India embarks on landmark civil service capacity-building reform

By on 08/09/2020
PM Narendra Modi says the reforms will “radically improve” the government’s human resource management practices. (Image courtesy: The Kremlin).

The Indian government has unveiled a major reform programme that will radically reshape the way civil servants are trained and developed and create what the country’s home minister described as a “new work culture”.

The Union Cabinet, the supreme decision-making body in India, approved the reform programme – called ‘Mission Karmayogi’ or the National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB) –  on 2 September.

Mission Karmayogi is a government-wide, holistic approach to civil servant training and career development. It will include an annual capacity building plan for all departments with the aim of ensuring efficient service delivery; the setting of benchmarks to encourage and monitor civil servants’ development; and a focus on technology-based learning.

Ministries will be tasked with ‘co-creating a common learning ecosystem’ and will be encouraged to break down departmental silos.  

The programme is designed for civil servants from the rank of assistant section officer to secretary across all departments, covering 4.6 million government employees. It is expected to cost 5.1bn Indian rupees (US$69m) over the next five years.

‘Radical improvement’

In a tweet, prime minister Narendra Modi said the reforms will “radically improve” the government’s human resource management practices.

In announcing the programme, Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the aim is to continuously build capacity, update the talent pool and provide equal opportunities for the personal and professional growth of officials at all levels.

“Mission Karmayogi is an endeavour to reincarnate a government servant as an ideal karmayogi to serve the nation, by enabling him to be creative, to be constructive, to be proactive and technically empowered,” he said.  

The Hindi word karmayogi roughly translates as the practice of ‘selfless action performed for the benefit of others’.   

The aim, Singh added, “is also to end the culture of working in the silos” and to “overcome the multiplicity of training curriculum which we have because of the institutions spread all over the country”.

The home minister Amit Shah called the programme a “landmark for the 21st century” that would bring about transformational change in the civil service. He said the “comprehensive scheme” would “focus on the individual as well as institutional capacity building”, create a new work culture and that its goal-driven nature and focus on continuous training would empower civil servants “to ensure accountability and transparency in the system”.  

He added: “This reform will not only provide a mechanism for government functionaries to improve their own performance but also enable them to fulfil and live up to the aspirations of a ‘New India’.”

Steering bodies

Four new entities will be established to steer the programme: the Prime Minister’s Public Human Resources Council; the Capacity Building Commission; a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will own and operate associated digital assets, including the soon to be built Integrated Government Online Training – or ‘(iGOT)-Karmayogi’ – platform; and a coordination unit, which will be headed by the cabinet secretary.

The Prime Minister’s Public Human Resources Council will be headed by Modi and will comprise ministers, academics, HR practitioners, global thought leaders, and public service officials.

Each department will contribute 430 Indian rupees (US$5.80) per employee as a subscription charge for the SPV, which will be set up as a not-for-profit company and will own and manage the iGOT-Karmayogi platform.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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