Sixty years of excellence
Dr Jitendra Singh marked the Diamond Jubilee of LBSNAA, interacting with officer-trainees as well as employees of the Academy
"Sixty years in the life of an institution are quite different from sixty years in the life of an individual. For an individual, the countdown has certainly begun – but for an institution, especially an institution dedicated to learning, it is just a milestone, albeit a significant one." Thus, spoke Dr Jitendra Singh in his remarkably witty, lucid and frank interaction with the officer-trainees of the 94th FC at LBSNAA, as well as employees of the Academy last week (September 1) on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Academy. He also flagged off a cycle rally for 'Eat Right Campaign' by the newly established 'Safe Planet' initiative of the Academy in collaboration with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), inaugurated the Physiotherapy centre at the Wellness Centre, witnessed the signing of an MoU between the Academy and the All India Institute of Ayurvedic education for the establishment of an Ayurvedic Treatment Centre at the Academy, launched a Primer of rhymes in Hindi and English for the children of the Lalita Shastri Balwadi, and last but not the least, released the special first-day cover on the Academy brought out by the Chief Post Master General (CPMG) of Uttarakhand, Colonel Sukhdev Raj.
Dr Jitendra Singh was at the Academy to mark the Diamond Jubilee of LBSNAA – an institution established in 1959 by the Government of India by amalgamating the Metcalfe House Training School in Delhi and the IAS Staff College at Shimla to the Charleville Hotel and Happy Valley grounds. It was then called the National Academy of Administration. In 1972, it was named after the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and became the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration. It got its present nomenclature, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in 1973. The Academy has grown from strength to strength over the last six decades, and with the formal permission to establish a nine hundred seat auditorium, it will be able to host the entire civil services batch of six hundred fifty-odd officer-Trainees selected by the UPSC through the Civil Services and the Forest Service examination. It may be mentioned that the Prime Minister is keen that all the young recruits train together for the development of esprit de corps, and this was reiterated by Dr Jitendra Singh. Departing from the prepared text, he spoke candidly about how civil services, especially the Collectors and Magistrates, were perceived in the past, but how this must change with the advent of democratic polity which was committed to the twin objectives of making India a $5 trillion economy as well as the transformation of the aspirational districts.
The main takeaways from his session included the need to bridge the trust deficit by changing the colonial mindsets, adoption of technology in governance, zero tolerance to corruption and the need for being accessible. These were the mantras for a successful administrator. Let us dwell on each of these in some detail.
With regard to a trust deficit, he mentioned that simple yet transformative steps like self-attestation had made life so much easier for people who lived in the interior and did not have access to gazetted officers or public notaries. Not only had this reduced paperwork substantially, but it also empowered the citizen. With regard to the protection from arbitrary action against the civil services, he mentioned changes in the relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and the inclusion of the element of Mens Rea (guilty intent) in the determination of prosecution. This was an issue which had been agitating the minds of civil servants, especially after the sentencing of HC Gupta in the coal-related transactions. He also mentioned the repeal of nearly 1500 outdated Acts from the statute book, which had long outlived their utility. With regard to technology, he was clear that over the next few years, almost all transactions of the citizen would be online, and with POS and DBT in place, it would be possible to eliminate corruption from all aspects of governance. And while the government was willing to extend its trust, any wilful default would also be met with stringent action. Last but not least, he exhorted officers to be accessible to all, especially those who needed them the most. While the social base of the entrants was indeed more representative than before, the general impression that officers are not willing to 'listen' to the grievances of the common man was a concern that needed to be addressed – the sooner, the better.
Earlier, in his address to the employees of the Academy, where he also distributed 'watches' to the employees, he complimented them for running a very successful training institution which was indeed one of the finest exemplars of its kind in the world. He also lauded the efforts of the Academy in the Swachh Bharat Mission and hoped that the example set by this institution would be followed by others as well.
An interesting anecdote narrated by him bears recall. Just after independence, the ICS (British) Collector of Hyderabad was invited for a reception, and he took the young Assistant Magistrate with him. While recusing himself from the party, he told his younger colleague to refrain from taking any dish with 'salt' in it: the implication is that one must not offend the host by declining the invite, one should not accept 'unrestrained hospitality' from any individual. The message was conveyed with deliberate nuance and subtlety!
(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)