now...

The conversations we had with industry was the conversation which the industry would not dare to speak out.

Because they felt if they spoke out, they could possibly in trouble. So, they would not rather say that.

This conversation has to change.

The policy makers must understand that there is a real problem.

Until and unless you accept the problem, you will not be able to solve the problem.

The first step to sort out a problem is to accept the fact that there is a problem.

Only then, you can find out the cause of the problem and then solutions.

You feel the government refuses to accept that there is a problem?

Visibly, there is a posturing that everything is fine. That creates a bit of a problem.

Yes, the government has taken some wonderful decisions and they have done some excellent work in many areas.

I feel through this reshuffle, indirectly, there is some sort of an acceptance of some failures.

There was no express admission, but, in a way, there is some sort of an admission in this reshuffle.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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