The government has ended the bureaucracy's anonymity in official files.
A new rule notified recently by the government requires civil servants to clearly write down their name and designation every time they put their signatures on an official note sheet.
The rule ends the existing practice where civil servants writing notes only mention their rank in abbreviated form. So when a file is marked to, say the joint secretary of the department of personnel & training handling vigilance, the file may record only JS (Vig). This officer puts his signature and the date with his noting before forwarding the file.
This serves the purpose as everyone else in the bureaucratic ladder knows who the joint secretary concerned is. But the exercise to identify the individual could become pretty painful a few years down the line when everyone else too has moved on. The Central Manual of Office Procedure - the babudom's Bible that spells out how a government office is to be run - has finally addressed this problem in a series of amendments carried out late in December.
"Name and designation of the government functionary should invariably be mentioned below the signature, on the note sheet," the department of administrative reforms and public grievances ruled in a 27 December office memo.
It went on to require officials to replace file covers and repair torn note sheets and discourage babus from opening new files at the drop of a hat.
"New files should not be opened, when there is already a file existing on the subject. For every year, a miscellaneous file be opened where general papers can be kept," the memo said.
The new rule also requires officers to retain changes on record that they make to letters sent out with crucial policy, financial and vigilance implications and not thrown them into the shredder.
The changes would not only help the government keep track of the government officials who made the changes but citizens - interested in understanding how the government works - too.
Retired naval officer and RTI activist Lokesh Batra welcomed the change, particularly the rule requiring bureaucrats to identify themselves by name every time they sign on file note sheets. "ordinary citizens do not otherwise know which officer proposed or introduced a change since the file only identifies the post, not the individual concerned," said Batra.