Bureaucracy is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country which forms the permanent executive branch of the government. India that is Bharat, being the land of many ancient civilisations, developed the art and science of public administration early on. From a reading of the historical literature, public administration in India can be traced back to the manuscripts of Arthashasthra written by Kautilya. In the next major phase, Bharat witnessed the rule of the Guptas also termed by many historians as the 'Golden Age.' The discussion on 'Historical Perspectives on Indian Bureaucracy' begins with an overview of the history of civil services in India.
History of the Civil Services in India
Early Indians in the Civil Service
Constitution and the Civil Services
Challenges and Reforms in the Civil Service
Post-independence, India adopted the socialist-welfare model of development which increased the scope of government's interference in all key sectors of the economy.
Many fresh graduates from HTs, IIMs, NLUs andother professionals like doctors, chartered accountants,etc. appear for the UPSC Civil Services every year. Thishas brought fresh energy and ideas into the bureaucracy.They bring with them their professional expertise addingrichly to public administration. Therefore, more and more young professionals fromvaried socio-economic and academic backgrounds need toenter the civil services to enrich it further and take part innation-building.
In the pre-modem era, up to the seventeenth century, there used to be a head of a tribe, or after some progress a local lord, and finally a monarch who rules based on traditional power and continues his status by succession. But due to enlightenment, modem democracy evolved based on elections and the people's 'representatives' (not the people themselves, as only in a direct democracy e.g. in Switzerland) started ruling and governing the state.
Hence there was a need to objectively administer there in the day to- day matters without favour or disfavour based on caste, class, race, gender, place of birth, language, and so on.
Type of Authority and its characteristics
Max Weber distinguished between three types of authority (legitimate power):
He defined bureaucracy as the 'formal organisation' with the following characteristics:
Therefore, Max Weber preferred the rational-legal authority of bureaucracy as an ideal type to the other two types of authority in a democratic society.
Pathologies of the System
We may conclude that bureaucracy is compatible with democracy wherein the people's representatives are on the driver's seat, hence they need to guide the civil servants whose independent advice and alternative views should not be considered as putting the cart before the horse. If we may make a SWOT analysis of civil services, we find that its strengths (selection on merit, acting as per rules, permanence) are more than its weaknesses (redtapism, some black sheep); it has an opportunity to serve the nation through new ways, changes, reducing human interface, but threats are to be removed at the earliest for strengthening the administrators further.
Ethics is a set of standards that helps guide behaviour, choices and actions of individuals. It is multidimensional as it is governed by the value system of the society including the concept of rights, obligations, fairness, virtues, etc.
Ethics and probity form the cornerstone of the public administration system. In today's world, when the governments are playing an active role in the socioeconomic development of the country, the role of the government functionaries becomes more challenging as they are both the facilitators and enforcers of the law and rules. Responsibility and accountability are integral to ethics. The character of laws and rules through which accountability is enforced is based on the moral ideas of society.
The word 'ethics' is from the original Greek term 'ethikos', meaning 'arising from habit'. Undoubtedly, culture, values, character, the sense of right and wrong are quintessential determinants of ethics. Ethics in public is not limited to the expression of high moral values alone. It also refers to the framework for holding the public functionaries legally accountable for their acts of omission and commission.
Ethics in Governance
Any framework of ethical behaviour must include the following elements:
The Government functionaries are part of the society and to that extent are influenced by societal norms. At the same time being part of the governance structure, they have to be more responsible and seen to be above board all the time. There is a strong legal and institutional framework for ensuring probity. It needs to be strengthened and made more effective by nudging people to follow the laws of the land and making punishments for the delinquents very severe.
Governance became an inevitable evolution in successful governance in the modem era. As a coordinator and service provider, the Governments are required to embrace Information and Cornmunication Technology to meet the demands of their citizens.
'Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and transparent' (SMART) Governance became the order of the day to build effective and efficient governance. India being the largest democracy in the world, started adopting e-govemance in the 1970s and adopted the change quickly, and progressed towards good governance policy at a rapid speed.
National e-Governance Plan (NeGP)
Digital India Initiative
Public Internet Access Programme; e-Governance: Reforming Government through Technology;e-Kranti Electronic Deliveryof Services; Information for All;
Electronics Manufacturing; IT for Jobs and Early Harvest Programmes. Eachthrust area further has subcomponentsand cuts across multiple Ministries andDepartments.
National e-Governance Services Delivery Assessment (NeSDA)
E-Governance & Covid-19 Pandemic
Challenges and Way Forward
Civil Service is vital for the government to function. It's regarded as the 'steel frame' of administration in India from colonial days. The colonial legacy of civil service continues amidst the fast-changing era of globalisation. It is therefore, indispensible that civil service reforms are carried out as a part of good governance. A reboot and re-orientation of it is needed to ensure effective service delivery.
What is Civil Service?
