Need to Reform Civil Services Attitude & Recruitment

Another Civil Services day has passed. Varied people gather to gather to give speeches on this day, requested the Civil Servants to take the country forward that was euphemism of not obstructing it.

A former President, the present Prime Minister and hordes of people from technical field, creative people in pursuit of India’s development, and reformers, teachers and businesses are always very anxious of the quality of people inducted in services to implement the policies of the government. People who had had a rendezvous with Civil Servants have been very critical of them and indicted them also to have been responsible for holding the progress of the country.

Civil Services in India suffers from a far deeper malaise than normal citizens know and feel. The common citizen has got so much accustomed to the daily grind and its problems that an abysmal quality of life imposed on them seems normal to them and are completely oblivious of the people who are responsible for it.

The issues that the Civil Servants face in India are related to everything one can imagine- from quality of intake, to their training, their working inefficiency their commitment towards the country and its people and most importantly the way their non-accountability to everything they do derail the progress of the country.

The different questions that are asked include-
Do the Civil servants act as Civil servants or Masters? Do they really care for the services or people? Do they still have colonial type thinking?  Dont they enjoy without accountability at the expense of tax payers money? Does the present system of selection the Civil Services Examination (CSE) conducted by UPSC does justice to fulfil the objective of choosing candidates with some ethical standards? Does it recruit the best talent or better still best attitudinal traits? Is a 3-hour examination on Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude and Interview adequate to test the character of candidates? Is it really needed to have different services? Why can’t a common pool of candidates be selected and then allocated services based on their aptitude, interest and performance? Do the Civil Services aspirants know how narratives can harm the country and do they have their observations sharp enough to identify it? What are Sleeper cells and their role in perception management? What are difference and cross cultural comparisons emanating out of use of words considered to be synonymous like Dharma and religion, spirituality and religion, temple and mandir, pooja and worship…….
The Indian Civil Servant is a fatal mix of contradictions having some very favourable as well as obnoxious mix of characteristics to run or “down run” the country and these characteristics are both acquired and inherited.

No institution has harmed the country more than the British legacy of Civil Services.

When the ancient Chinese decided to live in peace, they made the Great Wall of China.

They thought no one could climb it due to its height.

During the first 100 years of its existence, the Chinese were invaded thrice, and every time, the hordes of enemy infantry had no need of penetrating or climbing over the wall… because each time they bribed the guards and came through the doors.

The Chinese built the wall but forgot the character building of the wall-guards.

This is what the Civil Services in India are. They are the wall built to protect, but, they allow to demolish every wall, that may be created, they can be fatally apathetic to the feeling of India and a true epitome of what the British wanted to do and what they left behind, a true reflection of colonial powers intention to bring about a thorough mismatch between India and
A statesman rightly pointed out, “India has the most lethal missile, indestructible but capable of destructing everything efficient but capable of delaying any progress, its called the Civil Servant – it doesn’t work and can’t be fired”.

The present bureaucracy
It is indeed an irony that the country has progressed and has grown up, looked up, brightened up and still moving forward. Despite the fact that we may not have tasted development, but at least we tasted growth, and all this despite the bureaucracy. Indian economy has grown despite the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has not managed the aviation sector despite the enormous inertia being available by way of Air India…..so what ? Air India may have been ruined, but the aviation sector developed without bureaucracy. 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 software industry has exploded, despite the bureaucracy, the quality of ‘education’ (read information and literacy) has improved at least quantitatively if not value wise………despite the bureaucracy. The Milk Revolution, the Amulya experiment headed by V. Kurien, Telecom revolution orchestrated by Sam Pitroda, Satellite and Space Technology growth directed by ISRO, the UID and Aadhar coceptualised and implemented by Nandan Nilekani, The Konkan coastal Railway, the Metro by E. Sridharan all grew up only because there was no bureaucratic involvement. Many sectors have shown an improvement in spite of obstacles put by bureaucracy. Had the bureaucracy only worked, not obstructed the work, the Country would have been a much better place to live in.

It is left to anyone’s imagination what would have happened with a responsive, efficient bureaucracy having a feeling for the country and its people, and what would have done. The country’s economy would have shown a progress unparalleled in the whole of Asia, and we would have been a power to reckon with.

Ceteris paribus, one of the reasons is the selection process. The chosen candidates of whatever they are are a product of this faulty selection procedure and s training process. They are billed, as the best talents we have, but is it talent that has to be enough for bureaucracy or attitude? 

The present recruitment process of Civil Services
The already selected candidates selected out of the present procedure need not be made to think that they are the most talented candidates, because they do not supplement it with their ability and attitude to administer. Is it not that a talent without an aptitude, attitude, and without any value does not have the capability to take the country forward?

The Civil Servants need to be learners not judgmental, but must have a sense of judgment based on their capability of logical and emotional differentiation.

Anomaly between what is required and what is tested
So we have grown despite bureaucracy. There are reasons to believe that. There are two aspects to consider here, one despite the prevalence of terrific talent, why do we lag behind in taking the best administrators in bureaucracy and second, after selection, why even the best become unfit for the country, unresponsive to the people and obstructive. To a large extent the selection process has to be blamed. There are grave anomalies between traits required and the selection procedure prevalent.

