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What is bureaucracy or ‘Civil Services’?

 

“For the form of Government let the fools contest

Whatever is the best administered is best” And

“But what is best, must freeman still decide

Lest leaders gull them and officials ride.”

 Introduction

Civil services/bureaucracy plays a very vital role in the governance of India. Civil services in India can, without doubt, be regarded as the most remarkable of al the institutions, which Britain has bequeathed to India. Fortunately India has inherited from the past, a unique administrative-system, which knows, what posts are strategic and who are the persons to hold them.

What civil services are?

In short, it can be said that civil service is a “professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled.”2 According to Max Weber2, the main characteristics of a civil service are as following:

  • Well-structured set-up – For the performance of various, government both at centre or provinces needs into its administrative set-up, in all the spheres a team of mature, dynamic, visionary and responsible officers at all the levels of administration, from almost all vocations, occupations and professions. Civil service requires all its officials to have alert minds, high level of intelligence, broad vision and relevant knowledge about their respective subjects.
  • Division of labour – defined rights and duties prescribed in written regulations;
  • Hierarchy – (a) Systematically ordered authority relationship;
  • (b) Promotions regulated by merit and seniority;
  • Merit based selection and training – technical competence as a formal condition of employment;
  • Full time career-based service with fixed monetary salaries;
  • Impersonality – strict separation of office and incumbent in the sense that employee does not own the means of administration and cannot take the advantage of their position for promoting self-interest.
  • A system of rules and files – its operations are government by a consistent system of abstract rules.
  • Loyalty to impersonal authority like the State.

Organizational set-up of bureaucracy

For the performance of its manifold activities, government employs thousands of workers into its administrative set-up from almost all vocations, occupations and professions. As an employer, Government’s primary duty is to make all feasible administrative, organisational and working arrangements for its employees. 

Structure of civil services/bureaucracy set-up

Whole administrative system is vertically and horizontally divided in order to meet the differing requirements and emerging developmental tasks. The way administrative set-up is organized, plays an important role in performance of tasks and in harmony and cooperation of members inter-se.

A proper job evaluation leads to position-classification and forms the basis of personnel management.

Position classification

Position classification is a systematic division of different posts in several classes in accordance with the functions to be performed, responsibilities to be shouldered and other conditions. It is “the systematic sorting and ranking of position in a hierarchical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility”. Usually positions, supervision and authority to be exercised downward, other responsibilities, simple or complicated type of work, qualifications required for the post etc., are the factors, which operate in the determination of classification.

Type of work

The manifold activities of a government can be put into the following categories –

  •  Control functions;
  •  Service functions; and
  •  Development functions.

Accordingly different civil services in the Government engaged in the above tasks may be classified into three broad categories function-wise:

  • Generalist Services;
  • Functional Services; and
  • Technical Services.

Usually services responsible for control functions remain on the controlling/giving-end therefore become more important and personnel engaged in service function or development function at asking end, always looking up at them for getting their job done.

Working of civil administration in India

The civil administration, whether in Centre or in State, can be divided into two groups –

Working in the Secretariats

Secretariats are at the Central level as well as at the state level. It is Policy making body. Usually IAS officers on deputation from different states occupy most of the senior posts in Central Secretariat. In the State Secretariats also, it is the IAS Officials, who are posted on the top posts in almost every department.

Working in the Secretariat exposes officers to policy perspective in diversified subjects like agriculture, horticulture, power, coal, transport etc. The work in Secretariat requires bright officers having experience and knowledge in relevant areas. Following are important functions of the Secretariat: -

  • Obtaining decisions on policy matters and enunciating policy decisions in clear language,
  • Overall planning and finance,
  • Legislative business,
  • Personnel management policies,
  • Legal advice,
  • Coordination and cross clearance among the administrative departments, in the Secretariat,
  • Communication with central institutions like the Planning Commission etc., and
  • Overall evaluation, supervision, control and coordination of the work being done by the field organizations.

Organizational set-up of bureaucracy

For the performance of its manifold activities, government employs thousand of workers into its administrative set-up (civil services/bureaucracy) from almost all vocations, occupations and professions. It is government’s primary duty to make all feasible administrative, organizational and working arrangements for its employees.

Structure of civil services/bureaucracy set-up

Whole administrative system is vertically and horizontally divided in order to meet the differing requirements and emerging developmental tasks. The way administrative set-up is organized, plays an important role in performance of tasks and in harmony and cooperation of members inter-se.

