Modi Versus Obama: Governing Versus Golf
The government of India is considered among the worst bureaucracies of Asia, notorious for government inaction and general sloth. New Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking aim at changing the government's culture by keeping bureaucrats off the golf course and in the office.
In a report by Bloomberg News, a caddy at The Delhi Golf Club reports that he has not seen many of the regulars at the club lately, and that their decreased attendance coincided with Modi's arrival as head of state. "He expects them to be at work, not at the club," said the caddy, Sanjay. Modi is not a public enemy of golf; he has been filmed playing at campaign events himself. But he has begun a campaign to reform the way government works in India.
Keeping bureaucrats off the golf course is not the only reform Modi is expected to make, however. Bloomberg reports that the Prime Minister sent a letter via Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth requiring government workers to streamline their operations by keeping their offices clean, papers neat, and hallways unblocked.
Even more significantly, Modi has called for every agency to repeal "at least 10 rules seen as redundant, reduce the number of decision-making levels, and shorten forms to one page only." Such reforms could have a powerful impact on the speed with which the government operates, as conflicting rules often become a cause of stagnation in government projects, many of which have already stalled. The report goes on to note that $230 billion worth of investment projects still need approval from their respective agencies.
In addition to reforming the way government offices work, Modi has begun developing expansions in several other parts of government. This month, he attended the induction of the nation's largest-ever aircraft carrier into the Indian Navy, the INS Vikramaditya. The ship, formerly a Soviet maritime vessel, was commissioned by the Indian government at the end of 2013 and only fully entered the Indian military this month.
Modi's move to enforce discipline among government ranks comes at a time when India may be on the cusp of becoming involved in the continuing crisis in Iraq; forty Indian citizens were kidnapped this week while members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) stormed their cities of residence. The news of ISIS's advances developed last weekend as the White House announced President Obama's vacation to Palm Springs, California, for a golf retreat. The White House noted that the President would be "monitoring" the situation in Iraq while on the golf course.