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THE CHANGING SCENARIO OF INDIAN BUREAUCRACY
INTRODUCTION : The term, bureaucracy is commonly used in a some-what contemptible sense, not only because it always looks upward for instructions and not downwards to the people whom it serves but also because it is this part of the government which comes in direct contact with the people, whether’ it be collection of taxes or regulation of trade. In short, bureaucracy is a professional class of technically skilled persons who are organized in a hierarchical way and serve the state in an impartial manner.
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT: During the British period, the bureaucracy acted more as the rulers of the people rather than as their servants. The administrative machinery consisted of an experienced and efficient cadre, not only advising the inexperienced political masters on the formulation of policies but also in their implication with efficiency and expedition. After independence, the role of the civil servants is very limited and they are totally dominated by their political masters in a bid to suit the requirements of changing times, aims and objectives. There is a love-hate relationship going on between politicians and bureaucrats. Both are responsible for the present state of deterioration of administration. it is their sacred duty now to put a stop to this trend and run the machinery or government smoothly and efficiently for the growth and progress of the country.
CONCLUSION: Nowadays the bureaucracy enjoys enormous powers not because it has agreed for power but because the need for the modern technological civilization has demanded this delegation. This, however, does not mean that there is no help for society. We may not be able to avoid `Big Government’ today but we can certainly minimize the bureaucratic tendencies in our administration, provided we devise proper safeguards in our constitutional and administrative structure.
In the post-independence era we have made many strides in economic progress although if our administrative processes had worked better, it is believed that the social and economic progress would have been faster.
The British left a piece of administrative machinery which though meant for a colonial administration was, nevertheless, a sound one, consisting of an experienced and efficient cadre which could hold the hands of the new but inexperienced political masters, not only advising them on the formulation of policies but also in their implementation with efficiency and expedition. In fact, the framers of India’s Constitution recognized this position and hence provided for a permanent civil service to perform these functions. An added advantage in a permanent civil service was that whilst due to political changes the fortunes of political parties changed periodically, a permanent civil service by being there all the time could provide stability to the administration.
Towards the last stages of the British rule, the picture of the government changed somewhat and some attention was paid to economic and social development; but principally, it remained a colonial administration a sort of benevolent autocracy. In this system, the civil services, particularly the principal service, namely the Indian Civil Service, acted more as the rulers of the people rather than as their servants.
With the advent of democracy, the picture completely changed. A country Which was kept back and exploited for over nearly two hundred years was faced with the task of making up for that neglect speedily, not only for economic development but also for the social and economic upliftment of the people. To undertake this stupendous task, the existing civil services, though consisting of tried, experienced and efficient personnel: had to be geared to suit the requirements of the changing times, aims and objectives.
Immediately after Independence, the nation was filled, unfortunately, with many urgent and stupendous problems which prevented as much thought being given to the restructuring of tile civil services, to equip them for their, new tasks, as was required. It must, however, be said to be credit of the services that the immediate tasks which came up after Independence, such as dealing with law and order, division of assets between India and Pakistan, rehabilitation of millions of uprooted persons, integration of hundreds of princely states in the country and a war thrust upon us by Pakistan on Kashmir, were tackled and completed with much speed and efficiency.
These were tasks, which were not unfamiliar to the services. The new task, however, of adjusting themselves from the position of virtual rulers to that of public servants, and expeditiously dealing with problems of economic and social development of the country, required a considerable change in attitudes as well as in methods of work. These have unfortunately been left practically unchanged and even the few changes which were made, have been adopted without much careful thought and based more on certain ideological considerations rather than on the requirements of the tasks and problems to be faced by the services in the new environment and circumstances. What was needed was an entirely new and dynamic type of leadership at the political level as well as at thy administrative level. In both, we appear to have failed.
The leadership at the political level has deteriorated steadily. The great and wise leaders who came to power after Independence have passed away to be succeeded by power-hungry claimants of all knowledge but who instead of applying their minds to policy formulation for the good of the people are more interested in individual and personal gains. The services, trained and brought up more or less on the old system, have also not risen to the occasion and have not proved to be dynamic enough to tackle the problems efficiently and expeditiously, especially those relating to the economic development and social upliftment of the people. They have failed to realise that it was no longer enough to maintain law and order and to provide a stable government: nor was it enough to deliver fiery speeches which could only arouse the masses. To provide the type of leadership required in all walks of life, citizens of high quality were required. No effort has been made to generate such citizens. Education, which is the base of building up citizens of the right type is in shambles and is rarely deteriorating. We seem to be specialising in producing masses of near-illiterate clerks, rather than productive and dedicated citizens, who could work on the varied tasks leading to the progress of the nation. The result is obvious, increasing unemployment among the so-called literate youth, the consequent spread of dis-satisfaction, deterioration in law and order and alarming spread of corruption and inefficiency.