Prof. Applebly says, “The structure determines where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives. It poses and conceals issues of policy. It provides or relatively fails to provide a structure of progressive responsibilities for decision making and thus at each level screens out some decisions and relieves those in higher positions, so that they may give attention to decisions really important to their functions”.

Working in field organizations

For implementation of policies and plans, working in the field can be divided into:-

  • Working in field departments or head offices.
  • Working in the districts

The district occupies a key position in civil administration. The Collector continues to play a pivotal role in the District Administration. District is the most convenient geographical unit, where all the regulatory as well as developmental tasks of civil administration are performed.

It is at this level, that administrative personnel come into direct contact with people. Bulk of people gets affected, favorably or adversely by the governmental policies, programs and its implementation. It is here, that people judge the quality and efficiency of the governmental administration.

Both kinds of work, work at Secretariat as well as in the field, have their distinctive challenges. For the efficient performance of work in both the areas, there is need for there is need for really bright and talented officers and flow of knowledge, experience and continuous consultation between the Secretariat and the field agencies.

Political set-up during pre and post Independence period

Pre-Independence period

In the nineteenth century and early 20th century, Laissez-faire was the basic principle of governance. Being so, the main concerns of the imperial Government was maintenance of law and order situation and collection of revenue. They were not much bothered about public welfare activities.

During Imperial rule, the bureaucracy under British government consisted of two parts:

• Government in London headed by the Secretary of State for India and curiously called the `Home Government’ of India.

• Government in New Delhi (in Calcutta before 1911), headed by Viceroy and Governor General of India, called the Government of India.

The two parts were closely related despite of the factor of long distance between England and India. Pylee has said “The whole system from top to bottom was well knit, highly centralized and behaved like an unbreakable steel frame with all the characters of a full fledged autocracy.”

Civil services in British India were classified as covenanted (higher) and uncovenanted (lower) services on the basis of the nature of work, pay-scales and appointing authority. In 1887, Aitchinson Commission recommended the reorganisation of the services on a new pattern. It divided the services into three group – Imperial, Provincial and Subordinate. Field of work, nature or quality of supervision by superior were the factors, which were considered for classification of the Imperial Services. The recruiting and controlling authority of Imperial services was the `Secretary of State’. Initially, mostly Britishers were recruited for these services.

With the passing of the Indian Act 1919, the Imperial Services were split into two classes – All India Services and Central Services. There were Provincial Services as well. The appointing and controlling authority for these services was the respective provincial government, which framed rules for those services with the approval of the government of India. There were then, subordinate services for minor and ministerial jobs. Diagrammatically the classification can be represented as under :

Diagrammatic presentation of pre-Independence

________I______________________

      I                                        I

Covenanted                Uncovenanted Subordinate

                I                             Service (Class II & IV)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­                               I­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________________________________

         (According to Aitchinson Commission 1887) 

                                  I                                                                                                I

           Imperial                                    Provincial

                 I                                        (Class I & II)

     ________I___________

          (India Act, 1919)

                            I                                                                     I

       All IndiaServices      Central Services

             (9 in all)

On the eve of the Government of India Act 1919, there were nine All India Services were in existence. Some of the important Central Services were Indian Railways Service, Indian Custom Service, Indian Accounts Service etc. From 1930 onwards, the classification of services came to be governed by Civil Service Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1930. According to it the various services were divided into four categories : Class I, Class II, Subordinate and Inferior.

During British period, there was another classification of the Civil Services into gazetted and non-gazetted. All positions, the names of whose occupants were published in the Government Gazette in connection with their postings, transfers, promotions and privileges in respect of disciplinary action, right to appeal and retirement etc. were called `Gazetted’ posts. Class I and II Officers generally enjoyed the gazetted status. In contrast other positions, the names of whose occupant did not appear in government gazette were categorised as non-gazetted.

 This distinction continued to exist till 1974. Post independence classification of the services is governed by the Civil Services Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1930, as amended from time to time.

 Amongst all of higher civil services, ICS and IP were the most important for the British rulers. Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister said in the House of Commons in his historic `steel-frame speech’’ on August 2, 1922, that the ICS was the very basis of the Empire in India and he could not imagine of any period when `they can dispense with the guidance and assistance of a small nucleus of officers. He said, “I do not care what you build on to it. If you take that steel-frame out of the fabric, it will collapse. There is one institution we will not cripple, there is one institution we will not deprive of its functions or of its privileges; and that is hat institution, which built up the British Raj – the British Civil Service in India”1. The ICS was the `steel-frame of the whole structure’’ of governance of Imperial rule in India and were exclusively trained to suit to the special needs of the British Imperial Power. Sir Edmund Blunt had said, “The superior Indian Civil Servants were the practical owners of India, irresponsible and amenable to no authority, but that of their fellow members.” Dr. Fisher also confirmed “it is the government”.

