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Demoralized Bureaucracy of 1980’s in India

 

During post emergency period, compromises, delays in decision making and shielding unjust acts of political masters by subverting rule of law, flourished in full. Transfers, posting, accelerated promotions to trusted bureaucrats, suspension or denial of promotions to the rest had bent the civil service to a great extent during this period. 

After the emergency of 1975, for the first time Government officials were made to depose before the Shah Commission for their alleged commissions and omissions during the emergency. The blames for failure of system were put on the bureaucracy. It demoralized the bureaucracy to a great extent.

In post emergency period, with every change in the Government, there started the practice of shuffling the bureaucrats. Morarji replaced many officers at senior level with a different set of bureaucrats. Again after the collapse of Janata Government, Mrs. Gandhi brought back her trusted officers to important positions. It bred an unhealthy trend of bureaucrat politicians nexus. 

While coping with the changes of 1970’s, there erupted a new problem of law and order during 1980’s. Terrorism raised its head. The escalated communal problems and economic developments gave rise to economic crimes. BOFORS became a big issue. In his book BOFORS- The Ambassador Evidence (1997), BM Oza tells about 50 million $ Bofors corruption scandal of 1986 – One of the leading features of the BOFORS bribery scandal was the deep involvement of a core group of civil servants in the crisis management and cover up operations undertaken, quite unsuccessfully by Rajiv Gandhi dispensation over our extended period. Drawn from the Indian Administrative service and Indian Foreign Service, as well as from the investigative agencies, all supposed to abide by, if not enforce, the law. These officers took instructions from Rajiv Gandhi, or from those, who spoke for him, to the profound detriment of public duty and clean values in official and public life.

Apart from being accomplices in politician’s corrupt practices, there was a rise in inter-service rivalries during 1970s and 1980s. Dissatisfaction grew amongst bright technical, scientific and professional personnel in bureaucracy due to Governments failure to give them due place in the system, in view of rapid industrialization and technical progress of the country. A large number of youth trained in specialized disciplines joined IAS in the hope of smoother career prospects, fatter salaries and better access to highest level posts. It has been seen that candidates with professional background do much better in entrance examinations than candidates with humanities background. It was because the cream of students qualify the tough tests for entering into professional courses and it trains them well to be hard working, target oriented in their approach and disciplined.

In 1979, Kothari Commission opened up the Vista for youths of diverse background by reducing the marks for interview from nearly one third of the total marks to one tenth. It also made English a compulsory paper of matriculation level, allowed Hindi and other languages as medium to answer questions and raised the age limit from 24 to 26. It was hoped that people coming from widely varied background carrying with them diverse experiences would be better placed to appreciate the ground realties of the nation. The wider, the spread of recruitment net, the larger would be the talent base and richer would be the service. The rapid growth in education, liberal grant of scholarship and stipends, general improvement in the social standard and cultural values of rural people, rural development, economic and other concessions to weaker sections brought a gradual shift in the recruitment base from diverse background.

However, it belied the hope and made the service more vulnerable to political pressures and other extraneous influences. There was a fall in officer like qualities, which made the service object of reducible and contempt in the eyes of public. Mr. Tyagi said, “The old zeal and stamina for strenuous work is now missing. Similarly moral considerations play a less conspicuous role in the official life of a civil servant today than formerly. As the country is moving forward in the direction of industrialization, the values and the old moral standards of its civil servants are tending to diminish. The civil service is less disciplined and less united today than it was formerly. The adverse effect on the quality, work-culture and ethos of the service was not felt much earlier as in 1990’s. Group-ism in the service became evident and harmed the integrity of the service.

The more the influence and power of politicians grew, more the civil services became weaker and unable to give free and frank advice to their political masters.

 

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

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