A top taxman has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that corruption was a big challenge in the customs & excise department, prompting the PM to direct senior civil servants to come down heavily on officers who step out of line, HT has learnt.
Modi told Central Board of Customs and Excise (CBEC) chairman Najib Shah and top civil servants at a meeting on Wednesday that they should take strict action against officers who do not redress public grievances or are corrupt. The action, the PM said, could include their dismissal.
The meeting was convened to assess the performance of ministries in dealing with public grievances. When Modi noted that the CBEC had quite a few grievances, Shah linked the flood of grievances to instances of corruption within the department.
Modi minced no words.
The PM advised the CBEC – and all departments – to set up a monitoring cell for public grievances at a senior level and take strict action against those who fail to perform.
“Complaints of harassment are being received and this continues to be a challenge for the department,”revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia told HT.
“I personally handled three complaints in last one month which were sent to me by cabinet secretariat and finance minister’s office and we took a strict action against those officers,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that the Prime Minister has sent out a “perform or perish” message to civil servants.
But government officials said it might not be as easy to sack officers within the existing legal framework that heavily leans in favour of the employees. It could, however, force civil servants to take public grievances lot more seriously than currently.
Besides, it takes far too long. A study by the Central Vigilance Commission last year had revealed that it took an average of eight years to take a disciplinary proceeding against an officer to its logical conclusion.
Several bodies including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have recommended diluting the protection for employees under the Constitution but there has been no political unanimity on this count.