Narendra Modi proposes, Bureaucracy disposes

Babu

One of the prime reasons for ineffective governance is the system of  Civil Services and the consequent Babudom. The entire eco-system calls for reforms. If the IAS has to be continued, it has to be merit-based and result-oriented. I know a gentleman who joined the IAS in 1982 and resigned in January 2001, convinced that continuing in the service is a sure way to participate in the ruin of India. There are much better models available across the world. But the IAS will never tell you, about them! We need a purely market driven system which is what advanced countries use. Talented people are hired as needed from the market and leave after the job is finished. Low levels may be permanent, but not at the top (which is what the Civil Services is).

There was no reason for this colonial bureaucracy to exist in independent India, but even assuming it was needed for a few years, there is absolutely no need any longer.

A call for the abolition of the IAS was raised sometime back by Mr N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman and Chief Mentor, Infosys, which had received wide media attention. Four decades ago, non-Congress parties, when they came to power, had come up with a similar demand.

Is the ire directed at the Civil Services symptomatic of the widespread dissatisfaction against the way governments in general have performed, with the IAS bearing the brunt? Are there other factors which have contributed to the decline in levels of performance of all organised civil services, and the IAS in particular?

If the Civil Services has to be continued it has to be merit-based and result-oriented. All promotions of the All India Services to the Joint Secretary level and above should be given by a central committee consisting of the Cabinet Secretary and one senior Secretary each from the IAS, non-IAS, IPS, IFS and an outside expert. Those who are found unfit should have the option to retire.

No officer should be transferred unless he/she has completed a minimum of three years in the post. All the assets of the officer charged with corruption should be frozen till such time a decision is given by a court. Cases against such officers should be dealt with in courts specially set up for this purpose so that decisions are given within four months of the charges being filed. A strict code of conduct should be formulated and officers asked to take an oath to follow them.

Perquisites and privileges should be made uniform across all the services, including the armed forces, and adequate protection should be given to the officers against political victimisation.

Whatever our sarkar proposes, our bureaucracy disposes. Whenever an ‘action plan’ is rolled out by whichever government happens to be in office at the time, an entrenched and unchanging babudom, with its own self-promoting interests to look after, makes sure that nothing actually happens on the ground, and that the status quo is maintained.

India’s bureaucracy – inherited from the British raj – remains one of the biggest bottlenecks to the country’s economic and social progress. The more rules for reform the government lays down, the more our babudom turns them into obstructionist hurdles.

You can’t blame our bureaucracy. It’s in the nature of the beast, a question of self-preservation. The more schemes the government devises – from Swachh Bharat to Make in India – the greater the power of the bureaucrat becomes regarding their implementation – or impedimentation.

The present PM got it right the first time. For enterprise to succeed, the sarkar – i.e., babudom – has to get out of its way. So replace action plans with inaction plans. That’s the way to get the job done.

The bureaucracy and the political establishment have fattened themselves far too much off the lay of our fine land. They cannot be the only beneficiaries of largesse most of which is undeserved.

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