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Civil Service 2020: Anil Swarup’s Making Things Happen in the Government

Anil Swarup

(“In the coal sector, the mining is underground and the Mafia is above ground. In the education sector, it is the other way round” – Anil Swarup. Image source:

This is an interesting presentation titled “Making Things Happen in the Government” by Mr Anil Swarup who is a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Uttar Pradesh and who in his 38 years of career has served in various capacities which included Secretary of School Education of India.

This presentation was organised for the Puducherry senior civil servants by the Lt. Governor Puducherry Dr. Kiran Bedi who retired Indian Police Service officer and is going great job governing Puducherry

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One of the interesting examples that he gave was on Education changes when he was the Education Secretary of India. It was when the Indian Government of the day was looking at education system from other countries like Finland – sound very familiar?

On the seminar, Dr Maszlee said it was the best platform for the Malaysian teaching workforce to learn from Finland on teaching and learning towards improving the country’s education system.

This, he said, would be in line with the country’s effort to promote high quality education and become one of the three best countries in international standard assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

“The exchange of ideas and knowledge between Finland and Malaysia can bring Malaysia on par with Finland in various disciplines of knowledge, including training for teachers, as well as creating a more conducive environment for learning,” he added. — Bernama


Anil Swarup instead decided to look back and see how the hard working teachers in India are doing great job entrusting education to the minds of children.

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Anil Swarup’s fine example of how he went down to the grounds and visiting rural schools for information that can be formed into models for changes in the education system was fabulous:-

When I came here a year ago, I saw that we are always looking for solutions across the globe from Iceland to Finland. But we hadn’t looked at India.

So I decided to travel across India, and have done 24 states so far, driving from Pune to Goa, Srinagar to Kargil and Bastar to Sukma. I found amazing solutions there which need to be noticed, recognised and replicated.

I gathered 111 best practices and had a seven-day long workshop for ideation. We found 25 projects were replicable and went back to the states to showcase them in roadshows.

We found stunning examples of individual brilliance. Like Pashtepada in Maharashtra where there is no electricity and no wi-fi and yet a driven teacher Sandip Gund has created a totally digital classroom with a second-hand laptop. He raised resources and got two tablets.

Now every child has a laptop there which they are charging on solar panels. This has become the model for 60,000 schools.

Similarly, on a visit to Lucknow we had the midday meal and found it so fabulous that we had to inquire who was behind it. We were told it was Akshay Patra and found they serve midday meals to 1.5 million children.

After our intervention to help them get more space and funding (through the Uttar Pradesh government and Coal India) they can now serve three million children.


And venturing further on the issue of Education, this was series of questions and answers by Anil Swarup that was reported in IndiaSpend that touches similar situation that Malaysia also facing that worth reading:-

The approach that we are now trying to adopt is that vocational training should be suited to the requirement of that area.

So, like in Delhi, we feel that if you train him in some IT (information technology) application, they will be employed. Doing that in a remote village in Keonjhar district, that won’t happen.

What we are trying to do is–and Wadhaani Foundation is helping us here–a survey with regard to what is the employment requirement of the next five years. And accordingly structure the vocational training. So it will be demand-based rather than supply-based.

You train anybody in something, and he is not employed. So probably in hospitality sector it will be more beneficial in Odisha than in the IT sector. Geriatric care might be something that is required.

New sectors are emerging, and through the survey we get to know what is the requirement. So now we are trying to do this, and a couple of experiments have succeeded in actually determining what the requirement is.

We launched five national workshops where these models were displayed for states, so that they could be scaled and replicated.

You know a guy sitting, say, in Rajasthan would not know what is happening in Maharashtra. But I know that’s happening in Maharashtra so if I do a workshop in Pune and call the Rajasthan guys over and take them around, there is no reason why they will not adopt it. Similarly when the Maharashtra people, say, see the anganwadi in Rajasthan and the children coming to school, they will adopt it.

These ideas are not imported from Finland, England, Swaziland or Poland, they are homeland ideas where these models are implemented. Nothing else can carry more conviction.


Certainly nothing that Mr Anil Swarup has mentioned is new.

malaysian civil service

(The ratio of civil servants against the population in Malaysia compared to other countries. Image source:

In Malaysia, it is a fact that we have a bloated civil service and there have been calls to reduce them as it has been inefficient and expense for the Government to maintain. Worse, there have been claims that they are also sabotaging the effort of the Pakatan Harapan Government. On the surface, there seems to be more of quantity compared to quality.

One cannot wait for Pakatan Harapan politicians to get things going. At the end, it falls on the civil servants to formulate, implement and enforce policies, provisions of the law and instructions in the best interest of the country & the people. And they need to do it without any fear or favour and without any preference to race or religion.

In Malaysia, we too have senior and retired civil servants in Malaysia who have done a lot on improvement for the country. The more prominent G25 who is made of retired senior civil servants is one of them and they have been in the news whenever there are serious shortcomings in the administration of the country.

Members of G25 are primed to be the mentors for the current, young, inexperienced civil servants who do things wrong well knowing that it is wrong or who had imposed their own values of religion & morals or who has simply followed instructions from dumb politicians without any considerations.

And I simply love G25’s motto – In Pursuit of a Peaceful, Tolerant, Moderate, Multi-Racial Malaysia, Through Compassion, Mercy, Justice and Democracy.

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