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‘Governance’ in India?

  

How well the crucial role of governance/administration has been described in the following lines: –

“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.” (Finer)

Of all the acts of a civilized society, the task of governance is perhaps the most complex one as it has to deal with living human beings prone to unpredictable behavior. Also it deals with the issues – political, economic or social, which directly affects public life. Governance of a country and delivering goods to public at large, generally the depends on following two general processes:-

  • The process of politics, which consists of activities of the elected representatives of the people, and
  • The process of administration which consists of the activities of permanent civil servants/bureaucrats.

The machinery of a nation engaged in the task of governance directly is known as Bureaucracy/Civil Service. It is a very potent, vital and indispensable part of any type of government, be it communism, be it socialism or be it capitalism. It exists in every society, be it a democratic or a dictatorial society.

Bureaucracy is a Professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled”.i The main characteristics of a bureaucracy is its efficiency, predictability, impersonal nature, and its impartial and speedy working.

The service role in relation to the minister is that of influence and not of power.ii In real life-situation, the responsibility of political chiefs becomes formal. It is this administrative apparatus that runs the government. In theory, the administrative machinery is subordinate to the elective body i.e. the Council of Ministers. But in practice, political representatives have to listen the expert advice given by bureaucrats,

Bureaucracies are always associated with the exercise of authority. It plays a very crucial role in framing and implementing the plans and policies of a government. It digs the information, collect the data, formulate plans and policies and present collected material in the form of projects, which are to be pursued for the public good and which is in the interest of whole of the nation.

Bureaucracy could be regarded as the pillar, on which the entire structure of governance rests. Weakening of this pillar could only spell disasteriii. For any administration to be good and efficient as a whole, the right type of men placed in crucial positions is more important than laying down rules and methods of operation.iv

In the increasingly knowledge-based society of twenty- first century bureaucrats needs to develop capacity to perform the role of a knowledge managers. They are expected to find out knowledge based solutions for different challenges and problems of modern world. For performing their roles effectively, they are required to develop –

  • Observation skills, alertness and awareness of their surroundings;
  • Intelligence or basic applicative skill to create solutions;
  • Capacity to collect relevant data;
  • Ability to understand pros and cons of a problem and suggest alternatives;
  • Mental alertness to deliver results within time and cost parameters.

Functions, a government performs

1873 marked the end of laissez-faire – The concept of Laissez-faire began, in 1776, with Adam Smiths’ “The wealth of nations” and ended with the crash of Vienna Stock market, which caused a short-lived panic in Paris, London, Frankfurt and New York, in 1873. It changed the course of politics and led to the rise of welfare state and its immense power. Peter F Drucker v says that in 1873, the world moved away from the dominant political concept of “Laissez-faire” to “Welfare State”.  The French revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Industrial Revolution and Two World Wars, and contemporary developments had a great impact in widening the scope of state activities. Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, are no longer regarded as inevitable.  They started demanding withpersisting insistence better standard of living, better education and better civic facilities. The desire of public to move forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common men could have better deal gave rise to the concept of ‘Welfare State’ and ‘Development Administration”, the former being the objective and the later the machinery to achoeve these objectives. In a welfare state, the government assumes and takes up the responsibility of its citizens from ‘womb to tomb’. It main aims are to bring in “Social, Plitical and Economic Justice” to all.  

Recently,people have lost faith in the Concepts of ‘welfare state’, ‘Development State’ also, because state authorities have assumed enormous power in the name of ‘working for the salvation by society”. The trend has made common man pigmy and helpless.

At some point, between 1965 and 1973, the world passed through A great divide into a new era, leaving behind the creeds, commitments and alignments, which had shaped the politics in the 19th and the 20th centuries. 1973 marked the end of welfare state and social justice era – The oil shock, the floating dollars and the student rebellion in western world set had changed the scenario. The slogans of Welfare State still persist, but they do not provide a guide for action or motive power. And there emerged a knowledge based society. Reasons for the emergence knowledge based society are –