It was a very influential institution during British rule, because it administered the entire Indian Empire with such apparent zeal, efficiency, high-mindedness and impartiality. Reasons were simple for this perception as Gilmour (‘The Ruling Caste, David Gilmour’, a biographer of both Kipling and Curzon) pointed out-

  1. ICS was manifestly neither venal nor corrupt in the way in which, for example, some officials and officers of the old East India Company had been. It had its own weaknesses like assumptions of racial superiority and the conviction that the ICS always knew best.
  2. ICS displayed a mixture of motives, skills and temperaments.
  3. They had sense of responsibility while working from the District Officers to the Magistrates, Residents, Political Agents, Deputy Collectors, Lieutenant Governors, and so on.
  4. ICS officers as District Officers had wide-ranging responsibilities for the overall governance of a district. Though he “did not run the railways or the telegraph or the Army…..er to call out troops in an emergency – but he was responsible for almost everything else”.
  5. Some of them were reactionaries, reformers and thinkers.
  6. ICS worked as District Officers in their early twenties, arrive fresh from training at Oxford.
  7. They had the confidence to rule single-handedly a district half as big as Wales.
  8. British Government was anxious to demonstrate to Indians that British rule was even-handed, several times intervened to ensure that culprits were properly punished for outrages.

ICS was popular not only in India, but allover the world,. “It always puzzled many bigwigs like Stalin, von Ribbentrop and many other foreign observers, namely how barely a thousand British ICS (Indian Civil Service) personnel managed to rule both British India and the princely states with a combined population of well over 300 million during the first part of the twentieth century. Very few statesmen, from Bismarck to Theodore Roosevelt, doubted the quality of British rule.

Post-Independence Period

The political system adopted by India is that of a federal parliamentary democracy. The federal structure consists of Union and State Administration. The Prime Minister/Chief ministers and their colleagues are real political heads of different government departments. Their executive power, in practice, is exercised by permanent civil service. Civil services mean all the streams of functional, technical and specialist cadres as well as managerial and generalist cadres. Civil services serve as a link – so essential to maintain continuity of policy and consistency of administration between successive ministers. It includes both officials at Central and Provinces. Good governance depends on the mutual harmony and cooperation of both the wings.

No alternative but to leave the things on time

During the last days of British Rule many problems such as communal tension had come to a breaking point. Lawlessness existed everywhere. The armed forces had mutinied in several places. There had been railway and postal strikes. Goods were in short supply and there was a danger of another famine in near future. These problems forced the British Government to advance the date of Independence to India. (CP Ramachandran, Partition Legend, Hindustan Times, Sept. 1, 1980, P.9)

The above factors in combination with departure of British and Muslim officers from the civil services, partition of the country, Pakistan’s incursion into Kashmir and annexation of widely distributed conglomeration of provinces and princely states in the union of India made the situation worse at the dawn of independence. Events, inevitably unplanned, were moving so fast that there was no question of even attempting to supervise their course.

The country had no alternative but to leave the things to time, opportunity and initiative of local officers and organizations. It is for these reasons, save minor changes here and there, that the pre-independence political and administrative set up moved into the post-Independence era and continues even today, still having the mindset of Imperial rulers.

In the role of Development administration

 After Independence the basic task of the administrative machinery, i.e. civil services/bureaucracy has been changed from one of attending to routine regulatory function to that of promoting a rapid socio-economic development of the nation. Adoption of socialist and egalitarian society as ultimate national goal demanded a qualitative change in the attitude of administrative officers.

Independent India requires a radical change in the attitude of higher civil servants. Their new responsibilities demand that they should come closer to the masses and feel the agony of the millions of underfed, under-read and under-clothed citizens.

The earlier mind-set of the foreign ruler dominating the natives should have given way to the concept of a civil servant, `servant’ in the real sense – in the service of its masters, i.e. the people at large. Unfortunately, it is not so. The services engaged in implementing developmental plans and policies and welfare activities needs to be given more importance than been given in the past.

