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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Role of Indian Administrative Service in India


Introduction – It is an attempt to promote deeper understanding of the functioning of Indian Administrative Service in present environmental framework, to identify and isolate problem areas, analyze the reactions and responses and evolve suitable remedial measures. Some of the special features IAS are –

  • It is one of the oldest administrative institutions.
  • Its genesis lies in the Indian Civil Service of British India.
  • Its officers hold practically all-strategic posts, both at state and center.
  • Though the service is controlled by the Central Government, its primary functional area is that of states, where it comes into direct contact with people.
  • It is one of the services having most elaborate training arrangement.
  • While the role of Indian Civil Service was traditional, the role of Indian Administrative Service is developmental.
  • The service does not have functional cadres. Its officers move from one functional area to another.
  • Right from the beginning till end, it works at very senior and decision-making level, both at the centre and provincial level.

Why existence of IAS required?– In a large country like India, there exists, since ages, perplexing diversities in geography, language, race and culture affecting every aspect of life. Therefore, it becomes necessary to evolve such standards and guidelines, which could take care of the interest of the nation as whole. Fortunately, the British Government had evolved an administrative set up known as Indian Civil Service (ICS) – IAS being a successor of the same.  It knew what these strategic posts were and who were those right persons to hold them.

After Independence, leaders like Pt. Nehru desired that the ICS and similar other services should disappear completely. Some states like Punjab, West Bengal, J&K etc., also were very critical about it. However, Sardar Patel warned “I am speaking with a sense of heavy responsibility that in point of patriotism, in point of loyalty you can not have a substitute…The Union will go, you will not have a united India, if you have not a good All India Service.” The vision of Sardar Patel in continuing the Institution of All India Services proved to be a step in right direction even now.

The Setalvad Team (1967) on Center-State relation observed “In this respect, the change that occurred over the years serves on to confirm all that Sardar Patel said with prophetic insight many years ago. It should be needless to affirm the continued validity of all the objectives underlying the All India Services and yet in a country in which the constituent parts are possessed with pre-emptive desire to assert their separations, such an affirmation is solely needed.”

Patel Study Team of the ARC also commented “Not only do the original considerations for which the IAS was set up in the beginning hold good even today, but they apply with every greater force in some respects.  There are some additional reasons like the emergence of a new tier of representative government, which make it necessary that a service structure like the IAS should continue for the foreseeable future.”

Present scenario – IAS is constituted of regular recruits including candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes (through Reservations) selected through an yearly open competitive examination conducted by the UPSC and officers selected by promotion from State Administrative and other services.

According to the Constitution, the ultimate authority over its appointments, disciplinary control and imposition of penalties rests with the Government of India in order to provide officers the strength to take impartial and right decisions, without being unduly subjected to the strains of local politics and influence. Their placement, salary and pension are met by the state Government.

The Government of India controls structure of IAS. Sub Rule (1) of Rule 4 of the IAS (cadre) Rules, 1954 provides that the strength and composition of each cadre shall be determined by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government Concerned. Its Sub-Rule (2) of Rule 4 provides that the Central Government shall, at an interval of every three years, re-examine the strength and compositions of each cadre in consultation with the State Government(s), as the case may be, and make such alterations, therein, as it deemed fit.

Recruitment and training – IAS remains the most sought after the service for the youth. The recruitment and training system for this service remains, more or less, the same as it was during the British days. It is still based on academic performance having an open competitive written examination followed by personality test.

Government of India arranges a well-planned professional training for IAS officers to provide efficient and motivated administrators to lead all spheres of administration. The probationary period is two years, which follows three stages sandwich schedule –

  • foundation training,
  • phase-I and
  • phase-II.

Foundation training gives trainees inputs in general administration and management, development administration and rural economics, law, constitution and political theory and basic knowledge and language of the state allotted. Phase-I course gives practical training. It is perhaps the most important period of the induction level training for an IAS officer. He/she learns in the field the socio-economic conditions, historical and cultural background of the state and the local legislation under which district administration functions. Phase II of the training brings together their theoretical understanding and practical field observation.  During this course, they reflect upon their training and share their experiences with colleagues and staff members. After its completion, officers are sent to different state cadres allotted to them either by position in order of merit and choice or by lottery.

Expectations and demands – In order to meet the challenges of development administration, certain qualities are expected in IAS officers, which are as following –

Quality of leadership -The quality of leadership provides administrators a sense of direction, purpose and priorities and develops a sense of commitment for achieving organizational goals. It helps them to keep balance between self, subordinates, tasks and the organizational setting. Maximum leadership quality is needed at local field administration, where civil servants come into direct contact with people.