  • Drastic changes in work culture have been brought in by information technology revolution.
  • The institution of farmers of agricultural society and blue collared workers of industrial era who seemed to be very powerful controlling society, politics and market declined fast. 
  • In the past, knowledge was often used (abused) to curb thinking and dissent and to inculcate blind obedience to authority. There has been a steady shift from labor intensive to knowledge intensive industries. Now the key is knowledge. Now it is bringing awareness and enlightenment.
  • The advances in computers, telecommunications or networking technologies have made it very easy to get and share needed information, any time and anywhere, for controlling the environment.
  • Rapid commercialization of the world- wide computer web of network is changing the way, the work was being done so far. Today a single computer works in different modes of environment and organization and broadens a person’s acquaintance with EMS, IMS, DSS and DPS (Electronic Message System, Information management system, and decision support system Documentation Preparation system.)
  • Having a centralized system with different departments or industries, connected by a network, supporting management functions i.e. decision making, organizing, planning controlling and initiating would make the future office a paperless office ensuring direct line, from one computer system to the computers of all concerned. It would achieve: –
    1.  Better management controls and decision-making.
    2. Improve customer service and speedier response to inquiries.
    3. Improved techniques of decision, accuracy of information.
    4. On line information.

The liberalization of the economy and globalization of the market forces have triggered off Sweeping changes. It is redefining the way, the work is to be done today. More than just replacing laborious and slow processes with smooth and speedier ones, the organizations, whether big or small, is redefining jobs, responsibilities, objectives and broad organizational cultures. The objective is to enable individuals to empower their own environment, make their own decisions and focus on quality and responsiveness to peoples needs within the parameters of organizational policy.  Now the stress is on two concepts, Management and Training. The learning society is taking over the charge.

The decline of blue collared jobs has led to labor militancy on large scale. It generates bitterness amongst different sections of society for rank and file. This problem needs to be tackled very carefully; otherwise it creates severe law and order problem. In the agricultural societies, people commanded respect and power in the society because of their muscle power. Force the main was the main source to earn honor and power. During Industrial era, wealth brought honour and status in society. In the 21st century, knowledge is one of the strongest levers to empower people and make an important place for themselves in modern society. Creation of wealth and controlling force are increasingly become dependent on knowledge, exchange of data and information.

Bureaucrats engaged in the task of governance should also have courage to own responsibilities, vision to hold or delegate authority, capability to manage resourses – men, money and material, work in harmony with people, superiors, subordinates, colleagues and organisations outside government. They are there to provide a better life to the people.

A great transformation is under way every where in the world. The bureaucracy should be prepared to absorb the transformation. In the 21st century, for working efficiently and effectively, and for maintaining standards in administration, bureaucrats placed on crucial positions should have knowledge, awareness and expertise to utilize the latest developments happening in the field of science and technology. It would expedite work and provide relief to public and bring transparency in governance.

 

Factual position

Employment in Government services is not just a job. It administers the business of government, affecting virtually all aspects of modern life – be it health, education, environment, law and order, agriculture, industries, transport, foreign affairs or social welfare. Across all departments and levels, there is a broad spectrum of functions both strategic and operational. Intelligence, capacity to grasp problematic issues and weigh the facts, conflicting opinions/ interests/ advice, ability to extract main points from details, write a balanced and concise report, take appropriate decisions in favour of general public are basic qualification of government servants.

