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PMO asks ministries to submit reform plans for next 6 months as Covid hits routine work

The Prime Minister’s Office has also asked the National Disaster Management Authority to document every work carried out by ministries and states to fight Covid-19.

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New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought short-term action plans from ministries in the backdrop of several important routine government work taking a backseat amid the Covid-19 outbreak in India.

According to sources, the PMO has asked the ministries to submit 10 reforms or initiatives that they would be able to implement in six months. 

A senior government officer from one of the ministries said the responses from the ministries will have to be sent to the PMO in a detailed format. 

The officer added that the format, which has been seen by ThePrint, will have different columns for a ministry, the proposal or activities it plans to undertake, the timeline for implementing them, the resource or action required for their implementation and their envisaged outcomes. 

Most senior ministry officials and staff had been working from home or in staggered and rotational timings from office in the last few weeks as prompted by government missives. 

Since then, routine government work had taken a backseat and only the daily essential business of the ministries were conducted on emails, Whatsapp and video conferences and urgent files were cleared on e-office. 

The PMO’s decision to seek time-bound action plans could have been prompted by that, the senior officer quoted above said. “The decision to call back staff to office and the recent top level bureaucratic reshuffle, particularly in critical ministries are also aimed at that,” the officer said.   

ThePrint had earlier reported that the PMO had asked ministries to clear the backlog of the Covid-19 lockdown within 100 days. 

Since 20 April, however, ministries had been operating with full working staff above the rank of deputy secretary. 

The decision has backfired, too, in some aspects. For instance, the entire Niti Aayog building in central Delhi had been sealed Tuesday for 48 hours after a staffer tested Covid-19 positive.

Also read: Aarogya Setu is ‘priority’ as Modi govt plans big publicity campaign for its Covid work

Not the first time

This is not the first time that the Modi government has asked the ministries to make specific time-bound plans. Soon after assuming power last year, the government had tasked ministries with preparing a 100-day plan and also a five-year vision document.  

The five-year plan document was to contain well-defined targets and milestones and a significant impactful decision, which needed to be approved within the first 100 days of the government.  

The government had also released a booklet on the key and “bold initiatives” it has taken in its 100 days of governance, which included its decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and make the erstwhile state a union territory by bifurcating it from Ladakh and economic reforms undertaken by the government towards five trillion dollars economy.    

In June last year, cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha had reconstituted 10 sectoral groups of secretaries to finalise the five-year vision document for each ministry/department with annual sub-plans, timelines and milestones, presentations on many of which have been made to the council of ministers. These 10 groups of secretaries were first constituted in 2016 for focused attention on key areas of governance.  

According to this ET report, the PMO has recently divided its work into 15 Cells and distributed the responsibility of each of the cells among its five top officers. 

Also read: Are India’s poor social distancing? Niti Aayog to survey over 100 districts to find out

PMO wants NDMA to document Covid-19 work in ministries, states

In a separate development, the PMO has also asked the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to document all the work carried out by ministries and states to fight Covid-19.  

An order issued by the PMO on 16 April, and marked to all secretaries in the Central government and chief secretaries of states, had said that in view of Covid-19, NDMA should document “all decisions/activities” undertaken by the central government, states and union territories in collaboration with voluntary sector to “contain the epidemic”. 

Another senior officer said that different states are taking different actions and steps to fight the pandemic unique to their needs. “Documenting them will help in future references, as and when required,” the officer said. 

Also read: ‘Thank you PM Modi’: Govt’s flagship schemes get publicity on DD amid Covid-19 crisis


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