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No extended weekend for Modi’s ministers, officers

Though open to ideas exchange, the ministers are not too happy with the long hours that they will have to sit through.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2016 19:16 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Narendra Modi

While most of the government staff will be off for an extended weekend the ministers and officials will review their work and share ideas on governance and economy.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Friday will be a grind for cabinet ministers and their senior officers, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the charge.

While most of the government staff will be off for an extended weekend – Janmashtami is a government holiday, throw in a leave on Friday and the week is taken care of – the ministers and officials will review their work and share ideas on governance and economy.

At around 11am, all the 27 cabinet ministers and around 1,300 officers -- of the rank of joint secretary and above – are expected at Vigyan Bhawan to hear Singapore’s deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam speak on India in the Global Economy.

The lecture, organised by the government think tank, Niti Aayog, will be followed by a four-hour panel discussion, with ministers and officers exchanging ideas on economy, governance and development with the Singaporean leader.

Their next stop will be Parliament Library building, where at 5.30pm, another four-hour session will begin. Modi, who is still to take a day off after taking over as the prime minister two years ago, will review the implementation of budgetary and cabinet decisions by various ministries.

“It is going to be a gruelling day for us with two back to back five-hour meetings. While the review meeting is a regular feature, the lecture by a visiting foreign dignitary followed by an interactive discussion is the first of its kind,” a senior minister told HT on condition of anonymity.

Shanmugaratnam’s talk is the first of an annual lecture series on Transforming India, proposed by Modi to bring in international personalities to share their experiences and ideas on India. Chief ministers, too, are invited but there is no confirmation on how many of them would be in Delhi on Friday.

Shanmugaratnam, an ethnic Tamil politician who also holds the finance portfolio, is something of a rock star in the city-state and is often referred to as an “economic Tsar”.

Educated at London School of Economics, Cambridge and Harvard, the 59-year-old has served as Singapore’s education minister and also worked at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator.

“The idea is to broaden the vision of officers in terms of influencing policy. It will be interesting to hear about how a small country like Singapore turned into a hub of banking and financial services,” a secretary in one of the infrastructure ministries said.

Shanmugaratnam is not the only Singaporean politician to have impressed the PM. Modi is an admirer of Singapore’s founder and first premier Lee Kuan Yew. Modi visited Singapore last year for Lee’s funeral, describing him as “among the tallest leaders of our times”.

Though open to ideas exchange, the ministers are not too happy with the long hours that they will have to sit through.

And before they call it a day, the ministers will also have to share their Tiranga Yatra experience with the PM and colleagues. The ministers, in response to PM’s call, fanned across the country, carrying the Tricolour, or Tiranga, to celebrate India’s 70 Independence Day to create awareness and instil a sense of patriotism.