A trait that is required for selection into bureaucracy is attitude for administration but what is tested is examination technique, a trait that is needed is for selection into bureaucracy is administration ability, and what is tested is information base; if the requirement is empathy for the people, the chosen candidates are trained to be arrogant, if the requirement is honesty, there are minimal ways of evaluation their ethical dimension, where the trait required is objectivity, the selection has no means to prevent students who have taken all their decisions on the basis of perception and rumors, when the selected people require have a understanding for their country and who know their country and feel for the people, the candidates who come out of academy are replica of their colonial masters and which during their training got even more strengthened in the Academy.

Why does this happen
The selection and the training procedure are still very colonial.

The Bureaucracy is protected by article 311 and 312, meaning that even for their deadliest mistakes, deliberate mistakes they will not be punished and they are not accountable. In a situation where the country is, where the PM is accountable the MPs are accountable, the teacher is accountable, technocrat is accountable, and the creative people are accountable why the Civil Services in particular the IAS cannot be accountable. Once recruited, they do take the country and its people for granted.   

Moreover, how does the same examination test the candidates for different services, which require different aptitudes and attitudes for different services like IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, and that too through one single examination? Even this exam doesn’t test the candidates for their personality and their administrative ability rather their memory and examination presentation techniques.

We take talent, but forget whether that exceptional talent has character and values or not. We forget the basic dictum, “Values and Morality can compensate for an intellectual and talent shortage, but talent and intelligence can never make up for lack of values and morality”

What can be suggested?
It is in this light that the government’s decision to accord merit list, services and cadre after their training in Foundation Course that holds some meaning and credence. It is a prudent idea provided the training at Foundation Course gets modified and is reformed to an extent as not to allow the training candidates to have a ‘paid holiday’ and does not become subjective.

There are three stages of reform that are needed to prevent UPSC being called as “Unpredictable Public Service Commission”.

Everything is ok at the prelims stage except for the fact that it has been so unpredictable that no one is sure that even a single mistake can cost their attempt to help the poor souls to restart an arduous journey of insipid preparation for one more year. The quality of intake also leaves a lot to be desired and becomes a gamble of sorts to prevent even the best of administrative talents to sit out. A good idea then will be the reintroduction of options to make three tests, instead of two, one for optional and two papers of CSAT. Optional will help some real good students who lack in test techniques, but with observational analytical skills to find their way. The significance of knowledge will be reinforced, and whichever way the student has academically lived till his graduation. Of course the chance factor will be minimized and UPSC’s job also made easy. This suits easy identification of talent as well. As of now, the prelims exam has become more of a gamble because the margin of error in this case is so low. So much so that even within a range of 1 mark more than 10000 students can be weeded out, So it has become more a test of exam practice, a test of elimination rather than any effective attitude test. It serves no purpose other than to eliminate some of the brightest students as well.

At the Mains level, there has been good number of innovations in the type of questions asked that are good and relevant, but what the students are doing is they are packing their facts in a sack and depositing it to get marks. The test of language, flow, coherence of thoughts, analysis and its ability to go deep is not tested. This should precisely not be the hall mark of a candidates’ ability, indeed what is tested very well is the student’s ability to pack facts in their answers like jute sacks. The structure of the question paper needs to be changed to include not only 150-word answers but also one 600 word, two 400 words, three 300 words, and many 150 and 100 and 50 words too. This will test many aspects of candidates and expose their ability as well. The examiners also had to be instructed and trained to check the language, analysis, coherence and arrangement that is a part of the answer and not only the facts arranged in disarranged manner. The answer has to be checked in a manner that the students cant be doctored in a coaching institute and masquerade themselves as knowledgeable students.  

At the Interview level, a major reform is required. The Interview at present by one single board doesn’t do justice to the selection procedure. A half an hour is not enough to test the personality of the candidate. There are two options-the best option is making it in the form of CDS and NDA. Here a candidate is kept for five days and observed intricately. Isn’t it ironical that the selection procedure for the CDS & NDA are more stringent than the people whose dictates they need to follow and whose decision imposition lacks coherence, rationality and ethics? The other is making the personality test two stage conducted by two different boards with a greater allocation of marks with as much weightage as Mains marks. This will be a far better method to check the administrative abilities and associated attitude.

Finally, in the training stage for foundation, it is imperative that training procedure is completely revamped, extended and restructured. A three-month training may not be sufficient to assign services to candidates and understand either their administrative abilities, policing capabilities, diplomatic understandings and underpinning, negotiation abilities or accounting abilities. Service allocation have some objectivity imparted when the candidates are closely scrutinized for more than 3 months to allocate different services based on their attitude, interest and desirability.

The best suggestion perhaps will be recruiting the potential Civil Servants at the grass root level after +2, keep them in field training for three years, give them a degree in Administration in the same manner as Graduation. This way the chosen candidates can be trained and guided in a manner that the country requires them to be. They will be less arrogant, more flexible, more empathetic, and since they would have gone through the lowest hierarchy to the one hierarchy where they are recruited now, they will understand the problems better. Also, they can be made to understand the country better and they will be far better candidate to make them learn. They will also be far more flexible and far more responsive with all the traits required in bureaucracy that can be easily poured in them.

Any argument against this has to take into account whether the 35 years of service to the country is more important than the three years of difficulty in making them.

Whatever the difficulties in revamping, wont the whole selection procedure is more than worth the 35 years of service these fresh recruits will do the nation, its economy and the society in a manner that the country needs?

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