How the Bureaucracy Harms the National Interests

The Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council in India and later Secretary of War in England in the second half of the 19th century, Macaulay, whom the British called as Lord was the draftsman of the  remarkably structured Indian Penal Code. He visualised the civil service as a body of young men with outstanding intellectual abilities and values. He in his report in1864 that paved the way for streamlining the recruitment for and training of the members of the Indian Civil Service. The foundation he laid stressed the qualities of discipline and integrity. In the early years of Independence both Prime Minister Nehru and Home Minister Patel nursed the civil services with reasonable care as they constituted a vital and dependable machinery to push through with the various reforms that India needed at that time. The civil services were kept insulated from the muddy waters of day-to-day politics and played the key role expected of it in maintaining social stability, thereby providing the right atmosphere for nation building and economic growth.

In due course of time, the culture that respected the average civil servant flourished. A clear distinction between the policymaking role of the Minister and of the implementation function of the civil servant had come to be established. By and large, the civil servant could argue against a Minister’s decision without the peril of being penalised. Once the Minister made up his mind after a discussion, he had the last word, and the Secretary had no alternative but to implement the decision. There was therefore everything in the system that promoted transparency and smooth functioning.  

However, the Emergency, declared in 1975 on specious grounds changed all. The emergency became a watershed . The arbitrariness that ensued led to the dilution of many traditional institutions. The civil service just changed forever.

Post emergency has seen a major decline in the institution of Civil Services, so much so that they have plotted the demise of many institutions that the country had painstakingly devised and created.

The bureaucracy showed a distinct ability to incline towards parties, ideologies, business interests, and above all politicians, show partisan attitude, and waste the money of the infant nation that was struggling hard to get over the three centuries of British loot, humiliate people of their own country on the same lines as the British  humiliated, and that too in their most distressed time.

 In the wake of license raj that was ostensibly meant to alter the spatial spread of the fruits of growth of Indian Industrial economy, the civil servants started substituting their role, responsibilities and discretion to armtwist the entrepreneurs and to make money.

Once a model of making money by nefarious design was made, other civil servants followed the model and those who were unable to take the advantage, took their anger out on the system of which they were part of, by crippling them with devastating inefficiency. Their inefficiency, rudeness, apathy, ego, wasteful nature became the role model for the entire government machinery to follow.

Civil Servants got all the respect, all facilities, all accolades and all the benefits tangible or intangible, but at a heavy price.

Probably the biggest non-salary benefit for many civil servants is the opportunity to make money on the side. Rajiv Gandhi, who took over as Prime Minister  from his mother, Indira, in 1984 after she was assassinated, was among the biggest critics of corrupt bureaucracy. He estimated that 85 per cent of all development spending in India was pocketed by bureaucrats. Some accused him of exaggeration, others of misleadingly precise guesswork. But his calculations are not challenged by those who are best acquainted with the system – the civil servants themselves. ‘Corruption has reached such proportions in India that I sometimes wonder how much longer we can bear it, ‘Naresh Chandra, a former cabinet secretary, the most senior civil service job in India, told in an interview. Another former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam, told: ‘Many people, especially foreigners, do not appreciate the extent of corruption in India. They think it is an additional nuisance to the system. What they do not realise is that in many respects and in many parts of India it is the system. ‘Perhaps the best description comes from Pratap Bhanu Mehra, one of India’s most respected political scientists, in New Delhi: ‘At almost every point where citizens are governed, at every transaction where they are noted, registered, taxed, stamped, licensed, authorised or assessed, the impression of being open for negotiation is given’. (Edward Luce).

Beginning of the license raj, even and before that the Bureaucracy has devised various ways to harm the national interest. It is more apt to say that the Bureaucracy has devised ingenious method to harm the national interest and manipulate in a manner that the ultimate blame lie on the politicians and the government. 26/11 was not a policy failure, it was the failure of the people not to be able to, not to be willing to and not having the capability to implement policies in national interest. 