Quality of supervision – Quality of supervision develops team spirit and helps the performance of organization’s task in congenial conditions. As a supervisor IAS officer is to have an educative as well as consultative role.

Ability to coordinate – Larger the size of administrative machinery, greater is the demand for coordination to avoid conflicts or duplication of efforts. Quality of coordination avoids concentration on one aspect of work at the cost of exclusion of other aspects and curbs the greed for power in different units of the government.

Ability to communicate – Communication is the “Blood stream of administrative organization.” Communication provides not only information, but understanding also. Effectiveness of communication depends on its being clear, consistent, adequate, timely, uniform, flexible and acceptable to recipient.

Quality of decision-making – Having quality of decision making is a must as decisions are constantly made and remade in the governance in response to changing requirements.

Efficiency – Efficiency is necessary for effective planning and direction of governmental activities.  It is required at all the levels of administration to secure maximum result with minimum labor and resources, fiscal and material, in least possible time.

Importance of the service – IAS officers play a crucial role in the administrative work of the nation. They usually work either in Secretariat for policy making or in field organizations for implementation of policies and Plans.

Secretariat is the nerve center of the Government, both at the Center as well as in the States. In secretariat, they perform important functions like policy decisions, overall planning and finance, legislative business, personnel management policies, communication with central institutions and overall evaluation, supervision, control and coordination of the work done by the field organizations.

Working in provinces may be posting either in a District or in different departments/head offices etc. The district administration occupies a key position.  It is the most convenient geographical unit, where the total apparatus of civil administration can be concentrated and where it comes into direct contact with the people. The arrangement being so, working in a province gives them knowledge about conditions prevailing in that state and experiences of tackling various problems and challenges, they have to face.

Working at the center gives them a different kind of experiences and wider outlook. The combination of these two makes the service more efficient and both, the state and center, get benefited by such arrangements. The state Government gets the advantage of their officers getting familiar with the policies and programs of the Government of India.

Brings uniform development of the whole nation – The All India character of IAS makes it possible for less developed states to get services of the best talents of the nation. It makes it possible for the national government to take care of the interest of the nation as a whole and bring a uniform development of each and every area.

No functional cadre – IAS is the only service, which does not have functional cadres. Its officers move from one functional area to another and occupy virtually all the top positions in the government, Central and State, in almost all the departments, be it general administration, policy formulation, monitoring, developmental activities or medical, technical, transport or industrial field. They virtually hold all the levers of power, controlling almost all national activities.

Weaknesses that has developed – The service has, however, developed certain weaknesses like reckless expansion, seething conflict between generalists and specialists, no differentiation between competent and incompetent, its trend of working on equations of pull and push in matters of transfers and postings and above all, the prevailing mistrust between the political executive and bureaucracy. The issues that come out on the basis of on an opinion poll, are here as under:

Legacies and traditions of imperial past – IAS has inherited from its colonial past several features, such as:

  • Generalist supremacy – IAS has inherited and retained it up-to-date. ICS, meant predominantly for British, was an elite service occupying important and top-level posts and getting substantially higher emoluments than any other Central Service.  Government of India, also, accords similar status to IAS Cadre. It gets more powers, higher responsibilities, better status, perquisites, fatter salaries and direct access to ministers. It enjoys supremacy over other services right from the beginning of the career and continues to enjoy it till retirement. Such an attitude militates against a coordinated working of the government as whole. Amongst other services, it has become a cause of dissatisfaction, bringing not only a sense of despondency, inefficiency and lack of involvement, but also results in flight of trained, mature and experienced civil servants to public/private sector or abroad.
  • Pr. A.K. Dasgupta and Prof. Nihar Ranjan Ray, Members of the Third Pay Commission, in their note of dissent expressed their opinion in the following words – “Maintenance of disparities in the services has done harm to our society…It is absurd in our view that a government, which has embarked on a comprehensive program of economic development and has accepted technical progress in its widest sense as the major aim of policy, should still continue to accord a lower value to a scientist, an engineer or a doctor than it does to an administrator”.
  • Anonymous character – The civil service of independent India still retains its anonymous character. In a democratic country, administration should be conducted with openness. The reasons for inefficiency negative behavior delay in taking any decision or action, corruption, failure of assiduously prepared plans and poor results of the hard work of few sincere officers lie in the anonymous character of civil service.
  • Procedure oriented system – Procedures are unavoidable in an organized system of governance, but it cannot be an end in itself. Mass of procedural complexities bewilders a common man. Even a legitimate job needs the support of middlemen. Masses are interested in the results and not the mechanism of decision making.
  • Centralization of power– During British rule, the whole system of administration was highly centralized. Even after independence it is so. Due to it, matters of financial and administrative nature (especially pertaining to rural areas) are the worst sufferers. Delegation of authority is necessary for making the situation better.
  • Apathy towards masses – It is alleged that IAS officers, like ICS officers, remain aloof from life of common people and remain in their ‘ivory tower of pride and glory’.
  • System of recruitment – The system of recruitment adopted in 1858 remains more or less the same depending on academic performance, classical knowledge and literary ability. It does not meet the requirements of Modern India.