Structure of services

Both Government of India at central level and State Governments at provincial level have their own administrative set-up. They have their own generalist, functional, technical and specialist cadres.

The framework of civil services in Independent India has remained almost the same, except that a few technical services which earlier were All India have been put in the category of Central Services.

Post independence classification of the services is governed by the Civil Services Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1930, as was amended from time to time. Now the different services are designated as All India Services, Central Services and State Services. These are classified into class I, II, III and IV. Varadachariar Commission substituted the terms `subordinate’ and `inferior’ by class III and class IV services after independence. Since July, 1974, the classification of civil servants under class I,II,III & IV has been changed into groups `A’,`B’,`C’`D’. Civil services belonging to Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ are fabricated in the constitutional fabric of the nation for managerial work of the nation’s administration, whether in Secretariat or in field.

Categorization of services under Government of India -The present categorization is as under:

  • All India Services
  • Central Services –

All India service

Fine instrument to provide efficient administration – In the light of historical facts, development and achievements of last 150 years, it could be said without doubt that the All India Services were a fine instrument forged by the British Government to provide an efficient and effective planning in different areas, proper maintenance of law and order situation and governance of the country. It brought about not only stability and tranquillity, but also all round and varied development.

It is a well established fact that in every country, there are certain posts in its administrative set up which might be called strategic from the point of view of maintaining high standard of administration. Fortunately for India, it has inherited from the past a system of administration, which is common to whole of the country and it knows what these strategic posts are. All India Services are meant basically for providing personnel for those strategic posts in state administration as well as at policy making level at Centre and Provinces.

All India services under the Constitution – The Constitution framers provided that, “without depriving the states of their right to form their own civil services, there shall be All India Services recruited on an All India basis with common qualifications, with uniform scale of pay and members of which alone could be appointed to those strategic posts throughout the Union”. (Constituent Assembly Debates P. 37) All India Services are governed by Article 312 of the Indian Constitution. At present, there are only three All India Services:

  • · Indian Administrative Service;
  • ·Indian Police Service; and
  • ·Indian Forest Service

Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service are incorporated in Article 312(2) of the Constitution. Indian forest service, Indian Service of Engineers, Indian Medical Service and Indian Education Services etc were supposed to come into existence after 1965, but only Indian Forest Service could see the light of the day.

Central services

This category covers both technical as well as non-technical services meant for implementing the policies of the Union in areas which fall directly under Central Government’s list or in Concurrent List (for which Central control or guidance for uniformity becomes necessary in the national interest) such as Railways, Posts and Telegraphs, Excise and Customs etc.

There are some services dealing with those subjects mentioned in Concurrent List, for which it was considered expedient to have a Central control or guidance for uniformity in national interest. It includes both technical (including scientific) and non-technical services, such as water resources management, power generation. There are also some services, which are required for conducting the business of the Central Government such as Audit and Accounts Services. There are many other functional, specialized and technical services meant for implementing the policies of the Union and for performing various functions, for which Central Government is responsible, come in this category.

Criticism

Unlimited Authority without ResponsibilityIt is said, Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The concept of Welfare state and Development administration has bestowed immense authority in the hands of Government, which is mainly exercised by the executive, meaning the ministers and the bureaucrats. But this authority is without responsibility. Whatever may go wrong, either at the field level or at the secretariat level, bureaucrats are never held responsible.

Suggestion

The should form a Unified civil service at the center as well as in every state by merging all its civil services – technical as well as non-technical – into one with an integrated pay structure, ensuring complete parity in pay scales. At the same time, the government should ensure same promotional avenues, same time-frame for getting promoted into next grade.

As suggested by Administrative Reforms Commission in mid Sixties, it can still be said that change in the role of government and the great diversification of its functions called for variety of skills in the higher administration. The new tasks call at higher level for competence, which cannot be acquired overnight, but can only be imbibed through special training grafted on the basic functional skills or academic qualification. Each new area of administration – be it economic, social, industrial, technological, scientific or agriculture has its own body of academic requirements, knowledge and techniques. The effective administration of each demands an intimate knowledge of its underlying principles and awareness of its problems. This knowledge can only come through the study and practice of administration of the relevant area over a long period of time, in some cases at least, long enough in fact to amount to a commitment – a professional commitment”.

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January 3, 2010 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services |

2 Comments »

  1. Thats a great article!

    Comment by pozycjonowanie stron | January 26, 2012 | Reply

  2. Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time :-)

    Comment by az water damage restoration | February 23, 2012 | Reply


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