It is indeed an irony that the country’s economy has grown up, looked up, brightened up and moving forward. Despite all we may not have tasted development, but at least we are tasting growth, and all this despite the bureaucracy. Indian economy is growing at a rate of over 7% despite the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has not managed the aviation sector despite the enormous inertia being available by way of Air India….. so what ? Aviation sector developed without that. The bureaucracy has almost completely devastated the Shipping Industry……. so what ? Indian exports have picked up. HEC, Ranchi and other public sector units have fallen from grace……. so what ? a lot of state-of-the-art industrial centres have come up that mock HEC. Every road-block the Bureaucracy can put up, despite that the road transport has shown growth – qualitative as well as quantitative. The Indian film industry has grown in universal appeal despite the bureaucracy; the quality of education (read information and literacy) has improved at least quantitatively if not value wise………despite the bureaucracy. If so many things have shown an improvement inspite of obstacles put by bureaucracy then its left to anyone’s imagination what would have happened with a responsive, efficient bureaucracy having a feeling for the country. The country’s economy would have shown a progress unparallel in the whole of Asia.   

A fall out of the existing corruption and red tapism is very detrimental to the Indian economy in the long run, as foreign investors in a rapidly global, economies of the world view entering into India as a challenge and plagued as it remains both with political and bureaucratic corruption as well systematic inefficiency which leads to long turn around period as project delays cause cost escalations in volatile market economies. Also in the recent years, several corrupt economies of Asia have faced setbacks, after the wave of economic upturn faded, this makes the urgency of corrective measures more than evident, they make it an imperative.      

The only asset we have with ourself is our demographic dividend and time to take our country into 21st century with dignity. The bureaucracy with dilatory tactics and tapism more than capable of not only damaging but super damaging the economy.

Bureaucracy shows every ability, willingness and zeal to damage the psyche of the people and they have not only reasonably dented it, but are inflicting more and more damage to it.

The greatest damage is by way of allowing people they serve to make them perceive as dispensing favours rather than really serving them. They behave as Indian Administrative Masters rather than servants. Given the abject poverty and illiteracy, a culture of exaggerated deference to authority has become the norm.  Obviously, this approach is not citizencentric. The reasons for the government not being  citizencentric is primarily attributed to the attitude and work of the bureaucracy. Of course, there are other factors that are also responsible, such as the deficiencies in the existing institutional structures and also to some citizens.

Once selected and also by virtue of training, their company, the pressure by the peer group, not to speak of the constitutional protection, just as they get into the bureaucracy they start feeling superior, and in order to maintain that superiority they start suppressing any new idea, new innovation and consequently the rise of any talent. The emergence of any new talent undermines the brand IAS. The degree and amount of innovation promotion that the government thinks of, hardly gets implemented.

Unlikely to appreciate and encourage talent merely by being facilitator, the bureaucracy is often rude and insulting by showing an ignominious attitude. This is not only very derogatory to the citizens, it discourage them to no end. Having not stopped at deriving pleasure out of it, they continue in whatever capacity they can truly mindful of the consequence it is likely to have on the masses.

Innovation diffusion and management propels any civilisation toward a new sense of perception, new balance of perception, building new institutions, facilitates new institutions, new fresh thinking as well as prevent the death and decay of old institutions. Institution-building should have been more smooth, more progressive, more global as well as adhering to the roots of preservation of local wisdom, local cultures. Unfortunately this sense of responsibility towards the country and the humanity had not found in the workings of the bureaucrats. This only showed lack of love for the country and/or its people, as well as its past.

One pitfall of such a suppression of is the loss of opportunity for the general masses for the citizens. Indeed the bureaucracy wants to scuttle out any existence of opportunity which can allow the citizens to reach some height of success. They simply do not want to facilitate any equality of opportunity.

While the laws made by the Legislature may be sound and relevant, very often they are not properly implemented by the bureaucracy. The institutional structure provided at times may be also weak and ill-conceived, and thus, has neither the capacity nor the resource to implement the laws in letter and spirit.