Inadequate training time – The training period has been considered to be inadequate by a cross-section of people. It hardly gives them adequate knowledge and understanding of real life and social realities, Law and Order position, land dealings, developmental activities and other administrative work needed for a dynamic welfare administration.

Field postings – First five or six years of service, when they get trained in the field for the superior posts, are crucial for IAS officers. Earlier ICS spent first seven to eight years in the field. Then only they were moved to important posts. But now after mere two years training and one or two years at the sub-divisional level, an IAS officer gets promoted to important positions. They are hardly matured enough to coordinate the activities of various functionaries at higher level either service-wise or age-wise. It has become a cause of resentment amongst other functionaries, such as health, irrigation, power, agriculture etc.

Earlier the work of Collector and district experience was considered the basic qualification of ICS.  Today it has lost its validity, which it had earlier. There are many IAS officers, who have not worked as Sub-Divisional Officers for two full years or worked enough as district officers. The plans made by officers, without having sufficient knowledge of the problems of the people and enough contacts with field conditions, remain often far away from the reality and the actual needs and aspirations of the people.

Lack of Specialization – In the modern life, there are very few jobs, which can be done efficiently without some measure of specialization through education, training or experience. The need of specialization in IAS is much more than it was for the ICS officers. Administrative work has become more challenging and complex with fast changing environment in the country. However, the knowledge about the subject matter is of no importance for the appointment of IAS officers to higher posts, with the result that usually, policy advice becomes amateurish and alternatives are not properly put forward by them, when politicians have to be advised on policy. At present, most of the time, comparatively ignorant generalist officers are advising the comparatively ignorant politicians – the situation is of blind leading the blind.

IAS officers should confine themselves to the areas, which are well known to them and should not encroach upon those areas, which rightfully belong to others and for which others have acquired special knowledge and training.

No responsibility – These officers do not own responsibility for any wrong policy because of the policy of frequent transfers to different functional areas.

Village Training – During British Period emphasis was given to get the young ICS officers thoroughly acquainted with villages and the administrative structure dealing with matters, which were important from the villager’s point such as land, irrigation, government loans etc. They provided redress for injustice by decisions openly arrived at on the spot. Unfortunately since Independence and progressively over years, IAS officers they lack grass root knowledge due to the lack of direct and close contact with rural masses, especially of remote areas.

Apathy among senior officers towards training – During the British period, senior ICS officers, right to the top level of government, watched the working of their junior officers and guided them properly. That is why, young ICS officers possessed a marked degree of intelligence, character, skill, uprightness, honesty, and capacity to command and execute forcefully and effectively the policies of the government. Unfortunately, after independence, the senior officials could not spare much time for this task, as they are too busy with the ever-increasing tasks of the administration to spare time for the junior officers.

Reservation issue -. Shortsighted favoritism and concessions are usually very short lived and deteriorate into a constant pondering to intrigues and factions.

Nor trained to lead a simple life – The standard of living in their training institutions is so high, that, later on, the officers cannot keep that standard in their life with the salaries, they get. It tempts to corrupt practices. In a country, where 70% population lives in villages and a god deal of people live below the poverty line, officers should be inspired to lead a simple and honest life.

Hampering technological advancement –The technical people feel curbed and constrained by the authoritarian habits, attitudes and behavior of IAS personnel. Such an attitude is harmful to the progress of nation, more especially at a time of its history, when it is vigorously engaged in transforming its backward primitive agricultural economy to an advanced industrial order.

Part – II   – Perceptions

ICS, formed in1854, was considered the “Steel-frame of the whole structure, which reared and sustained the British rule in India.” After independence, for some time, like old timer ICS, IAS officers possessed character and qualities essential for the fair administration and displayed efficiency in governance. Under the able, sincere and visionary leadership of Patel, Nehru and Pant, the performance of IAS was at the best during 1950’s. There was a perfect tuning between the leadership and administration. Together, they built the infrastructure for all round development of modern India.

