They may be the top guns managing the state’s day-to-day affairs, but for the 30 senior bureaucrats who attended a recent brainstorming session, it was a time for lessons.
Saturday’s informal huddle at Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), Pune, was aimed at “improving performance” and developing a “shared vision for the state”, said chief secretary DK Sankaran. Officials also admitted that the retreat was an attempt to shed the staid bureaucratic image in place of a more corpo- rate one.
Management guru Gurcharan Das kicked off the session with an interactive lecture on “problem solving as senior managers”. Known for his management ses- sions, Das has been very vocal with his opinions on the bureaucracy, es pecially the need to overhaul the system.
The session also had a discussion on strategising missions and goals for the bu- reaucracy, a report on performance of certain departments by YASHADA’s director- general Ratnakar Gaikwad and a presenta- tion on malnutrition — a sore point for the state bureaucracy — by V. Ramani, direc- tor-general of the state-run Nutrition and Health Mission.
Sankaran also presented a future roadmap for improving state affairs and corporatising essential services. “It was an opportunity to get together and discuss issues that we face every day,” said bu reaucrat Sanjay Ubale. “Most of us function as sen ior managers, and in this capacity, we can improve on the old ways of functioning,” he added.
Other participants included Subodh Kumar, principal secretary, finance, Aziz Khan, principal secretary, medical education and Jayant Kawale, sec retary, co-operatives. While Gurcharan Das avoided comment on the session to keep the trust between the “public and private sector intact”, bureaucrats made no bones about needing an image change. The bureaucracy has been facing tough times, especially on its handling of various crises, from last year’s Mumbai deluge to the bird flu outbreak.
Consequently, the state secretariat has been making efforts to improve its image and better its response systems. For instance, IAS officials were sent on field duty to co-ordinate and head hospitals during the recent blasts. More such brainstorming sessions will be organised to keep IAS officers on their toes.
However, not all are happy with the introspective sessions. “I think we are just addressing superficial problems. The rot is far deeper. How do we get more professional, when despite all talk of ‘paperless offices’, large reams of correspondence within departments and across offices are done via post?” asked a senior official.
Official lessons The session included an interactive lecture on “problem solving as senior managers” There was also a discussion on strategising missions and goals for the bureaucracy and a report on the performance of certain departments A presentation on malnutrition was also made.