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Era of ‘Committed Bureaucracy in India’ (1965 to 80)

 

With many of the old visionary leaders like Pt. Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri having gone from the national and state scene in the sixties,  many changes took place in political climate, values and systems in India. A rot started setting up rapidly in the administrative set up during this period and there started a cult of committed bureaucracy. 

By the late sixties, a spirit of frustration and despair with `development administration’ and with `development’ in general had set in. For one thing, it became evident that externally induced modernization had failed to eradicate the basic problems of under-developed, it purported to solve. Whilst some significant increase in GNP had indeed taken place, poverty, disease and hunger had either worsened or remained unaltered. The same could be said of the growing gap between the rich and the poor nations or between different social strata within a nation.

The two wars of 1962 and 1965 followed by successive droughts in 1966 and 1967 put the economy under severe strain. It led millions to poverty and unemployment. Concept of easy money started taking birth. The politicians relied more on populist slogans rather than the real issues like population explosion, illiteracy, inadequate health care and poor social service programs.

During this period, in Mrs. Gandhis rule the political climate at provincial level started changing. Many new regional parties emerged at provincial level and came to power. Some states like Bihar, U.P., Haryana, and Punjab etc. witnessed political opportunism. Tall promises were made to win elections. Floor crossing, defections, attempts to topple Governments; betrayal of people’s faith and consequently political instability and frequent changes in provincial Governments became the order to the day. All this resulted in intensification of competitive politics.

Mrs. Gandhi, after becoming Prime Minister in 1966, felt very insecure due to the hold of syndicate in politics. But she refused to act as a puppet in the hands of the syndicate and, therefore a split in Congress took place in 1969. Insecurity made Mrs. Gandhi to get complete hold over the bureaucracy.

She and her colleagues could not appreciate the value of efficient and impartial civil services. They did precious little to check deteriorating standards of the service. The changes in the political complexion of the nation was reflected in the performance of civil services and its capacity to work impartially without any fear or favor.

During 1969 to 1974 personality cult was promoted. The officers were not expected to be as loyal to the Constitution, as they had to be to their ministers. Mrs Gandhi desired the bureaucracy to be completely committed to the ruling party. On a sustained and systematic basis, the process of committed bureaucracy flourished, thus undermining the integrity, values, ethos and confidence of the service. Officers were supposed to be the servicemen to carry out the orders of political bosses.

The simplest of the arm-twisting measures, which politicians took in their hands, was to take the power of transfers, posting, and extensions. It placed the officers at the receiving end. Political patronage gave encouragement to corrupt and ambitious officials. Shrewd officers, who could get away, if any wrong done, were given more importance.

Earlier, attention was paid to initial training, Departmental examinations in accounts, civil, criminal and revenue laws and varied experience to understand, what happens behind the scenes. The role of senior was crucial, both to impart professional knowledge and also to inculcate proper service values like honesty – intellectual and pecuniary, impartiality in dealing with the rich/powerful and the poor/weak, political neutrality and so on. Now professionalism of officers depends on amorality (meaning capacity to get done, what superior authorities wanted to be done) and proximity (meaning getting closer to people having authority and position).

Right or wrong, presence of laws, rules and regulations were irrelevant to smart officers. During Emergency in 1975, the trusted officers of the Congress Party were placed on crucial positions. Slowly, but steadily the service lost its capacity to be the true agents of healthy change. Bureaucrats of proven competence and integrity found it comfortable to toe the footsteps of the political leaders. Willingly more and more officers became a tool in the hands of politicians. Upright officers with some mission and neutral approach had been sidelined.

By seventies, the decaying trends had become noticeable in all the nations of developing world. Events like industrial developments and a crisis of liberal democracy in the seventies and the early eighties have dampened most traces of early optimism.

In 1970’s, the Government assumed a pervasive role of being the sole guardian of public interest and assumed tremendous authority in the name of socialism. The absolute authority intoxicated the politicians, making them trample over everything including the democratic institutions – bureaucracy being one of them. Subsidies registered substantial increase putting additional financial burden on the nation. In 1950-51, explicit subsidies amounted to only Rs. 41 crores. By 1960-61, this amount had risen to Rs. 93 crores, to Rs. 337 crores in 1970-71. It jumped to a hoofing Rs. 31,600 crore in 1980-81 and increase of 837%.

The green revolution brought prosperity to landowners of intermediate castes in the North. With it, a definite trend of rural orientation took place in the services. The demand for Reservation in Services arose amongst the newly emerging group. Political expediency put fire in it during late 70s. By seventies, the decaying trends had become noticeable in all the nations of developing world. Events like industrial developments and a crisis of liberal democracy in the seventies and the early eighties have dampened most traces of early optimism.

In 1970’s, the Government assumed a pervasive role of being the sole guardian of public interest and assumed tremendous authority in the name of socialism. The absolute authority intoxicated the politicians, making them trample over everything including the democratic institutions – bureaucracy being one of them. Subsidies registered substantial increase putting additional financial burden on the nation. In 1950-51, explicit subsidies amounted to only Rs. 41 crores. By 1960-61, this amount had risen to Rs. 93 crores, to Rs. 337 crores in 1970-71. It jumped to a hoofing Rs. 31,600 crore in 1980-81 and increase of 837%.

The green revolution brought prosperity to landowners of intermediate castes in the North. With it, a definite trend of rural orientation took place in the services. The demand for Reservation in Services arose amongst the newly emerging group. Political expediency put fire in it during late 70s. By seventies, the decaying trends had become noticeable in all the nations of developing world. Events like industrial developments and a crisis of liberal democracy in the seventies and the early eighties have dampened most traces of early optimism.

In 1970’s, the Government assumed a pervasive role of being the sole guardian of public interest and assumed tremendous authority in the name of socialism. The absolute authority intoxicated the politicians, making them trample over everything including the democratic institutions – bureaucracy being one of them. Subsidies registered substantial increase putting additional financial burden on the nation. In 1950-51, explicit subsidies amounted to only Rs. 41 crores. By 1960-61, this amount had risen to Rs. 93 crores, to Rs. 337 crores in 1970-71. It jumped to a hoofing Rs. 31,600 crore in 1980-81 and increase of 837%.

The green revolution brought prosperity to landowners of intermediate castes in the North. With it, a definite trend of rural orientation took place in the services. The demand for Reservation in Services arose amongst the newly emerging group. Political expediency put fire in it during late 70s.

In order to divert public attention from real issues, abstract issues like social justice, socialism, secularism, communal-ism were floated in the political world. Economic logic and administrative acumen was subordinated to the logic of politics. The developmental activities of the previous years could not keep pace with the challenges facing the country at that time. 

 

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September 3, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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