"Transparency is the key word and keep media in the loop about the Cabinet meeting decisions." That is the message from Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.
In a letter which is in possession of rediff -- to the secretaries to Government of India -- sought to spread the transparency message to bureaucrats, asking them to abandon the habit of revealing the least possible on any decisions the government takes and better ensure clear communication understandable by a common man.
It has stressed that press briefs issued on the Cabinet decisions should provide all possible details instead of yielding a bare-bone information as the government officers do by sheer bureaucratic habit they have imbibed.
Proposals sent to the Cabinet Secretariat for inclusion in the agenda for the Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) meetings are mandated to be accommodated by a draft press brief to be released once the decisions are taken.
Chandrasekhar has circulated a template detailing what all should be included in the press briefs, stressing that they should be duly approved at a sufficiently senior level before they are sent to his office. He has also sent a sample press briefs on a CCEA decision as an example of clarity in communication.
He said many press briefs about the proposals going before the Cabinet or Cabinet Committees do not bring out "essence of the proposals or highlight the details about their possible impact, implementation strategy, targets and benefits expected to be achieved through programmes and schemes".
For better communication of the decisions to the public through the media, the template circulated by the cabinet secretary seeks to provide point-wise details, background, implementation strategy and targets, major impact, experience involved, number of beneficiaries, states and districts covered, details and progress of schemes already running.
Here is the text of the letter dated June 9:
As you are aware, paragraph 24 of Annexure 1 to Cabinet Secretariat D.O. letter No.1/16/1/2000-Cab. dated 15.04.2002, stipulates that a draft press brief be sent to the Cabinet Secretariat along with the notes for consideration of the Cabinet/Cabinet Committees which is also available on the website of the Cabinet Secretariat i.e. www.cabsec.nic.in.
Further instructions regarding the manner of preparation of press briefs and their quality are contained in 0.0 letter NO.1/13/2/2008-Cab. dated 13.10.2008 addressed to all Secretaries to the Government of India.
2. As you will appreciate, a clearly worded press brief acts as a powerful tool for effective dissemination of the policies and programmes of the Government to the public. It has, however, been observed that the press briefs in respect of proposals placed before the Cabinet! Cabinet Committees do not, in many cases, bring out the essence of the proposals or highlight the details about their possible impact, implementation strategy, targets and benefits expected to be achieved through the programmes / schemes approved by the Government.
3. I would, therefore, appreciate, if you could ensure that the press briefs are prepared in the enclosed template and are duly approved at a sufficiently senior level in your Ministry/Department before they are sent to the Cabinet Secretariat. A sample release on an issue considered by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is also enclosed for your guidance."