Make them responsive

Bureaucrats

UPSC

The proposal of the Union government to finalise cadres of successful candidates of the Combined Civil Services after their training has invited the wrath of serving and retired bureaucrats. They feel that an impartial selection process is being sought to be politicalised, which will rob the administration of its neutrality. It is also being assailed as being unconstitutional as the UPSC is authorised to examine and select candidates for the civil services. Institutions like the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy only impart training to these candidates.

Legal technicalities may be resolved by a proper amendment if it serves the wider purpose of shoring up administration and making it people-oriented. Apprehensions that marks awarded at the foundation course will be influenced by extraneous considerations are to cast doubts on their own brethren as the director of the Shastri Academy is invariably an IAS officer.

A drawback of the proposed change is that if cadres and states are finalised after the training, they would not be able to learn the language of the state allotted to them, which is currently taught during the training, knowing in advance to which state a candidate is headed. But if such a change is made, arrangements can be made for a separate language course.

However, such patchwork may not prove effective. A thorough overhaul is required to instil the sense of service in bureaucrats, who have come to consider themselves rulers, not public servants. In this context, the recommendation of the Niti Aayog to make lateral entry at all levels is more germane and practical.

The bureaucracy is the fulcrum of governance, and so, it must be made responsive and accountable. Bureaucracy, in the opinion of Max Weber, has to be neutral, and has to serve any government with enthusiasm, impartiality, integrity and disinterestedness. For this, he wanted bureaucrats to be anonymous, working behind the scenes.

In India, this concept of neutrality was dealt a body blow when Mohan Kumaramangalam, in the early 1970s, floated the slogan of committed bureaucracy and committed judiciary. Now, most bureaucrats have no qualms in identifying themselves with powerful politicians. Such babus are rewarded with governorship and membership of various commissions and the honest ones, an endangered species, are left high and dry. Officers eyeing plum posts and post-retirement rehabilitation readily chime in.

Earlier, ministers, many a time, disapproved the proposals of departmental secretaries. Now, they don’t have to, as secretaries send only those proposals that they know the minister wants. The practice is not new, but now it is almost the accepted way. We find that it happened even during the Nehru era.

The classic example is the Mundhra scandal, which speaks volumes about the relationship between the then Union finance minister T T Krishnamachari and his principal finance secretary H M Patel, who did not show any neutrality. In 1956, the government decided to invest Rs 1,26,86,100 of the LIC in private companies owned by H D Mundhra. The M C Chagla Commission indicted both Krishnamachari and Patel and both had to quit. It is an undeniable fact that ministers cannot indulge in corruption without the bureaucrat’s involvement.

Bureaucratic inertia can be jolted and corruption checked if there are lateral entries at senior levels. We have the example of Britain, where all senior posts of civil servants are advertised as there is no promotion to those posts. There is no reason why India cannot do it. At present, anyone qualifying in an all-India service by merit or by fluke keeps reaping the benefits of success in one exam throughout life.

Merit is not a constant factor; it degenerates and regenerates. Its best example is last year’s IAS topper Tina Dabi. She is in the reserved category despite topping the exam, because she cleared the preliminary test in reserved category. Three inferences can be drawn from it — either she is quite able but flunked the preliminary exam in the general category by chance or she topped by fluke or she improved herself so much in a matter of a few months.

In India, passing one exam ensures a life of comfort, power and position. IAS officers treat themselves as a separate class altogether. So, there is not only an IAS Officers’ Association but also an IAS Officers’ Wives’ Association. Obviously, these women are an elite class who wield ‘extra-constitutional’ power.

In July 2016, a young IAS officer posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate at Mohania, Bihar, was caught redhanded by the vigilance sleuths of the state government while taking a bribe from a transporter. Soon, the IAS Officers’ Association was in high dudgeon and its representatives lost no time in meeting the chief minister to complain that he was being framed.

IAS officers in Bihar were again up in arms against the state police over the arrest of their colleague, then chief of the Bihar Staff Selection Commission, in connection with a paper leak scam in the clerical grade recruitment examination. The Bihar IAS Officers’ Association came out and called for a CBI inquiry to ensure a fair probe into the matter.

The question is, do they believe in the due process of law? If it was true that they had been framed, are they the only ones to be victimised? There are countless false cases pending against innocent people. Did any IAS officer raise a voice against the hapless victims suffering at the hands of the state? Countless people suffer at the hands of obdurate and swaggering bureaucrats who just brush-off the common man. Moreover, if an IAS officer can be arrested out of sheer malice, one can imagine the fate of the common man. And who is responsible for this state of affairs?

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