It has been observed that: –

  •  India has everything a nation needs for development – tremendous amount of skilled and unskilled manpower, all kinds of raw materials, a good legal system, a huge market and potential to export virtually everything, provided the cost of its inputs are kept at international levels. Only the government has to address itself to the real basic issues, not the peripheral, or abstract ones, which makes people pit emotional venom against each other.
  • Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise. India comprises people of different ethnic, religious, castes, linguistic and regional identities. While, these identities lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture, there have been periods of discord. The diversity made the divide easy.
  •  To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections with so many diversities and numerous identities is a delicate and a difficult task. Too much stress on identities creates confusion and chaos. The problem becomes more complex, because identities cannot be pigeonholed. In modern times, one can bear more than one identity at a time. The more a person enriches one’s personality; wider becomes his/her identity. Modernization, technological developments in the field of communication and transportation give added dimensions to the issue of identities.
  •  The authorities are unable to grasp and analyze the real issues and challenges. The result is persistent backwardness and endemic instability. Poverty, illiteracy, ill health, corruption and criminality have kept the masses in bondage. Sheer opportunism and valueless politics have taken over the place of principles and idealism.
  •  The power-seekers do their best to divert the mob-attention from the real issues to the abstract ones like Equity, Secularism, Social Justiceetc., which instead of bringing prosperity to the people, have bred in them intolerance, inflexibility, narrowness, unadulterated materialism, the feeling of otherness/ estrangement in the society.
  • Any democratic Government of a civilized nation ensures inclusive growth of all the sections of society. It aims at equality of status, wealth and opportunity for all its citizens. However, serious discrimination prevails in India everywhere against lower strata of the society, minorities and women in almost every sphere of life, restricting them from actively participating in nation building program.
  • For offsetting inequality, to give place to unrepresented groups in political and economic spheres, and to balance the equations between various groups, India has adopted reservation policy or quota system.
  • It is alleged that the caste system, which originated to provide a mechanism for including numerous tribes and groups (local or immigrant), as a whole into Indian society, had created such situations that positive discrimination in favour of lower and backward castes became a necessity.
  • Caste and Hinduism have succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.
  • Caste system took on different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Its character was different in the context of village, locality, region or religion.
  • Its not so much the caste system but, `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya(laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are responsible for evils, exploitation, miseries and backwardness of the people.
  • In the modern political understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less.
  • The effect of the ideological attack on caste system was, launched by the British as rulers, so dense on the Indian mind, that many Indians consider caste system indefensible.
  • Modern politicians understand the influence of caste on Indian mind and find it the most effective and quickest channel for communication and a reliable source to create vote-banks.
  • At present, issues are not decided by rational thinking in politics, but by the demonstration of caste strength and vote-bank. Mandal has conditioned the public and politician’s mind to look at every issue through distorting prism of caste. Caste is becoming increasingly more important in the governance of country.
  • National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation.
  • Positive discrimination or Affirmative actions are valid prescriptions, only if it were applied to deserving persons at right time, and in right quantity. Reservation tries to treat the ailment of backwardness born of social oppression and prescribes entrusting power in weak hands without making them strong enough to hold it judiciously.
  • At the time of Independence, perhaps it was very difficult for marginalized sections of society -Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Castes and women to compete with general candidates. Without the benefit reservation, perhaps a large section of society would have remained unrepresented in government services, especially at higher levels of administration.Reservation Policy has already given the disadvantaged sections a fair start and helped them to move forward and make a place in the higher Civil Services.
  • The SCT candidates have the talent/caliber to succeed without Reservation. However, most of the SCT prefer to adopt theeasier and sure path of Reservation, a sure and certain path, convenient both for the authorities and the beneficiaries of reservations. 
  • The concept of reservation works on the principle Take you must, but give if you wish to.It is a right for the members of certain classes to get job in the government through Reservation, whether they work for it or not. Once in a government, everything is secured and automatic, one may work or not.

  • The benefit of Reservations has not benefitted the communities, as a whole, especially those, for whom it is meant. It has been confined within a microscopic minority amongst SCT creamy layer of those communities.

  • Communities in the Southern states are better poised to mop up the benefits of Reservation, as compared to their counterparts in rest of the country. Here also, the Reservations do not flow to the community, as a whole, for whom it is meant, but is confined within a microscopic minority amongst SCT or backwards.

  • Offering job-quota can not bring desired results unless suitable arrangements are made to base it on sound reasons. In the absence of such an arrangement, only a few would go on reaping the benefit of Reservation.

  • Reservation or quota system provides artificial protection and blunts sustainable development of the downtrodden. It discourages talents amongst them to move forward confidently on their own and make a place for themselves in the system without any external support.

  • The demand of Reservation for indefinite period indicates that Reservation Policy generates inferiority complex among the backward communities. It has made them believe that they were and would always remain deficient to compete equally with others.

  • Equal share in power or excercise of state authority through quota does not seem to be a practical preposition. Nine million people cannot be accomodated in power echelons or be given equal share in exercising power.

