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“Toe the line” bureaucracy at the dawn of 21st century

 

 The beginning of 21st century has seen the steel frame -bureaucracy, which is responsible for regulatory as well as developmental tasks – shaking under political pressure. There is decline over the years in the quality, competence and commitment of the administrative officers. In-discipline, violence and lawlessness are increasing every day allover the country.

One wonder why the steel-frame of yesteryears is shaking and failing to do its job effectively and judiciously despite having a constitutional status with enough powers to deal with unwanted situations. People are surprised why these officers could not take stand against those dictates of their superiors (political leaders or bureaucratic superiors) which stops them from doing their jobs judiciously.

Reasons are very simple. Some people put the blame of weakening law enforcement procedures on the tendency of political interference in day to day working of bureaucracy. Others put the blame on corruption, caste-ism and nexus between politicians, bureaucrats of weak character and criminals. All these factors together have corroded the steel frame.

Common man is so much fed up with the present day bureaucracy and its the nexus with politicians and anti social elements, that he wants to keep a safe distance from it. He fears the presence of its functionaries near himself. He is just not bothered about policies or planning or how these are being implemented by government functionaries.

The politicians of all the political parties both at centre as well as in provinces, have conditioned the atmosphere in such a way, that upright officers are identified very soon after joining the service and are sidelined. While making appointments to senior and responsible posts, key posts are given usually to ‘committed’ officers. The attributes like honesty, integrity, competence, aptitude, past experience and public spirit in officers are considered to be disqualification. Pliable functionaries, who are not overburdened with ethics, are handpicked for plum posting. Every change in power structure -at the centre or the state- follows mass transfers and placement of pliable officers on crucial posts.

 The suffocating atmosphere in the government services has distracted bright young people to join the government. They either join private sector especially information technology area or go abroad, where they get recognition for their talent, respect in their circle, atmosphere to work and handsome salaries with many perks and facilities as well as command prestige in the modern industrial world because of their calibre.

 Transfer is a powerful weapon in politician’s hands enough to make a bureaucrat compliant. “(Sunday Times of India, New Delhi, May 4,2003). “There is a general acceptance that toeing the line is better than standing up for principles and paying the price”. Rarely are they able to raise their voice against the will of a politician or give him frank advice. One wonder is the new age bureaucrat less idealistic, more pragmatic?

With the dawn of 21st century, the custodians of maintaining law and order i.e. Bureaucrats themselves have now become breaker of law. In the fifties and sixties, bureaucrats could live comfortably on their salaries. Not any longer. More and more bureaucrats today use the system to make money.”( Sunday Times of India, New Delhi, May 4,2003) Everywhere and at each level only money and muscle power works. Instead of helping, officials harass common man to extract money and use government authority arbitrarily.

Common man has to suffer the most at field level. Municipal corporations have become the most corrupt Institution. It is here that a common man comes in direct contact with the government officials and implementation of government’s policies and programmes. And it is here that he can judge the quality and efficiency of the governance/development-administration. People feel safe only till they do not come into direct contact with field officials. Once they are in, in order to get their job done, they have no option but to do what they say or grease their palms properly and overlook the corrupt practices. The moment anyone dares to point it out, one has to meet dire consequences.

The way out, as suggested by intellectuals, is a smaller bureaucracy with a smaller role, greater transparency and setting up a statutory Civil Service Board to control posting, promotions and transfers. Let us hope that the results of May 2009 general elections will teach some lessons present day leaders, next decade will bring in something good with the increased salaries of bureaucrats after 6th Pay Commission and demand of public performance based appointments, promotion and placement at key positions.

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October 5, 2009 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services

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