“The system often suffers from problems of excessive centralisation and policies and action plans are far removed from the needs of the citizens. This results in a mismatch between what is required and what is being provided.”

Even the commission observed that the civil services and administration in general had become “wooden, inflexible, self perpetuating and inward looking.” “Consequently their attitude is one of indifference and insensitivity to the needs of citizens. This, coupled with the enormous asymmetry in the wielding of power at all levels, has further aggravated the situation.

The argument that the IAS serves to promote the unity and integrity of the Indian nation, transcending cleavages and differences which form the basis for states’ identities, seems much less convincing in the contemporary situation than it might have been at independence. The contribution of the All-India Services to cementing or safeguarding the Union cannot be reckoned as crucial, compared with the historical, political and cultural factors which make Indians feel that they belong to the same nation, whatever their differences. The efforts to make the higher civil service more representative through reservations are limited to a purely quantitative approach to national integration and do not transcend the social, religious and ethnic cleavages that divide Indian society. How could an elite administration itself affected by casteism, communalism and regionalism offer the perspective of a collective quest for common goals? 

The IAS officers form a powerful lobby at the national level, and they will certainly resist any proposal that threatens their position, even when the objective is to make them more accountable to the public, especially by removing the constitutional protection given to them. The officers who fail in their mission to public service, the openly corrupt, the partisan, still enjoy the security of tenure guaranteed to them by the Constitution, which makes their dismissal very difficult.  The partisanship of high-level civil servants goes against their mission of national integration. If nothing is done to increase the effectiveness of the IAS as a binding force of the country, and if, instead of contributing to national unity, its members deepen even more the existing social cleavages by their partiality, then the whole institution loses its raison d’etre

When George Fernandes was the Defence Minister, he came across a very insensitive response of the bureaucracy. The soldiers of Siachen had applied for snow scooter to have a vigil on the borders in the most hostile atmosphere along the LOC. The request lay with the bureaucracy for five years before it came to the notice of George Fernandes, that too when he himself once had the chance of visiting the region and came to realise the harsh realities. The bureaucracy was debating over the need for snow scooters for the armed forces for five years, and many soldiers lost their lives due to frost biting and cold.   

If the Administration Services keeps the progress of the country to ransom, sit over the files catering to the supply of essential snow scooters to the Siachen soldiers, who protect the country, try to humiliate armed forces, reduce the dignity of the country as country’s representative on a flight by entering into drunken brawl and trying to molest air hostesses; disrespect country’s past and its culture, its people and population, advocate the same British who did not disguise their hatred of the country and its people, and propagate British form of culture by not pressing in censor for the choicest Anglo-Saxon “gaalis” and blanch at a word “saali”, meanwhile faithfully allow the enemy countries to encircle India, despite knowing very well of its consequences or totally mindful of its consequences……..

Any organisation, any institution, any business-house, or any service, which indulges in such a disrespectable deed, for all of them …….  no other word is more suitable than – ANTI NATIONAL.

By K.Siddhartha  

Bureaucratic Reform

In the Soviet Union there used to be a joke about people who were employed by the state: ‘You pretend to work and we pretend to pay you.’ In India the joke should be: ‘You pretend to work and we will pay you handsomely.

‘The true exploiter class in India– the bureaucracy. About one or two per cent of the population work for the government and they live off the people. These are your exploiters.’ 

The collector is surrounded by a beehive of peons and never moves anywhere within the district without a phalanx of sidekicks. At every village he (or increasingly she) will be garlanded like a film star with carnations, jasmine or marigolds.

Politicians come and go after five years or so with few exceptions but a “Babu” retires after his full term and no one can fire him without running a trial at one of the lengthiest judicial court of India where one case may take 20 years to be disposed.

India has the most inefficient bureaucracy in Asia and red-tap is much worse than in China, says a survey.