We have pledged to establish a Welfare State. To achieve this country has to be developed rapidly in all directions and the machinery that was effective for a colonial administration is wholly inadequate for the task. The old structure has, however, been continued practically unaltered. Very careful looks at the present administrative structure to modify or alter it to meet the present and future requirements are absolutely necessary. There have been a few administrative reforms commissions but they have failed to go to the root of the problem and have been content only to suggest fringe reforms and modifications. One would have thought that with the changes in the scope of work, ideology and aims of the services, modifications in the methods of recruitment, training and procedures in the services, and in the administration itself, will be made. Nothing of the kind has happened. We continue to persist with the same methods of training, hierarchies and procedures, even though they are not at all in consonance with the requirements of the times or the people.
The entrance to higher services is through competitive examinations. It can not be claimed that the competitive test is the final and complete criterion of the suitability of a person to work as a civil servant in India of today and tomorrow. It certainly is not designed to bring out a candidate’s attitude and values in regard to the principles, objectives and purposes of the Constitution. During the period of training, there is no attempt to observe systematically the trainees’ attitudes and values. Nor is there any attempt to weed out those who are found not up to the requirements of the services, including that of being in harmony with the social objectives and principles of the Constitution. In the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Public Administration, some effort is being made to impart knowledge and to promote understanding of the principles and postulates of the Constitution, the social and human goals sought to be achieved and the philosophy and ethics of the services. However, a great deal more needs to be done if the services are to have the desired social orientation and true pro-factionalism.
Another matter that needs careful examination is whether it is at all necessary now to have watertight hierarchies? Why should incentives not be provided to the lower rungs of the services to work better by opening opportunities to them to rise to the very top, subject of course, to efficiency based on careful selection at various stages? Would it not be worthwhile in the process to reduce the marked disparity between minor officials and the senior services in order to infuse in them a greater sense of responsibility, self-respect and initiative?
Then, is it really necessary to have all the tiers in the administration that we have at present? Today, a file before it is finally disposed of goes through seven or eight tiers from the dealing clerk right up to the Minister and back again, and, if more than one department or Ministry gets involved, which is not infrequent the process gets repeated there also. This method is hardly suited to the needs of a country which is in a hurry to develop and progress.”Hence a complete overhaul of the system is imperative.
Under the procedural rules, officials at each level have been delegated authority for disposal of cases. Somehow this has been completely lost sight of and now practically every case goes up and down, presumably to involve as many people as possible in the final decision. This practice has developed possibly because even bonfire mistakes are now looked down upon with suspicion and as a consequence, nobody is prepared to take chances by being solely responsible for a decision. Once upon a time, an officer was complimented for expeditious disposal of cases but now he runs the risk of being suspected of personal gain if he disposes of a case expeditiously. The attitudes of those in power must change. Officials should be encouraged to exercise power and to take responsibility. The whole process of decision-making should not take more than two or three stages. If delegated powers are exercised and the tiers of consultation reduced, the whole machinery of administration can work with much greater efficiency, vigour and expedition.
Of late, a tendency has been noticed that queries on files are made piece-meal and not all at a time. This indicates that the files are not carefully examined. If there were any questions required to be raised they could and should have been raised together. The result of the piecemeal noting is an avoidable loss of time, extra work involved in the file going up and down several times, and what is more important, many delays in the disposal. It is necessary to discourage officers from this habit. They should be encouraged to develop a killer instinct, that is, dispose of the case if possible only in one go and in any case. as expeditiously as possible.
There is a great deal of controversy these days on the reservation of seats in the services for the backward communities. In the interest of social justice, the Constitution had provided for a limited period of reservation of seats for the scheduled castes and tribes. That period expired long ago but the reservations continue because it is felt that the purpose for which it was provided has not yet been fully served. That may be, but now it is sought to extend reservations to another class of people termed “backward classes”.
Reservations are not limited to recruitment. In some areas, the principle of reservation has been applied even to promotion at various stages. This has resulted in considerable discontent because many senior people in spite of their efficiency and dedicated work, find themselves passed over by their juniors purely on the strength of their belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes or Backward Classes. In many cases under this system, many seniors much to their horror find themselves made junior to even those who actually worked as their subordinates. Further, the seats under the system of reservation are added over to the succeeding years if they are not filled in any year. This results during certain years there were hardly any seats left for those not belonging to the specified categories.
There has been much trouble against this system and the troubles would escalate, taking a very difficult turn, unless early steps are taken to remedy matters. The time has come to carefully examine this system and to evolve a more rational basis to look after those who because of history and social and economic traditions had been ignored and treated irrationally in the past and at the same time making sure That the efficient administration of the country is not harmed in the process and avoidable differences between the numerous sections of our community do not proliferate, endangering the unity of the country. It is aka important to ensure That the social structure, because of the indefinite extension of reservation on caste basis, does not permanently create artificial divisions in the society, resulting in disaffection and dangerous disputes.
Even though the British have departed, the District Magistrate (DM) continues to be the keystone of the local administrative edifice in the country. in a developing economy, dealing with a great majority of illiterate people living below the poverty line, one would have thought that the position of the District Magistrate will be further strengthened to enable him to tackle the largely amplified tasks which he required to deal with under the new environment. This, however, has not happened.