  • Reservation policy is nothing, but an extension of colonial design based on the principle of Communal representation and policy of divide and rule. It aimed at maintaining a balance of power through Reservation Policy between different sections of society, with a view to prolonging their hold on India. Is that the objective of free India too?l

  • The political identities based on caste and religion for Reservation purposes came into existence because of narrow political considerations and divisive politics. Labels such as Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, forward classes, Dalits, majority, minority, North, South, male, female, etc. and the policies based on these identities can not bring social transformation, administrative efficiency, economic development and empowerment of the downtrodden.
  •  It is not the need of the people but the greed of the politicians that has created many problems. The politicians use or abuse Reservation as a political weapon to create vote banks. For all the political parties, it is a plank to keep one up position.
  • The words “Poor” and “Backward” cover a truly amazing range of social groups. The officially declared backward castes form a large and complicated constellation of groups, families and individuals. Declaring many affluent castes confuses the general public about the definition of Backwards.
  •  At present, reservation policy determines the shape and nature of caste system. In the name of Reservation and social justice, caste and communal politics is being played openly and fearlessly. Earlier caste system kept an order in the society, signified ones place in the social structure and prepared its youth for their future role in the world of work through a natural process. The Constitution has given freedom to youth to select their career or occupation on their own. For better or worse, this freedom has led thousands of youth to leave their traditional occupations. Most of them end up in increasing the number of unemployed youth.
  • While the number of SCT candidates appearing in entrance examination of Civil Services is continuously increasing, the number of candidates taking it as a challenge through general standard is an insignificantly small number. Also it becomes difficult to fill the quota in full, even after relaxed standards, in technical, medical or other specialized services, where continuous hard work is required to keep oneself up to the mark. It creates an impression that the SCT youth try to escape hard work.
  • The cutthroat competition for a very few posts, left for general candidates after Reservation, dissuade many bright youth to join the Civil Services. They have found outlets in foreign lands, private sector, public sector or multi-national companies. The looser is the society and ultimately the nation itself. There does not seem to be any rationale and justification in giving them age relaxation, especially when the age limit has already been extended from 24 years to 30 years for all. Age relaxation could be justified only in the case of women. It can only be given to women as compensation  for devoting their prime period of life in rearing up the future citizens of India – a duty which requires twenty-four hour attention.
  • Age relaxation for SCs, STs and OBCs generates many social and administrative problems such as overcrowding in higher education, colossal waste of human resource, difficulty in training new entrants etc.
  • Reservation Policy has reduced organized efforts in the administration and affected the spirit- dcorps of IAS adversely. The IAS officers too, are divided into forward and backward caste bloc. There are separate, officially recognized, associations of general category officers and backward caste officers in various States and at centre. Each group is busy in pursuing its own interest, rather than solving problems of developmental administration.
  • Women, comprising about 50% of the total population are, without doubt, the weakest, most vulnerable, oppressed and exploited section of Indian society irrespective of caste, class or creed. They are alarmingly under-represented in power echelons. As late as 1966, married women were officially de-barred from appearing in competititive examination conducted by UPSC. In spite of all that, they never got any reservation or relaxation. If they can do without Reservation, why not other marginalized communities?
  •  Since 1964, the SCT quota posts, filled on the basis of Civil Services Entrance Examination, have been filled in full except for one or two stray occasions,
  • Every year the intake of SCT applicants has been more than their quota. The successful SCT candidates qualifying by general standard are kept in the general category and not in the category of SC or ST quota.
  • Despite its being filled-in full every year, the total number of SCT in IAS cadre has never reached up to the higher level or are unable to fill the prescribed limit of 15% and 7 1/2%, for SC and ST, respectively, on account of the following reasons: –
    •  The SCT candidates qualifying by general standard are not counted in SCT quota category
    • Most of the SCT candidates enter into the service quite late in age, as they get 5 years of age relaxation at the entry point. They retire earlier in large numbers every year.
    • Most of the SCT officials do not make it to the top. It is not so much because of malice, discrimination or any bias against them, but because most of them avail age relaxation, at entry point, joining the service very late. They, therefore, retire much before they reach the top positions say the level of Additional Secretary.

