Email, Egov and Ego

Last month I wrote about ‘the Government’s e-mail cover’-the anonymous
‘designation’ e-mail addresses bureaucrats hide behind, instead of the
name-linked addresses the world uses. Few bureaucrats read their mail.

I got some quick response to this from bureaucrats. “You’ve
over-simplified…my colleagues won’t touch their e-mail, whatever the e-mail
address. Some get their PAs to print out e-mails, give it to them in a file, and
once in a while scribble responses to be typed in by the PA next week… most
ignore their email altogether.”

Another said: “It would be nice to have personal addresses. But how will you
get us to use email? Why would I increase my work? What’s the incentive for me
to take initiative or perform?”

Well. After many pay commissions and hikes, there is still no performance
based appraisal system for the bureaucracy, recommended for several decades, and
a standard part of the corporate world. There is not much incentive to perform.

Here’s a long and passionate response from a senior bureacrat:

“With our economy growing at nine percent, we face many related issues. When
I joined the IAS over three decades ago, our finance secretary would tell me
that it is easy to manage deficit, but very difficult to manage growth. That
hasn’t changed.

“I believe that infrastructure and bureaucracy will be the biggest roadblocks
to our growth story. It’s possible to tackle infrastructure with today’s tools,
including the PPP model.

But it is very, very difficult to handle the bureaucracy. Post 1991, major
changes were expected, but we do not see much effect on the ground. This is an
area of serious concern. First, there is the mindset. And then, no one wants to
part with power.

“With power comes the lack of transparency. After 60 years of independence,
we now needed a Right to Information Act! This is ironical. Democracy is
supposed to be a government of,
for, and by the people. We are far from it. The RTI is testimony to how
bureaucrats enjoy power and its benefits, by not letting the people know what is
their legitimate right.

“The gap is not technology. We have the tools. But e-governance first needs
good governance, and that must be preceded by governance. We are not governing
the way we should. Unless something drastic happens, our growth story will fall
by the wayside. It will be a very sad day indeed, for after so many decades, I
do feel proud when people look at our country with envy and wonder. The first
three letters of eGovernance spell ego. Let us see how fast we shed these three

I have little to add to that.

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