In the ranking of 12 countries, India has named as having the most inefficient bureaucracy followed by Indonesia and the Philippines,  according to the survey of expatriate business executives conducted by the Hong-Kong based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).

Quoting the consultancy, news agency AFP has reported that bureaucratic red-tape is a serious problem in India and China but “the differences in the political systems of these two countries have made inertia much worse in India than in China.

The ranking is based on a scale from 1 to 10 and a score of 10 indicates the worst possible scenario.

India scored 9.41, followed by Indonesia (8.59), the Philippines (8.37), Vietnam (8.13) and China (7.93).

As per the survey, Singapore and Hong Kong with scores of 2.53 and 3.49 respectively, have the most efficient bureaucracies. Other countries ranked are Malaysia 96.97), Taiwan (6.6), Japan (6.57), South Korea (6.13) and Thailand (5.53).

As many as 1,373 middle and senior expatriate executives participated in the survey conducted earlier this year.  

When China was liberated in 1949 it almost got rid of the old system and totally created a new bureaucracy from top to bottom. As the famous saying of chairman Mao goes: xian da sao fang jian. Zai qing ke”. (Clean the house before inviting guests).

But the case was just the opposite in India. The country inherited an administration which was created by its British rulers to serve the interest of their Queen and the British Parliament. The whole set of Indian Civil Services was designed and trained by the British with the aim of extracting maximum revenues from the local Indians. The same was the case with the Indian army which was trained to sing the song “Long live the Queen”.

India’s red-tapism started under the colonial rule when the British government held competitive examination in London to select some of the smart Indians to work as servants of the British government. Now after 63 years of Indian independence, the country’s native rulers have not much tempered with the colonial legacy gifted to them which was known for its “rule of law” and centralized administration. 

The wheels of Indian bureaucracy are turning and in direction that are sometimes new and occasionally, tried and tested. Yet, there can be little doubt that the past decade has been one of tumultuous change for those in the babu business, though many babu-watchers feel that the pace of “real” change has been rather too slow for the circumstances we are in. The portals of power are now resounding with loud cries for cranking up the old, creaking bureaucracy to meet the challenges of an economically empowered India in the age of globalisation and transparency. At one of his recent addresses to babus, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, enunciated the government’s resolve to shift from traditional administrative concerns to a “citizen-centric” approach to governance. Today’s citizen is a different genotype from what existed   a decade ago.

Good governance demands more and more transparency, public accountability and innovative solutions to the nation’s evolving but myriad problems. The visible success of India’s private sector has led to the fruition of a line of thought in some government corridors that what has worked so wonderfully for the private sector must be made to work in sarkari matters as well. Clearly however, no sustained change is possible in a system as entrenched as the Indian bureaucracy is, without political will at not just the Centre but at the state-level as well.

One of the problems with Indian Bureaucracy is that there are too many babus. While we require more qualified professionals at the top “A” and “B” decision-making levels of the bureaucracy (which currently account for just five percent of government jobs) providing competent, responsive, more transparent, more accountable government, the lover “C” and “D” levels of government should be pruned.

A common reason usually cited for inefficiency in governance is the inability within the system to hold the civil services accountable for their actions. Seldom are disciplinary proceedings initiated against delinquent government servants and imposition of penalties is even more rare.

“This is primarily because at most levels authority is divorced from accountability leading to a system of reaslistic and plausible alibis.”

Unlike China, the one thing good about India’s bureaucrats is that there is no foreign worship when it comes to foreign nationals. They are equally good at curtailing foreign investment coming into the country.

Apart from corruption and Bureaucracy, our government officials carry an aura of apathy and rudeness. Those in authority always want to drive the point home that you are at their mercy. Instead of rules being made for the convenience, rules are used to make your life difficult. From the TC in the railways, to the traffic cop, there’s no questioning them. There are some government officials when they see you, they don’t see a money making opportunity but rather an ego boosting occasion.

