- Public administration is a continuous process and in this sense it is always undergoing reform. Thus in public administration, reform is a journey rather than a destination.
- Reforms are an obvious response to the new challenges confronting the state institution managing public affairs, what lies at the root of such an exercise, is the effort enhancing administrative capability in the changed scenario.
- The term “administrative reform has different meanings in different nations (such as the United States and Europe) it means to reform the administrative system”. It is a process of change administrative structures or procedures within the public services because they seem to have become inappropriate in the changed social and political environment.
- In other nation including the developing countries, administrative system is considered as an instrument for social and economic transformation.
- The terms “Administrative Reforms”, “Administrative Change” and “Administrative Reorganization” are used synonymously, although by strict definition, reform would stand for eradication of abuses in the existing system, change would mean modifications to suit ideological or socio-economic environment and reorganization would be reconstructing the existing system to suit current needs and new demands.
- In India, Administrative Reforms signify all these three aspects- remodeling to suit political change since Independence, change in character and behavior to cope with the new socio-economic environment and programs for the removal of evils that have crept into the system all behave urgent since independence.
- Administrative reform is therefore a risk, a gamble, in which the odds are heavily against success because once institutionalized, administrative arrangements tend to stick and old habits die hard. It can take a generation for administrative behavior and values to change appreciably
- Indian Administration and its evolution have a historical context. The circumstances and ground situation when the British transferred the reins of government to the Indian leadership were highly challenging. Prudence dictated continuing with the inherited administrative institutions. Unity and stability of the country under the new democratic system could thus be assured.
Edited excerpts from the debate raised in the form of questions
What are the government’s plans as far the administrative reforms in the short term for the first 100 days are concerned?
In the first 100 days, there are three of agendas which government has finalized:
- Organize National Conference on e-governance in the month of August
- Reform of Central Public Grievances Redressal Mechanism: Earlier it was top to down approach and now DOPT has configured the software in way that complainant can go to the field level also, the lowest rung of the official who is operating at the lowest level.
- Third is the National E-Service delivery Assessment: Analyzing the service delivery in all the states and UTs and in major eight departments.
Long term goals are promoting e-governance.
- E-office of all the subordinate and attached offices will be a long term goal. Replicating of earlier e-governance projects in other areas. Innovations from other departments and all across the service sectors innovation can in. So that it can be replicated by other departments as well.
- Government is thinking to have a broad approach from 2022-2023 which starts with 75th anniversary of the India’s Independence. Fifteen themes we have taken from the administrative reform commission-refurbishing personal administration.
Question: What are steps that were taken by the Central government and UP government in the past to forcibly asking the officials to retire?
- Government of India did under the rules under which, it has the powers to assess the performance of the officials after the age of 50 years and in case it is found wanting they can be retired.
Is forcible retirement the option or solution really? Will there be any legal hurdles?
- There is a need to create a kind of environment in which the corrupt get scared that they are not doing the job in a manner that they are expected to do. It has to be strictly based on performance.
- Legal hurdles can be sorted out but they/ the corrupt ones have to be shown the door. It is also true that civil service protection and widely prevalent belief in life-long job security encourages non-performance. Therefore, it makes apparent sense to relax rules pertaining to removal from service on grounds of inefficiency, corruption and nonperformance. Therefore, it is suggested that Article 311 of the constitution be amended to provide for summary dismissal of civil servants if they exhibit doubtful integrity or lack of competence.
What are the biggest challenges as far as the administration is concerned?
- The biggest challenge in the country is in the states, where around 70 per cent of the money is spent. The focus of the governance and reforms in administration are not concentrated at the state level.
- It is there we need to work forward and change the bureaucracy put the reforms right from the ground level up to the level of senior most civil servants. We need to look at the civil services in the states and how we can reform them.
- The systemic reforms both at the centre and at the states need to be looked at. We need to have reform groups at the centre with PM and with the CM at the state level. The reform groups must continue and look at all the systemic changes which need to be made so that the delivery of public services is good.
- For example Programmes are implemented more effectively and the money which is there reaches the man for whom it is required to be given.
- Third the probity is to be required to improve further. This is one area where we need to do more. We need to do more at the ground level as well as at the senior level. Corruption hits the poorest the most.
- The fourth which is police reforms have been completely neglected over the years. There are a plenty number of committees and commissions starting from Sexena Committee in the 1970s, till the Malimath committee in 1990s and 2000. But things have not move forward.
- Even the SC orders did not help in this area especially in states where the later did not want to give powers to the former. The common man’s live substantially depends on the way police works in the system. S
- Both on police reforms on the quality of it and the quantity of it-the number of policemen states have are abysmally poor.