Even though the DM continues to be considered the head of the administration and most people in the district look up to him even now in cases of trouble everything has been done to weaken his authority. He is no longer consider red by the other senior officers in his district as the head of the administration. Though the DM is expected to coordinate all the development schemes in the district, he is unable to do so for lack of authority. Every department acts independently and with the DM unable to coordinate; only chaos and bad relations ensue.
The British laid great stress on the district officials maintaining close relations with the people residing in the rural areas so that they could be aware personally of their needs and problems. In a democracy, this should have been a must but unfortunately exactly the reverse has happened. The District Magistrate and his senior officers are much too busy dancing attendance on Ministers, MPs, MLAs and local dadas to have time to go to the rural areas. Nor have the political leaders time for them except at the time of elections. Even if they sometimes visit rural areas, they are surrounded by their party men and sycophants. So the people are thrown to the mercy of the minor bureaucrats and local dadas causing much distress, a spread of corruption and highhandedness. Very often these minor officials acquire considerable influence with the political leaders, even at the higher levels, so that their seniors, the DM, SP or other departmental heads, are unable to even transfer, much less punish them for their iniquities.
Under the British, the District Magistrate besides being the executive head had also considerable magisterial functions. He was assisted by sub-divisional officers on whose conduct and efficiency the DM kept a constant vigilant eye. This system was well suited for a population the majority of whom were illiterate and poor. They were assured of fairly quick justice and attention to their problems. In a fit of ideology, it was decided to take away the DM’s judicial powers and hand them over to the judiciary. The result has been disastrous. The DM maintained strict vigilance on his sub-divisional officers and on the Magistrates under his charge. Now under the cover of independence of the judiciary, no supervision whatsoever on the junior judicial officers, to whom the work has been transferred, is maintained, either by the District and Sessions Judge or by anybody else. Decisions on cases are unconscionably delayed and as everybody knows, much corruption prevails.
The position of honorary magistrates who functioned mainly in the rural areas was also abolished along with the transfer of judicial powers to the judiciary. They might have had their deficiencies but they certainly provided speedy justice to the rural population at their doorsteps, and saved them much expense and frustration, which they have to bear now in running from pillar to post at the district headquarters, fleeced cruelly by lawyers as well as by the officials. In the process, justice has become a vain hope. It is about time that a system was evolved to provide speedy and cheap justice to the people, particularly in minor cases. The National Police Commission made some suggestions on this in its report. These should be considered soon and the required steps are taken.
There seems to have grown a mistaken impression that administrative problems can be resolved by transfer of officers or by enacting new laws imposing heavier sentences for offences. The average tenure of District Magistrates in the country has been reduced roughly to about a year and even less in the case of SPs. Everybody who knows anything about administration also knows that it takes at least some time for any new DM or SP to know his district. If they are transferred soon after they have come to comprehend the problems of the district, the result is that there is seldom a DM or an SP who possesses knowledge of the area and thus they necessarily have to rely on their subordinate officers. This is a highly damaging development. The tyranny of the lesser officers is escalating fast and the people suffer. Further, besides the loss in efficiency, the shoals of transfer one see practically every day in the newspapers involve considerable wasteful expenditure which instead of improving efficiency only generates confusion, instability and inefficiency.
Nor can new stringent laws solve the problems of the country. There are plenty of laws already which are adequate for dealing with most situations. The trouble is not the lack or inadequacy of laws but they’re not being enforced when required. Until the existing laws are enforced without fear or favour, mere enactment of new laws is not going to help in any way except to make the legal processes more complicated. It is time that the political leaders gave careful thought to the matter and permitted those responsible to enforce laws without being interfered with in any manner.
Lastly, there is a growing tendency among the junior officials to do no work and only to agitate for more and more emoluments and facilities. This is mainly because it has become practically impossible for the senior officers to punish any junior official for neglect of work, inefficiency, or even corruption. Most junior officials have a sonic political patron or other who is always willing to protect him if begets into trouble. The result is that there is no incentive for work or efficiency. Promotions also come better if you have a patron. Efficiency or hard work is not at all necessary. Even the normally dedicated ones get disheartened under such conditions. It is about time that the fear of punishment for bad work and corruption is soon restored and efficiency and hard work recognized and rewarded. The present topsy-turvy environment in government offices is becoming a great handicap in the smooth functioning of the administration and is retarding the progress of the nation: It is easy to destroy discipline and honest hard work, conditions which are imperative for the progress of the country and the good of the people.
We have excellent human material and plenty of laws and regulations. Where we are failing is in our determination to use these valuable materials in the service of our people and not in the pursuit of individual gains for the party or sectional purposes. Much damage has been done to administration through this human failure. The politician is busy with individual cases and constant interference in administration. The bureaucrats have deviated from their tasks and have resorted to sycophancy to promote their personal interests. Both are responsible for the present state of deterioration of administration. It is their sacred duty now to put a stop to this trend, to come together to devise systems of administration under which the machinery of government runs smoothly and efficiently for the growth and progress of the country and the happiness of the people.