Suggestions

The basic ingredients for efficient and effective administration are bright youth in the administrative set-up and educated, informed, and enlightened public. The following suggestions are made to tackle a sensitive, complicated, and ticklish issue like Reservation, which cuts across the length and breadth of the country: –

  • For running the administration of the century, it is very necessary to pick up the right people at right time, after thoroughly testing the intelligence, aptitude leadership qualities, knowledge and vision of the aspirants.
  • In order to equip the administrators with required knowledge and skills for performing their work well, it is suggested that the selection into the higher Civil Services should be done on the lines of armed forces. There, the underlying principle is Catch them young and train them. It will facilitate the Government to impart to successful new entrants into IAS end-oriented education and training.
  • Development strategies work successfully on the principle of “Give and take”. With every concession the Government should fix up certain liabilities, which must be fulfilled by those taking advantage of Reservation.
  • The weaker section must be brought up, not through protective policies like Reservation, but through sound education, hard work, and opportunities for self-employment.
  • For the backwardness and impoverishment of the people, the following factors are responsible: –
    • Dispute over wages,
    • Dispute over ownership and possession,
    • Dispute over provision of civic facilities and social amenities.

The Government should first initiate concrete steps towards solving these issues and their side effects.

  • Feeling of superiority or inferiority complexes must be discouraged by the Government. Intelligent people, capable of doing great things are found in all sections of society. It is not the preserve of any particular caste or community. Sound education and proper vocational training would enhance their capabilities and provide them opportunities to come up at par with other sections of society. They would gain confidence to stand on their own, and be free from self-pity.
  • The difference/gap in marks secured by general candidates and the SCT candidates could be filled by sound education and training rather than through the route of Reservation.
  • In order to make the Civil Services responsive to social needs, it should be broad based. The objective should, however, be achieved through equal opportunity, education and proper training to all and not through quota.
  • It is said, “ the services are not meant for the servants, but for the service of society as a whole.” Government, therefore, must have the services of the best men available in the land, and such men could be found in any community. Reservation restricts the choice.
  • The labels fixed permanently on different sections of society like forward caste, backward caste, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe etc. should be removed, sooner the better. All people should be treated only as Indians, all bound by same rulers, rights and duties.
  • The policy makers should realize the following realities and frame the policies keeping in view:
    • The laws must be clear, concise, just, and applied equally to all.
    • That a whole community or caste cannot be backward. It is only an individual, who may be backward.
    • It is not so much birth, but sloth, illiteracy, ignorance, faulty socialization and poverty that makes an individual backward.
    • Give the downtrodden dignity, not dole by developing in them self-confidence, so that they could always look ahead. They could build up an obsessive commitment to quality.
  • Reservation on the basis of caste, creed or religion violates the secular character of the constitution.
  • Equality means access to opportunity not right over equal distribution of results.
  • Discrimination and injustice cannot be fought by further new forms of discrimination. All the people including the politicians should be taught never to compromise on fundamental values, no matter what the situation.
  • Reservation in such a large number could hardly be justified after half a century of planned policies and its achievement. Only a few places, say not more than 10%, could be set aside for the first generation learners, who could not get proper atmosphere and guidance due to illiteracy of their parents. And that too should be confined to entry point and not extended to promotion.
  • Recently, the transformation in the work ethos due to expansion of knowledge and information technology revolution, the administration needs the services of matured minds.
  • In order to make Reservation accessible to really needy persons, it is necessary: –
    • To start the process of descheduling, and
    • To collect accurate and judicious data on factors like size of caste, its literacy level, its occupational structure etc. It will facilitate to identify those specific groups, which need extra support and which need to be de-scheduled. In the absence of accurate information, politicians with vested interest distort the facts easily.

 In the end, the words of Sardar Patel could be repeated, because once again the nation is passing through a very difficult time because of tense economic situation due to recent economic depression, unstable coalition governments, unrest and disorder in the society due detoriorated condition of law and order, and growth of corruption, casteism and communalism. The entire administration is exhibiting the signs of wear and tear. Sardar Patel had said, “By experience, I am convinced, that what is necessary for us, is to learn how to produce more wealth (created by one’s own labour), and thereafter think, what to do with it. What the country needs is not parrot cry of socialism, but unity and strength…. India is passing through the most critical and troubled days of her long and checkered history and strong, efficient, experienced and broad minded administrators are badly required at this hour to save the nation from impeding crisis.”

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July 28, 2011 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services |

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