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Manmohan missive to CMs, Nehru-style

New Delhi, July 18: Reviving a tradition set by Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has written to the chief ministers, sharing with them his priorities in government and urging them to make administration both effective and transparent.

“Reforms in the processes of governance should engage the immediate attention of both the central and state governments. It will involve energising institutions of governance and ensuring accountability in the provision of public services, transparency in handling of public funds and aligning incentives with desired outcomes,” Singh said in his three-page letter.

Reforming the flabby and often ineffective government machinery is on top of Singh’s agenda. Ever since he took over, Singh has spent long hours formulating ways to make delivery systems — in layman’s language, the chains going down from where policy is formulated to its final implementation — more efficient.

He understands that policies may be excellent, but unless they reach the target groups, they are meaningless. The administration’s tool is the bureaucracy, which has to be streamlined and ordered to deliver.

Moreover, unless the states co-operate in implementing the Centre’s policies, they cannot succeed. “While the government at the Centre can generate funds for development programmes, their success is dependent on the efficacy of implementation, which is entirely in your (the chief ministers’) hands,” he wrote.

Singh said the people want governments to pay attention to development issues. Despite considerable progress in the last two decades, much remains to be done.

“Our unfinished tasks include some that Jawaharlal Nehru flagged (off) for us at the time of our Independence — to end poverty, illiteracy, disease and inequality of opportunity.” All this required a committed administration and chief ministers to take on the role of “visionary” leaders, he said.

The Prime Minister advised the chief ministers against constantly changing bureaucrats in key positions in the administration as stability of tenure was important for effective implementation of plans and programmes chalked out by the government.

“Challenges of law and order as well as development require stability of tenure of officials in key positions. Frequent transfers of public servants have a debilitating impact not only on their performance and morale, but also on the whole process of governance,” he wrote.

Singh mentioned a large number of development projects, “the implementation of which leaves much to be desired”.

He advised the chief ministers to identify these programmes, rationalise them and fix a deadline for completion. “We need to give specific timelines for delivery on key development goals and be held publicly accountable for them.”

Singh, the father of economic reforms in India, stated: “We need to make our process of economic reforms inclusive, both at the Centre and in the states.”

To do this, his government is laying greater stress on agriculture through increased public investment and effective strategies for employment generation. And keeping in mind the Left support to his government, the Prime Minister said the government must keep in mind the interests of labour, both in the organised and unorganised sectors.

The agenda of the UPA government reflected its commitment to the concerns of the common man, he said, pointing out that the 2004-05 budget has substantially increased allocations for agriculture, water harvesting, education, health, employment, nutrition and rural industries.

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