It’s time to do away with British systems

As told to Bhargavi Kerur

If a strict warning is issued,the bureaucrats will take it seriously and work accordingly. But all depends on the follow up actions.

The Karnataka chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa has issued a diktat to the babus in the state, warning them to pull up their socks – to improve their work behaviour and meet targets on time – or face the consequences. However, the problem lies in the fact that most of the times these diktats are not followed by concrete actions, thus rendering them insignificant. Former IT secretary of Karnataka and chairman and managing director of Brickwork India, Vivek Kulkarni, spoke to Bhargavi Kerur on the issue.

This isn't the first time that the CM has warned bureaucrats of stern action. Does this show such warnings hold no water?

Not necessarily. If a strict warning is issued, the bureaucrats will take it seriously and also work accordingly. But it all depends on the effectiveness of the follow up actions. Only a mere warning will not help.

The CM has mentioned the issue of work getting delayed. How can this be averted?

The CM has to look into realistic problems. We still rely on rules and processes that were framed during the British rule. Many of these processes are tedious and time consuming.

For instance, from the clerk to the chief secretary in Vidhana Soudha, a file goes through nearly 11 levels. And if every person takes about two days to process the file, it will take 26 working days to reach the final stage. With such system in place, delays are inevitable.

What can we do to address the delays?

Reduce the number of layers in the process. The CM has to convert those 13 layers into three layers. Even in the private firms, the decision or file goes through only three layers and that is how they are able to make quicker decisions and implement it. The CM has to go for such long-term solutions to address this long term problem.

Yeddyurappa has also told the babus to stop being busy in the meetings. Are such extensive meets avoidable?

Meetings again pose similar problems like files passing through different layers. A decision also goes through similar layers. There is a meeting held to decide the date of another meeting. Hence the bureaucrats need to have proper agenda and also follow up in action to enforce the decision.

I have observed that after a meeting takes place and a decision made, another official puts up remarks of a different kind which fails it. By the time people will have forgotten why it was taken up in the first place. Hence layers must be reduced there too.

Is this problem unique to Karnataka?

Definitely not. It is a problem unique to India because we continue to follow the old British ways of following the rules and processes.

DNA June 11, 2009