It was a day of unprecedented gloom for many in central government ministries and departments, particularly the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Sunday, as no less than the Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and MSME – Nitin Gadkari himself took to thrashing non-performing and inefficient babus/bureaucrats of the NHAI. Mincing no words, the Union Minister launched a brutal takedown of what he referred to as lazy and ‘negative’ elements in the department, who do nothing but create hurdles for ongoing projects by indulging in unique techniques of red-tapism.
Nitin Gadkari has been pushing for major reforms within the NHAI for quite some time now, however, all nudges by his ministry have been falling unto deaf ears. Having had just about enough, Gadkari on Sunday announced that he would be taking upon himself the seemingly nasty work of straightening lousy and inefficient employees, adding that the Union Ministry and he himself would now oversee termination, suspension and removal of guilty officials. Those found to be behaving like non-performing assets would be compulsorily retired, Gadkari warned. Earlier this year too, the minister had sought a list of non-performing officials who would then be shown the exit door.
Nitin Gadkari revealed that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has become a breeding ground for inefficient officials who are creating hurdles and referring every matter to committees, and it was time to ‘suspend’ and ‘terminate’ them and bring in reforms in its functioning. The Union Minister was addressing an event to inaugurate a new building of NHAI headquarters in Dwarka. On the occasion, the Minister took to exposing how it took 10 years for the organisation to complete the construction of a mere building. “Non-performing assets (NPAs) not worth of doing even vermiculture are preserved here and being promoted… I feel ashamed at the attitude of such officials who are carrying such legacies…They are delaying decisions and creating complications and at the helm, these are CGMs (Chief General Managers) and GMs (General Managers) sitting for years,” the Union Minister said. He added that the building project for which tender was awarded in 2011, took almost nine years to complete and saw seven NHAI chairmen and two governments pass by.
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In a bid to publicly expose those involved in such mammoth delays of a simple project, Gadkari suggested that their pictures be put up at the new building premises. He said, “Finally it (the building) could be completed during the tenure of the eighth Chairman (SS Sandhu)…A research paper should be prepared on this classic case of delay with photographs of CGMs (Chief General Managers) and GMs (General Managers) who were behind the delays…There should be a ceremony to make their names and photos public like the ministry does to facilitate those who do exceptionally good work.”
The Union Minister also subtly indicated to the NHAI officials the level of dedication and efficiency he would require from the department hereon, by invoking the example of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, which has been envisaged to be completed under 3 years. “We say with pride that we will complete the Delhi-Mumbai expressway in two to three years. It is worth ₹ 80,000 to 1 lakh crore. But it took so many years to complete this project of ₹ 250 crores,” Gadkari said. He added, “We have been unable to identify performance bottlenecks. Many committees were formed, they gave their report. But these corrupt, inept and lazy people of NHAI are so powerful that despite orders, they take wrong decisions.” Due to the same, Nitin Gadkari will now personally oversee the tightening of lethargic and lousy babus who work in a contemptuously casual manner.
This was perhaps the very first time that an all-out offensive of such a magnitude against inefficient and lethargic bureaucrats was launched by a Union Minister himself. Needless to say, the public rebuke of the NHAI by Nitin Gadkari would have sent shockwaves across government departments and ministries. The straightening up of bureaucrats is a prerequisite for the Modi government to ensure that its policies and schemes benefit the last man standing. By the looks of it, work in that direction has started bombastically.