Reforming the Civil Services: Can Bureaucrats be ever made accountable?
Saturday, 13 December, 2008 4:30:16 PM
Dear Mr Veerappa Moily,
I was very happy to hear on the TV news that the ARC has recommended that civil services will be be judged on their performance. The recommendation is against the ethos of government service which every Indian aspires to join for a life time of security. To my mind the ARC has a potential revolt on its hands. However, being an ex- serviceman I think such a result should be risked in the interest of our country.
I am of the opinion that the civil services have been feather bedding themselves during the last 61 years of our independence. It was not so obvious in the earlier years but the greed has increased in direct proportion to immorality of the politicians who have gone about looting the country with both hands. Consequently the civil servants feel empowered to do the same. Now that an IAS officer becomes a Joint Secretary in 14 years and, due to the new rule he cannot be proceeded, against legally, even if he is caught with his hands in the till. So he can serve over 20 years without let or hinderance as the rest of his Cadre will be there to deny or delay permission to prosecute even if found fit to be charged. We have the case of Goswami of Bihar Cadre who was found to have been involved in scam of Rs 17 crores. Same thing has happened in the case of Neerja Yadav and AK Singh ex- chief secretaries of UP, and many others. Why shouldn't the civil servants do the same, as the politicians are setting an example like Lalu Yadav, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Jayalalitaa et al.
I feel that the British modeled the administration in India on the lines obtaining in Great Britain. A small country with a number of counties being managed centrally, replicated by a similar organisation to manage India's provinces, each one of them equal to or greater, than the entire GB. With our administration in the states taking on new dimensions eg., looking after development, health, roads, electricity and an aggravated law and order situation, the present system is found wanting. As we found recently in our intelligence setup, accountability is defused. When an IAS/ IPS does not perform or is not found suitable by the political bosses he pulls all sorts of strings to get out of the state to job at the centre or in a non cadre job. With the result that non- performers never get pinned down and the AAM ADMI suffers. The present practise of political bosses picking up an officer from the bottom of the barrel because they like him, and all officers senior to him being promoted under the one below rule, must be stopped. Because in the bargain senior officers have to occupy posts which are tenable by those with lesser service.
The earlier India discards the UK model the better it would be. The country should adopt a model which is working in a country which is closer to our size and has a federal form of goverment. I think India should adopt a model like the one in the USA, where the states have a federal form of relationship with the Centre. The states should have their own civil services which are tailored to their size, requirement and finances. Now, when a pay commission award is announced the states cry out that they cannot afford the additional burden. Let the states recruit their own citizens and fix salaries according to their means. Such civil servants will be more accountable and not look over their shoulders for help if they are found wanting in their own jobs. If they are not suitable, they should be turfed out and not become a liability on the state exchequer. Security of a job should be offered only to performers while non- performers should feel the heat.
My other suggestion is that time scale promotions should be avoided. It leaves no incentive to perform above mediocrity. As in business, when there is competition the quality improves and price of a product falls. However, as we saw in our socialist era, without competition the quality was abysmal and the prices high. I am sure some of the states will be able to get better people at lower salaries. It is irrational to have uniform dearness allowance for all the states when the cost of living is quite different in each.
As regards staffing at the centre, it should be based on fitting round pegs in round holes and not that all shapes and sizes should fit all holes. Please get specialists for each department to get the maximum benefit. Imagine an IAS officer in DGCA, an IFS officer in IDPL and an IAS/ IPS officer as Tea Commissoner in Australia or the UK. The results can be predicted.
I know I am suggesting a drastic rethinking in the form of administration that we should design for our country, but drastic problems cannot be solved with minor tinkering. The country, which has all the potential of becoming a super power, will be grateful if the ARC does some thinking out of the box.
Lt Gen SK Bahri (Retd)