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A tribute to Sardar

On the occasion of this year's Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, the work of Sardar Patel as the architect of unified India holds even greater relevance as India endeavours towards becoming 'Shreshtha Bharat'

A tribute to Sardar
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This week, the column is not about the reorganisation of the states but dedicated to Sardar Patel who ensured the integration of all the 562 princely states with the erstwhile provinces of British India. In fact, the process of remapping started with him. It should be clear that while India has responded positively to the aspirations of people for adjustments within the Union of India, the unity and integrity of the country are absolutely sacrosanct. The Sardar's support to the establishment of the All India Services laid the rock-solid foundation of this country which at the time of independence was under severe pressure from several quarters. He was aware of the critical role which an All India Services had to play, and in this, he included the members of the ICS who chose to remain back in India to serve the new Republic. As he said in the Constituent Assembly on October 10, 1949, "You will not have a united India if you have not a good all India service which has the independence to speak out its mind .."

It is therefore in the fitness of things that this column is paying tribute to the Sardar on the eve of the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas which is celebrated across the country. The main function is held at the Statue of Unity at Kevadia where the Prime Minister takes the salute at a parade which sees the participation of most of the uniformed services, followed by pan India cultural program, culminating in his address to the newest entrants to the Civil services at the Valediction of Aarambh.

Just to set the context, it is important to note that till last year, the civil services were being trained in three different institutions: the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy at Mussoorie and the ATIs at Bhopal and Hyderabad. The PM wanted that all civil servants should be trained together and as such the infrastructure for training all civil servants together is now underway and would have been ready, but for the Covid related work disruption. Therefore last year, while training was still held in two places, all officers came together for the Himalayan trek to Mussoorie and the Aarambh programme at Kevadia.

In the first edition of Aarambh that was held last year, the focus was on technology, governance, civil service reforms and strategies for India becoming a five trillion dollar economy. This year, because of the Covid protocols, we have created an Aarambh ecosystem right in the Academy with a prominent display of the Sardar's image at all the prominent places. Aarambh standees are also conveying the country is taking steps to be future-ready. The theme of this year's Aarambh which is 'Governance in India @100' is also reflective of our thought process for, in 2047, the 428 officers of the 95th Foundation Course, comprising eighteen services from India and three from Bhutan will be at the helm of their professional careers.

For the last two weeks, the DoPT and the Academy have tried with the new entrants, exposure to a thought-stimulating blend of idea and practice in fields that impact governance. From the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Dr PK Mishra to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the Establishment officer K Srinivas have held interactive sessions with the officers and explained the finer nuances of governance, development interventions, national priorities and project management to them.

With backgrounds in a host of academic subjects and also varied work experience, the cohort has engaged at individual and collective levels with each speaker. The three themes that encompass the proceedings of Aarambh 2020 – Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat, Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Naveen Bharat — themselves indicating a progression from a firm foundation in unity, towards self-sufficiency and then dynamic innovation and reform — also chart, for the officer trainees, the movement in time of India since her independence to the present moment which is fraught with challenges and opportunities. Aarambh 2020 thus connects with the need of the times, the mood of the moment that calls for effective solutions to problems and demands a civil service that works with integrity and efficiency. As the young officer trainees take their first steps into the world of work and duty that the civil services represent, Aarambh 2020 seeks to orient them towards thinking towards solutions and then moving on to improve existing systems. Amongst the ideas that have informed the discussions that have charged the atmosphere has been a connection to the ancient philosophy that has informed the collective culture of this country. Swaraj interpreted variously as self-governance and also 'inner-governability' and the idea of 'inner engineering', have brought home to the individual Officer Trainee the need to connect with herself as well as with her purpose as a member of the civil service and as an Indian citizen.

This year Aarambh is being held in the background of the Prime Minister's announcement of the 'Mission KaramYogi' — the Government's novel scheme for administrative reform and training which takes the opportunity for training to every government employee. It will also enable the creation of a database that maps the competencies of the assignment and the employee in order to ensure greater harmonisation and therefore, better delivery of services to the citizen — with wisdom, energy and noble intent. For just as the nation has moved many steps up the ladder in the Ease of Doing Business, the next challenge for the administration is to ensure that Ease of Living also gets mainstreamed in the everyday lives of our citizens. It is only when citizens feel fully involved and immersed in the governance and development processes that India will become 'Shreshtha Bharat'!

The writer is the Director of LBSNAA and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun

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