The bureaucracy very smartly divides honesty. Some of them can be financially dishonest, some intentionally dishonest, whilst other will see something wrong happening but will prefer to keep quiet, some of them can politically divide their honesty.

Is honesty divisible among financial, social and political matters? Can one be financially honest but dishonest in every others spheres. Honesty is about intention, an intention that can be transparent not one that can be camouflaged.      

The Indian bureaucracy has an impeccable record of protecting itself from punishment or ensuring that disciplinary action is diluted to the point of meaningless.

This is a consequence of article 311 of the constitution which was designed to infuse bureaucrats with the courage to criticise their superiors. It is a protection that is seen as unique to the Indian Constitution – and it has become widely misused. Over the years, this immunity has spread well beyond the senior bureaucracy for whom it was first propounded and includes even cooperative employees. Ironically, the entire article may be irrelevant given that the right of judicial review has been extended to government employees. As the fourth report of the second administration reforms committee noted, “This has created a climate of excessive security without fear of penalty for incompetence or wrongdoing.” The same committee later showed that the disciplinary process for a major penalty against a bureaucrat has over 30 administrative stages. In practice, the discipline of bureaucrats is even more lax. The Ministry of Personnel is notoriously slow in investigating and prosecuting members of the IAS and IPS who have been charged with crimes. One IAS officer, Mahesh Gupta, was repeatedly promoted after being charged with corruption that he ended up in charge of the same policemen who were investigating him.

This, unfortunately, has increasingly become the story of India’s bureaucracy: responsibility without accountability. Inevitably, the consequence has been that the responsibility has come to be treated in a cavalier fashion. No one should be surprised that India is consistently rated as having the worst bureaucracy in Asia and that the best and brightest of India’s youth avoid government service. The supposed iron cage is eaten through with rust.     

Indian bureaucracy is like a pyramid, having a narrow tip and a bloated base with 653 federal employees for every IAS/IPS officer. A bottom heavy government is one of India’s benefit inflationary burdens.

Indians have the right to ensure that their money is spent wisely. In the US, scrutiny of public finances is continuous and rigorous. In India, the scrutiny lasts 48 hours during and after each annual budget. Such lack of accountability makes the entire financial ministry complacent.

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 It is in the light of these problems that bureaucratic reforms become essential. There can be three directions of such a bureaucratic reform:

One, a reform of the service, conditions of service to provide greater accountability.

Two, reorganisation and restructuring of the governance of the government.

Three, changing the public perception of the services which allows people to think that the service is more responsive.

One of the best ways to change the public perception about the services is to reform the name IAS, IFS, IPS, IDS and so on and indirect new more meaningful designations that has to do with the speciality of the service/department.

Abolition of the size of red/blue light on top of their cars to remove the colonial stigma attached to the service.

To call for a greater accountability and responsive, Article 311 must be considerably diluted or abolished. A further step towards correcting is to lighten the present disciplinary process, ensure bureaucrats under investigation are neither promoted nor given any job and eventually protections enshrined in Article 311 be diluted considerably.

The elected people can be equally held accountable to the deeds of Civil Services. The elected people must in turn undergo a rigorous selection procedure as well as training procedure to be able to represent the people and to have their mandate to look after their welfare.

A greater and greater induction of specialist in civil services, do away with a permanent bureaucracy and provide enough scope for lateral entry. This will allow the best known talents, the most visionary people to run the concerned ministries with better understanding of the problems of country and the sector and do away with a bottom heavy bureaucracy. There will be therefore, more qualified professionals at the top ‘A’ and ‘B’ level decision making levels.

An even effective solution will be the complete computerisation of the application, requests, clearances and permission and codify them – in such a manner that the movement of files can be tracked on the net by every individual concerned.

The best part about bureaucratic reform is that the problem is known….. the magnitude is known…….. the solution is known………. the path to solution is known ………….only the will is missing ???????

Why the reform will not be taken given the myriad problems it creates for the country is anybody’s guess.

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