In the early 1960s, for the first time, at the advent of five-year Plans, administrators were exposed to economic development besides their normal executive work. This put the service under stress and changed its value system later on. The proliferating corruption in political and administrative set up had started. During this period, the administrators were criticized for their ivory tower life style and alienation from common man. 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 1970s, with the old visionary leaders having gone from the national scene, the trend of committed bureaucracy and its nexus with politicians started. During Mrs. Gandhi’s rule, in the name of socialism, the government assumed absolute authority, which intoxicated the politicians, Transfers, posting, and extensions became powerful weapon in politician’s hands to make bureaucrats compliant. Political patronage gave encouragement to ambitious officials to toe the footsteps of political leaders. They became willing tools in the hands of politicians. Toeing politician’s line gave them humiliation and devaluation and a secondary role in the matter of administration. Political pressures and other extraneous influences increased on the service.  Upright officers were sidelined. Slowly, but steadily the service lost effectiveness and advice impartially without any fear or favor. Compromise, delays in decision making, shielding unjust acts of political masters, half-hearted implementation and monitoring of developmental plans, policies including new economic policy flourished in full during this period.

The period of 1980’s saw demoralized and insecure bureaucracy despite of its having constitutional support. Its quality, work-culture and ethos were adversely effected. It was not felt immediately, but later it became evident and harmed the integrity of the service to large extent.

The period of 1990’s is known for political instability, rampant corruption and misappropriation of public funds. Numerous scams and scandals took place due to nexus between the politicians and the bureaucrats. After 1990, the card of Reservation and representation of Backwards in higher bureaucracy has been overplayed. It has diluted the standards and integrity of the service as a whole.

At the advent of 21st century administrators have become confused and depend on others for taking decisions. Disregards for merit, political patronage to some, and bloated size of the service, insecurity and changes in values shook the steel frame. Polarization of cross sections of society, in-discipline, violence and lawlessness increases all over the country. Socialist ideology prevented free administration of a free state. The suffocating atmosphere in the government services distracted bright young people to join the government. All this has mortgaged the national interests and throttled Sardar Patel’s dream of apolitical IAS.

Winding up with conclusion and suggestion – The nation needs, more than in the past, specialization and qualified administrators. Either the administrator should be selected earlier and then trained properly for the job as is done for Defense Services or MBA degree is made compulsory for appearing in competitive entrance examination. Lateral entries could also be made to get bright persons already employed like technocrats having sufficient experience in management, professionals from other civil services and   entrepreneurs willing to switch over. A combination of the above three would be the best.

Officers should be encouraged to upgrade their skill and knowledge. Senior officers should plan carefully postings and transfers of new officers during the first few years to give them right experience at right time. An officer should be given a reasonable tenure, in one post, to get grip over the situation, to understand the atmosphere, to plan, to implement it and to see the results, as also for the reasons of accountability. Promotions in the service should be based on good performance.

Today, local politicians could exert pressure on administrators as they are closer to people. Closer contact, coordination and confidence of people in administrators could save them from undue political pressures. They will understand better the ground realities, actual needs and aspirations of the people.

IAS officers should be confined to areas, which are well known to them and should not usurp the areas, for which, others have acquired special knowledge and experience.

There is still a hope for IAS to meet successfully the challenges of 21st century. The way out is making it a smaller service with a smaller role, greater transparency and setting up a statutory Civil Service Board to control postings, promotions and transfers to avoid undue pressures and political interference.

Suggestion – For the governance and development of the country and delivering goods to public at large the role of IAS is significant, as it occupies almost all the strategic posts throughout the nation, both at the center and in the states. Its officers are always associated with exercise of authority.Therefore they should be smart, effective and efficient enough to supervise, communicate, and coordinate properly, and impartial, while working.

It has been felt by the cross sections of society that pre entry educational system; recruitment system and post entry training of IAS officers call for a radical change to put dynamism in administration. Imparting proper knowledge, shaping attitudes, cultivating skills and building work habits for positions of power and responsibility requires catching youths when they are still in their formative years of life, say after higher education. Only then they would get enough training time to the articulate their thinking, attitude and knowledge needed for welfare development administration through a well-designed scheme of education and training.

Some lateral entries of MBA or professional degree holders could is made after graduation. Also some bright persons like technocrats having sufficient experience in management, professionals from other civil services and entrepreneurs willing to switch over could be appointed in IAS.

The other organizational changes required to enhance the effectiveness of governance are perfect tuning amongst politicians and administrators; no political interference in administrative work; smooth relationship between specialist and generalist; closer contact with people; formation of a smaller service with a smaller role; greater transparency and setting up a statutory Civil Service Board to control postings, promotions and transfers to avoid undue pressures and political interference.

October 22, 2017 - Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services |


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