In a first, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday met secretaries of all the government departments collectively and asked them to directly get in touch with him to resolve policy issues and expedite decision-making.
Modi held a three-hour-long marathon meeting here with them with intent of giving the bureaucracy a greater role in decision-making with thrust on transparency and speedy and effective governance. To ensure that implementation of decisions and programmes are not stuck in “red-tape”, he asked secretaries to call him or e-mail him directly for suggestions or intervention required in resolving issues or expeding decisions, sources said.
During the meeting, first by a prime minister directly with all the secretaries without ministers, Modi made initial remarks and then asked secretaries to raise issues. About 25 secretaries spoke on the sectoral issues under their responsibility.
“Discussions focused more on making governance more effective,” a source said. In all, 77 top bureaucrats, including finance secretary Arvind Mayaram, home secretary Anil Goswami, defence secretary Radha Krishna Mathur and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, were called for the meeting.
People with knowledge of the meeting said 16 groups were formed by clubbing related ministries. All finance ministry departments were grouped together, while secretaries of energy-related departments—power, coal, oil, mines and atomic energy—were put together.
Agriculture and related departments were clubbed under one head, while the infrastructure group comprised of railways, telecom, roads, civil aviation, shipping and posts. The sources said the prime minister illustrated what kind of work he expected them to perform. No presentation was made by the secretaries.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth made the inital remarks. After that those who spoke included finance secretary Mayaram, Power Secretary P.K. Sinha, heavy industries secretary Sutanu Behuria and DoPT secretary S.K. Sarkar, the people said.
Previously, the secretaries had been asked to prepare a 10-minute presentation for the prime minister listing successes and failures of the past regime as well as points of action for the next five years. That process may start on Thursday.
Notes of finance ministry officials for the meeting with the prime minister included inflation, fiscal consolidation, controlling the current account deficit, clarity on tax administration and disinvestment in non-core sectors like steel and cement.
Liberalizing the FDI policy in defence, e-commerce retail, railways and construction development and hurdles in land acquisition and cumbersome project clearances topped the agenda of commerce secretary Rajeev Kher.
Updates on the monsoon and a new insurance scheme to protect farmers from crop failure figured on agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna’s notes, while the consumer affairs department was concerned about rising onion prices.
While the oil ministry went with a list of pending decisions, including an increase in natural gas prices which was due on 1 April, the power ministry cited round-the-clock power supply and easing of fuel shortages as its top focus. Divestment of stake in PSUs such as Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) and opening of closed mines were the focus areas for the steel and mines ministry.