Critical analysis of responsiveness of DMs to citizens’ needs

Collins and Porras’s (1991) model states that a single vision statement of an entity consists of three parts, viz., core values, core purpose, and big hairy audacious goal. Core values are values that one never compromises. Individuals (herein, the DM) have core values and public administrations also have them. It is essential to ensure that there are no value dilemmas in the individual leader (herein, DM) and the public service he/she is in. Authors emphasize that a vivid description of the same is the characteristic differentiator element of extraordinarily successful organizations or institutions from others. Figure 2.1 (and Table 2.1) clearly anchored the value of public administration to the constitutional values of the country. Interestingly, we also found that the constitution values and principles of all the 15 democratic countries that were compared were similar, humane values. Further, in the Indian context, these were clearly laid down in the civil service values (see Table 5.1).

In our observation, not only the DCs of both the districts studied had these values in them. Fortunately, their spouses too had aligned themselves with the public service values. Conversely, we also have come across senior public administrators having misalignment of values resulting in the citizens suffering. So, it is critical for the government to ensure that its human resource processes, such as recruitment and selection of civil servants, take the same into account. It is also pertinent to constantly remind the generalist public administrative bureaucrats i.e., IAS of their civil service values and need to adhere to the same. In our experience, the efficiency and productivity of district administration tends to stand on a much higher plane when these two values (i.e., individual and civil service) merge.

Both the DMs under study showed a remarkable connectedness to the constitutional values. It is clear from their sense of purpose as the DM of their respective districts. Nishant Warwade, DC, Bhopal district said:

everyday morning when I wake up .... I tell myself that District Collector position is a rare opportunity for me to contribute ... and 1 should not let that go away.

Dr. Prashant Narnaware made clear about his intent when he entered the services back in 2009, as he said.

People always asked me why 1 wanted to serve the society when I had a lucrative career as a dentist ahead. I want to prove to them that by becoming a public servant, I can make my life much more meaningful.

Table 5.1 List of Civil Service Values in India

5. No

Civil Service Values with Their Meanings

1

Adaptability is flexibility as opposed to rigidity. An adaptable person is not someone who is opportunist but a person with openness and receptivity.

2

Commitment is one’s ability to act deliberately “on purpose.” It does include how consciously one is able to make decisions consistently and work hard towards them with one’s personal and professional goals and values.

3

Courage of conviction includes the ability to take a stand when faced with opposition.

4

Decisiveness is the ability to make a firm decision even under uncertain conditions and stand by it.

5

Empathy is the ability to honor another person’s feelings and point of view.

6

Excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good as opposed to mediocre.

7

Integrity is the person’s tendency to be honest, dependable, trustworthy, and reliable.

8

Service orientation means, constantly focusing on a customer (herein, people of the society) in all areas of your profession - philosophy, goals and visions, customer support, etc.

9

Transparent implies a person who has no hidden agenda and one can easily see through the person. It is opposed to secretive.

10

Trust means that one can believe that that someone is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.

11

Unbiased and judicious means that the person shows no prejudice for or against something and is impartial.

Source'. Collated and compiled by the authors.

Exemplary leadership by the DMs: Erstwhile literature on administration was hesitant in differentiating between managers and leaders. In 1977, Zaleznik, in a work titled “managers and leaders: are they different” summed up the major differences between them in the following four parameters - attitude towards goals, conceptions of work, relations with others, and a sense of self. In our view, an excellent DM is someone who reflects both these qualities on a need basis. We observed that, under normal circumstances, the DM should be able to display all the traits of a manager while dealing with their political bosses. It implies that with their bosses they typically avoid conflict, act responsibly, do things right, execute plans and focus on things. On the other hand, with their subordinates in the district collectorate office they reflect leadership qualities, such as focusing on people, empowering them, articulating a shared vision, doing the right things, and useing influence and conflicts positively.

For instance, we observed that DM of Bhopal, Nishant Warwade’s attitude toward the goals with his bosses during the Kisan Andolan situation was to listen, take an impersonal passive outlook, appreciate the necessities (compulsions) behind the goal, and execute plans. In the same case, before his subordinates and peers, Nishant took a personal active outlook. In tact, to our knowledge, he stretched himself to curtail his sleep to a few hours and was there at the BHEL Maidan to motivate his team members. His goals arose out of desire to succeed, and he articulated his vision to his subordinates after taking in their inputs.

In terms of conceptions of work, when dealing in the Railway Overbridge (Flyover) case, DM Bhopal, Nishant was balancing the opposing views of Chief Secretary' and the Indian Railways. Given the compulsions at the ground on the need for an urgent railway overbridge, he also designed compromises, limited the choices, and avoided unnecessary risks. When dealing on the ground with the staff, the same DM Bhopal for the same overbridge, developed fresh approaches to resolve stakeholder issues, acted decisively with the illegal occupants, and took calculated risks during the creation of resettlement plan.

While dealing with elected public representatives, the DM Osmanabad, Prashant Narnaware in the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan case, acted responsibly and took care to avoid conflicts. On the other hand, to enable success of the watershed campaign, he used constitutional provisions and authority. He even acted decisively with one of the noncompliant subordinates. In the Cattle Fodder case, the Osmanabad DC reflected relations with bosses by maintaining minimal emotional involvement, keeping the principles of “rule of law” as the key reference and by focusing on how decisions are made rather than what decisions are made. While dealing with bankers who did not lend credit as per the priority' sector lending norms, he invoked “the rule under the law” to take defaulting bankers to task. On the other hand, with his own district staff, he used to relate to them directly, intuitively, and empathetically. He would also control them, direct, and coordinated with employees.

Often the governments have audacious goals at the district level as reflected in many schemes and programs. It is the sense of purpose and passion in a DM and his/her ability to implement them with a detailed plan and bring the key stakeholders to share the vision and plan to implement them successfully. Most importantly, these are to be widely shared by the DM and the elected public representatives of the district with stakeholders of the district. Our field experiences and detailed case studies show that both the Bhopal and Osmanabad DCs had the buy-in from the public representatives, through different routes. And hence both were successful in implementing their plans in each set of four cases.

While both the DMs fared well when assessed on the standard tools of PODSCORB, Competency Assessment Framework and Stakeholder Mappings, both seemed to operate more dynamically than the simplistic framework that has been presented. They however showed four common features viz., immense clarity of purpose; effective communication of the purpose and methods of execution; high degree of coordination by developing trust among stakeholders; and meticulous convergence of schemes, programs, and expertise.

Despite the extraordinary' efforts put in by the two DMs especially on the development projects, the impact of these interventions on the sustainability of people in the district is questionable. In the case of the Osmanabad district (with specific reference to the awareness campaign to stop farmer suicide to campaign for agriculture revolution), the cases of fanner suicides in the district did not come down drastically as much as one would expect. The net income for farmers did not grow substantially and the sustainability of the farmer corporates would be in question. Similarly, the success rate ofSamarpan in other districts did not have the kind of impact it had in districts of Hoshangabad or Bhopal. How do we reconcile with this phenomenon associated with the extra-ordinary efforts that many young IAS officers put in as District Collectors across India?

 
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