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The Third Eye: Managing a nation of diversities

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The Third Eye: Managing a nation of diversities

New Delhi: The thrust of governance in the present regime is to push India towards self-sufficiency in food, industrial production, defence, security and technology applications.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the perceptive call for ‘vocal for local’ on one hand and supported an outreach to the best technology available anywhere in the world for economic advancement, on the other. While he showed great clarity about the national objectives and the pathways for achieving them, his remarkable contribution is in ensuring that the projects initiated for this purpose were executed with a new level of efficiency.

Individual responsibility in the bureaucracy has been defined, the framework of inter-departmental coordination has been fixed and the accountability of Ministers heading the Ministry or the Department concerned has been made transparent — all of this producing a huge impact on governance eliminating a substantive measure of the gap between policy and its implementation.

It has been established that if the political executive governing the nation has the honesty of purpose and the political will, it could go beyond the copybook rules of administration to create new benchmarks of governance and delivery for the people.

Prime Minister Modi has shown a great dedication to national interests and willingness to put in hard work and if his performance earned him high popular ratings, this was natural — it should be remembered that the Indian voter is a shrewd judge of the merits of rulers governing the country.

Experts have talked of various management practices and one of these is termed the ‘paternal, nurtural theory’ — said to be in line with the Indian ethos. It believes in ‘participative management’, suggests that the ‘senior’ is also a mentor and an ‘elder’, and advocates the idea that the boss-subordinate relationship extends beyond the workplace — implying that the boss ought to have some idea of the family concerns of the subordinate to understand if any personal distractions were coming in the way of the latter’s optimal performance and deal with them in a helpful manner.

The bureaucratic traditions left behind by the colonial masters made for a highly impersonal setting at the workplace that left no ground for the exercise of ’emotional intelligence’ — which is a humane concept discovered only now. Prime Minister Modi’s style of governance seemed to reflect some of these new approach points. Its view of vertical hierarchy in administration placed a certain level of accountability on the senior for any ‘failure’ of the person below and thus restored the importance of ‘supervision’ that had ceased to operate in an effective way in the earlier years.

Lack of supervisory responsibility resulted in many ills like the evasiveness of seniors in making crucial decisions, distortions in credit-sharing and political-bureaucratic nexus that bred corruption. In the PM Modi regime, there is an upward revision of accountability.

Quick decision-making, time-bound implementation of policy and involvement of all in the vertical hierarchy in the march towards the ‘mission’ set for them, constitute the mandate defined by Prime Minister Modi for those having a role in governance and this is evident in the speedy character of policy-making and delivery of projects in his regime. This is setting the turf also for the future when the ruling dispensation would be judged by its performance and not by its politics.

As India registers a steady rise in its status as a world power whose opinion matters on issues of war and peace and global economic development, it is important that those ruling the country remain well-informed on matters of national security considering the fact that we live in an era where open warfare had given way to ‘proxy wars’ and covert cross-border attacks.

Newer methods were being adopted by the adversary for weakening our country — digital media and cyberspace had opened up scope for ‘information battles’ and ‘influence warfare’.

‘Misinformation’ is an instrument of combat through social media and international lobbies often in collaboration with civil society groups at home, have taken to narrative-building and influence peddling in an attempt to run down an existing regime.

Think tanks and strategic experts may be targeted and influenced one way or the other, for this purpose. Sometimes this may throw up conflicts between freedom of expression on one hand and an adverse effect of certain activities and writings, on the other.

The role of the judiciary becomes crucial in deciding what is not valid in a plea for the exercise of human rights.

Prime Minister Modi is fully aware of the new dimensions of national security — he is aided by an extremely competent National Security Advisor.

There is a new challenge for our Intelligence agencies which had to ascertain if inimical elements were in play behind any motivated social media activity or manipulation against the national interests. Since national security is inseparable from economic security, the adversary would be planning to damage the economic lifelines, supply chains and digital infrastructure on which strategic establishments function.

All this added to the burden of our national security setup. It also gave new-found importance to inter-agency coordination between the Intelligence organisations and investigation agencies looking into terror-related or economic offences of a certain kind.

The success of the Narendra Modi government in the sphere of efficient implementation of policy decisions is of course attributable to the clarity and political boldness of the Prime Minister in the area of decision-making but equally important is the transformational improvement he has brought about in the working of the administrative machinery that was primarily responsible for quick follow up.

Prime Minister Modi has personally seen to it that senior officials were put on specific assignments on the basis of their commitment to public service, intrinsic abilities, and reputation for hard work.

There is smoothness in the relationship between Ministers and their senior team of officials for they all know the Prime Minister’s mind and understand his capacity to keep an eye on detail and on the progress being made on all projects on various fronts. The Prime Minister is on top of his administration and all Ministers and bureaucrats under his regime look up to him for guidance.

In short, Prime Minister Modi has proved that a good ‘leader’ is also a good ‘manager’ and that governance requires an ability on the part of the political executive not only to make sound decisions but also to oversee their execution by the concerned.

Notably, Prime Minister Modi is also able to act as the ‘mentor’ for those working for him. That he is capable of ‘riding a crisis’ — rather than getting overwhelmed by it — was proven by his handling of the Covid crisis and the keen interest that he has taken in the national disaster management system.

Implementation of the direct benefit transfer schemes for the less privileged on one hand and the formulation of strategies for national security, on the other, speak for a leadership that could competently handle various spheres of national life.

The call for an ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat given by Prime Minister Modi is not a mere slogan but according to him, an achievable goal for a developing nation.

Interestingly, he has risen from being a mere leader of a political party to becoming a tall leader of the nation whose contribution in all spheres of national life — economic, socio-cultural or in the field of international relations — is of an overpowering value. He governs the country with a rare combination of decisiveness and managerial acumen.

India is set to become the third largest economy with the fastest rate of growth today and credit must go significantly to the sense of drive Prime Minister Modi had instilled in the governance of a country as diverse and as full of inequalities and potential internal divides as India was. His messages of hope, emphasis on youth power, women empowerment, inclusiveness by way of seeking everybody’s ‘support’ and ‘trust’ and self-dependence in all spheres, have yielded results.

Prime Minister Modi understands that every nation needs security and economic development — in that order — and that is why his National Security Advisor plays a direct role in the framing of foreign policy. Prime Minister Modi’s personal outreach to world leaders has helped India to adopt an ‘independent’ stance on geopolitical developments. This has in turn facilitated this country’s rise as a world power whose voice mattered on issues of global peace and human development.

Prime Minister’s far-sighted approach to environmental protection — he could see it as a global security issue — is reflected in his idea of individuals making a contribution to the same through lifestyle changes and in the call of ‘LiFE’ that he gave from the platform of G20 Summit held under India’s presidency last year. Prime Minister Modi’s stature as a world leader has gone up and so has India’s position as a country on the frontline in the comity of nations.

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

–IANS

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