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Bureacracy in India after independence (Nehru-Patel Era, from 1947-1965)

 

During Nehru-Patel era, from 1945 to 1965, the performance of bureaucracy was at the best. It represented one of the finest civil services in the world. The leaders of vision and ideologies realized the shortcomings of the service and tried to remedy it with trust and patience. During the interim period, some leaders like Nehru intended to remodel it on a new basis to fit in with the new system. But, at that time, circumstances were such that there was no alternative, but to leave the things to time. Once, it was decided to continue with the system, the political leadership drew best out of the depleted administrative machinery and inspired it with proper correctives.

There was a perfect tuning between the leadership and administration. It was the tact and fairness of Nehru, Patel, Shastri and other leaders like them and the coordination by officers like HM Patel, VP Menon, BN Rau, LK Jha, TN Chaturvedi, KB Lal and many others like them, which solved innumerable pressing problems that came our way at the dawn of independence. The officers also possessed, partly by heredity, partly by upbringing and partly by education, the knowledge of the principles of governance and character essential for the fair administration of the country. Their vigilance, integrity and honesty saved the administration from falling victim to wrong practices.

Political interference, in matters of day to day administration; was not much. The administrators were encouraged to give their free and frank opinion. They were free to work out details and implement their decisions. Only when something was found going wrong or implementation got unduly delayed, the political leadership interfered in administrative matters. The political and administrative wings of the Government together put the nation on the path of progress, accommodating diverse viewpoints and interests without bias.

The officials tried to live up to the high standards set down by British officials. They were hardworking, fair and prompt in taking timely decisions. The position of law and order was intact and people were living peacefully. They built the infrastructure for a new modern India and for its all round development. Even a small hint about any officer being corrupt, the whole official circle boycotted and ostracized him. The Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 laid stress on the development of heavy industries with public sector given an important role to play in the development of economy.

In the early 1960s, besides executive functions, normal development work, basic planning and advent of five-year Plans exposed the administration to economic aspects of development. For the first time, officials were interacting with the economic functions. This structural change started putting the service under stress and changed its value system later on. The traders, industrialists and businessman expected favors for backing the politicians financially during elections, who in turn demanded compromise from the bureaucracy.

It was not, that everything was all right during this period. The administrators of this period were criticized for their ivory tower life style and alienation from common man. Pt. Nehru admitted, I failed to change this administration, It is still colonial administration.” Though ivory tower life style prevented them from succumbing to outside pressures and helped them to remain upright and impartial, while on work, ignorance about the pulse of public started making them weaker day by day.

In 1962 Santhanam Committee observed that in the governance of the state, all the leaders could not set a standard of integrity that might justify the popular expectations. Even the leaders like Patel and Nehru could not root out totally the proliferating corruption in political and administrative set up. However, A good percentage of our public servants maintain and function in accordance with strict standard of integrity.i

On the whole, during this period, inner restraint and control had effectively led the officials to preserve the honor and fair name of the services and saved it from getting corrupt or spoiled by outside powerful agencies. The sincere efforts, organizing capacity and drive of administration put India at the tenth rank amongst the nations of the world in terms of industrial out-put by 1960.

 

i Santhanam Committee Report, pp12-13.

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June 24, 2009 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services |

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