- The questions of water and environment are other key questions that are important.
What has been done to strength the administration and officials as a whole?
- Refurbishing the personal administration and central secretariat manual of office procedure has also been updated after a long period.
- Earlier there was one manual office procedure, and then in between e-office procedure came. Now both have been integrated and going to be published very soon. The manual includes besides others focus on digitization, knowledge management, and record management practices.
Does the bureaucracy come in the way in productive governance at some level?
- Yes, it does but the questions are, if you look at the key areas which are going to transform the Indian economy we have to look into key areas like environment, education, health, criminal judicial system.
- ‘What we find is crucial element are we having the best Indian at the critical levels in these areas. Now what is required is whether the Indian are here or whether they are there, we should have an inventory of the best minds. To have that, this is what China did, they brought Chinese Americans, kept them back by force. For example in education, institutions and leadership has to be identified to meet the new challenges of artificial intelligence and 4th industrial revolution.
- Probity is important, for example-from 1952 to 1975; India was united by community developed in blocs. These have disappeared now which otherwise could have been synchronized with present e-governance mechanism.
- Applying global expertise in administration is would add innovation to governance. There has to be some system where somebody is responsible and that how the ease of doing business can be secured. ]
- Innovative ideas have to be taken and adopted from different places and apply them in key areas such as health, education, water etc.
- In these areas we have to move first for the best minds and also then for the plan of action.
Important takeaways from the debate
- In mission mode, Government needs to expand its “home delivery of services” model (cooking gas, health care, and multiple citizens’ services) to cover major government services. Separating the “point of decision” of a government service from “point of delivery” will be a necessary condition to get red tape out of the way.
- Technology as the lifeblood has to flow through every major government programme, especially in agriculture and health care, through the ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme
- An ‘AAA’ Government or “Anytime-Anywhere-Anyhow” (or on any device or platform) delivery of services is still far away, which the governments at both state and central level needs to accelerate in deep collaboration with the private sector.
- Loan waivers and input subsidies have not ameliorated rural distress, so the key policy shift is to move away from production to income. Having promised $85 per small farmer as a direct transfer, the government needs to move from an inefficient, ossified cross-sector subsidy regime to an income-support model.
- This is possible by expanding this to cover all farmers in terms of both value and volume. This unconditional cash transfer should be an electronic transfer (banks, primary agricultural credit societies and post offices, with an area cap) keeping an eye on the fiscal deficit.
- India is emerging as a major ‘data economy’ with over 800 million mobile phone users, half of whom own a smartphone. India needs to leverage the enormous data it produces and deepen use of an ‘India Stack’ everywhere.
- India is way behind the U.S. and China in terms of artificial intelligence, data analytics and blockchain. It to make itself future readyby investing in creating infrastructure for data processesing such as completing the fibre optic pipe that it begun to lay five years ago.
- India needs to make it extremely simple for startups to start and die (should they wish to). India received about $11 billion in venture capital through 748 deals in 2018 (of $29 billion private equity inflows) but there is much more capital waiting to come if its unicorns and ‘soon’icorns (soon to be unicorns) benefit from an easier regulatory framework.
- India has a golden opportunity to compete with and take business away from Bangladesh (garments), China (toys, electronics and manufacturing) as their wages rise. India can turn attractive by abolishing such restrictive labour laws, which will enhance employment by erasing a key factor that throttles India’s global competitiveness.
- There are an estimated three million vacancies in government jobs in India and these are often left unfilled to keep the fiscal deficit low. While many of these jobs are redundant for a “New India” in overstaffed sectors such as railways recruitment needs to start now through employment exchanges to buttress the dismal number of doctors, teachers, police officials to keep the ship moving.
- Last but not the least; the focus needs to be on execution and delivery. Government should set up a delivery unit inside the Prime Minister’s Office using modern technology tools to deep monitoring and follow-up, programme-wise and office-wise.
- The government’s relentless focus should be on results and not only on process and effort. This can be the next avatar of the Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) system.
The debate raised the domain of administrative reforms from just being about bureaucracy to actual problems in the important domains of polity and governance in India such as police reform, labour reforms, judicial reforms, reforming Indian Jails, electoral reforms etc. This debate is an eye opener in understanding the different challenges to Indian administration. It places administrative reforms at the centre of achieving sustainable goals, doubling farmer’s income and the vision of achieving the mark of 5 trillion economy by 2024. The debate underlines the importance of having probity and integrity as a hallmark of Indian bureaucracy for more efficient and transparent governance. Finally the debate concludes with the hope of brining in immediate administrative reforms for a realizing the goal of minimum government maximum governance.