Civil Services refer to the career civil servants who are the permanent executive branch of the Republic of India. It is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country. As India is a parliamentary democracy, the ultimate responsibility for running the administration rests with the people's elected representatives. The elected executive decides the policy and it is civil servants, who serve at the pleasure of the President of India, implement it. However, Article 311 of the constitution protects Civil Servants from politically motivated vindictive action.
Evolution of Civil Services
Classification of Services: Part XIV of the Indian Constitution- Services under Union and the States
Constitution has not elaborated the types and categories of services. As per the Constitution, the services are categorized into the followings categories:
There are four groups of central, services Central Services Group A(Indian Foreign Service, Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Indian Statistical Service etc.), B (Central Secretariat Service, Geographical Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India etc.), C & D.
The highest personnel strength among the entire civil services system in India is with Central Secretariat Service and Indian Revenue Service (IT and C&CE).
Civil servants are employees of the Government of India or of the states, but not all employees of the Government are civil servants.
Latest Developments: The Government of India approved the formation of the Indian Skill Development Service in 2015, Indian Enterprise Development Service in 2016. Further, the Cabinet of India approved merging all civil services under Indian Railways into a single Indian Railways Management Service as part of structural reform in the sector in 2019.
What is Civil Service Reform?
Civil Service Reform is a deliberate change effort by the government to improve its capacity to effectively and efficiently execute policies. The purpose of 'reform' is to reorient the Civil Services into a dynamic, efficient, and accountable apparatus for public service delivery built on the ethos and values of integrity, impartiality, and neutrality.
The reform is to raise the quality of public services delivered to the citizens and enhance the capacity to carry out core government functions, thereby, leading to sustainable development.
Issues/Challenges with Indian Civil Services
Generalist Vs Specialist : Civil Services was designed to deliver certain core functions: Law and Order; Government programs and realizing Governments’ orders. However, changes/Causes/Reasons mentioned above led to change in the role of the state. New Challenges: Cyber security, complex business, trade, legal aspects---> Hence demand for specialist officers.
Further it is felt that officers from other Specialist Services (Like IRS etc) do not get representation and opportunity to work. -IAS dominates the Civil Services.
Recent Reforms: Mission Karmayogi
It is aimed at better services delivery to the public.- "governance, performance, and accountability". lt promises a shift from rules to roles, silos to coordination, interdisciplinary movements, and a continuous capacity building exercise.
The focus of the reform is the creation of a 'citizen-centric civil service' capable of creating and delivering services conducive to economic growth and public welfare. Accordingly, Mission Karmayogi shifts the focus from "Rule-based training to Role-based training". Greater thrust has been laid on behavioural change.
Capacity Building Commission : A uniform approach to managing and regulating the capacity building ecosystem on a collaborative and co-sharing basis.
A transformational change in Civil Service Capacity is proposed to be affected by organically linking the transformation of work culture, strengthening public institutions, and adopting modern technology to build civil service capacity with the overall aim of ensuring efficient delivery of services to citizens. The future of the country cannot be progressive without a reformed bureaucracy.
Rationalization and harmonization of service may be the need of the hour. The existing 60 plus separate civil services at the central and state level needs to be reduced through rationalization and harmonization of services. Recruits maybe placed in a central talent pool, which would then allocate candidates by matching their competencies and the job description of the post. Also, the existing civil servants can be allocated duties in tandem with their academic expertise and practical experience gained at the workplace. The over-emphasis on one-time examination, rank allocation, and consequent lifelong privileges should be done away with as elitism should not be the hallmark of the civil servants who are foremost public servants and should be, as far as plausible connected with the people they represent. Civil Service Reforms should realign the outdated structure and culture of the services and forgo its colonial hangover aiming to raise the quality and sensitivity of services to the citizens that are essential for sustainable economic and social development.
Economically, an efficient human capital leads to greater prosperity, higher innovation, and value-addition within the economy. Thus, it is a no-brainer that investing in human development is both socially beneficial and economically rewarding.
This is also the guiding principle behind the government's vision and approaches towards India's public administration- effective and efficient governance that enhances ease of living for its citizenry. The Prime Minister's mantra of 'minimum government, maximum governance' has been repeatedly espoused by him with regards to reducing red-tap ism and bureaucratic inefficiencies, reducing the overwhelming role and presence of the government wherever unnecessary.
Transforming India’s Public administration
Role of Public Sector Enterprises
This article explored the wide-ranging reforms undertaken by the Indian government to overhaul the governance mechanisms in the country. Decisions like rapidly disinvesting from sick, underperforming PSUs, setting up a national recruitment agency for government recruitment, promoting the lateral entry of experts into government service, encouraging digitization to improve governance outcomes will also stems bureaucratic hurdles, redtape, corruption and policy unpredictability for foreign and domestic investors. Doing this will also take India's economic and social progress to the grassroots, to the most vulnerable sections of society, thus, truly shaping the future of an emergent global power.
1) Catch the Rain
2) The Rebellions of Palayakkars
3) Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium