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Role of Civil Services/ Bureaucracy in Governance

“For the forms of government, let fools contest.

              That which is best administered is best.”        Finer

 Introduction – A Government roughly falls into two general processes

  1. The process of politics, which consists of the activities of elected representatives of the people and
  2. The process of administration to assist politically elected ministers, which consists of the activities of permanent bureaucrats/civil servants.

Permanent bureaucrats/civil servants belong to a Professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled.(Finer. Theory and Practice of Modern Government, p709, 1950). The main characteristics of bureaucracy/Civil Services are its efficiency, predictability, impersonal nature, and its impartial and speedy working. It is always associated with exercise of authority.

Theoretically, the administrative machinery is subordinate to the elective body i.e. the Council of Ministers. But in practice, it plays a different role. The responsibility of political chiefs becomes formal, as they are forced to listen to the advice of the civil servants, which can dig and present data in a matter as they consider fit. The service role in relation to the minister is that of influence and not of power. It is this administrative apparatus that runs the government.

Civil servants are professionally recruited and trained in various disciplines – functional, technical and specialist as well as managerial and generalist such as police force to maintain law and order, a diplomatic service for external affairs, technical services for Public Works Department or Electricity Departments, Railways and Customs etc.

Governance, the most difficult task – In modern times, for good governance of a nation, it is the civil service/bureaucracy, which is responsible. Efficient and effective civil service is foundation stone to build a forward- looking nation. Of all acts of a government of a civilized society, perhaps, governance is one of the most difficult tasks, as it deals with issues – political, economic or social, that directly affect public life of living human beings, who are full of psychological and sociological complexes and prone to unpredictable behavior.

Concept of ‘Nation State?’ –The idea of a ‘nation state’ is not very old. For medieval scholars, the concept of a nation might have been unimaginable. A secular government ruled by the consent of the people rather than by holy mandate was perhaps unthinkable.  ‘Nation state’ in its present sense is more or less a nineteenth century concept. The notion of a ‘nation state’ is different from the idea of ‘city state’, ‘multi-national state’, ‘empire’, ‘confederation’ or other state forms. Idea of ‘nation state’ is associated with the rise of modern sovereign state, in which the government administers its specific territorial area for the unity and social, economic and cultural development of the people living in that area.

Exist in a type of society – Whether in the past or in present, the institution, whether in a nation state or city state or an empire, civil services have always been closely related, connected with the tasks of governance. Bureaucracy has now become a very potent and vital element of any government all over the world. It is an indispensable part of each and every political system, be it communism or socialism or capitalism. It can exist in a type of society, be it a dictatorial or a democratic society. The civil service is, therefore, an indispensable part of any government. Due to its exclusive and specialist nature of work and the need for more expert knowledge in administration for improving the quality of life, the importance of civil services increases day-by-day.

Bureaucracy works from behind the scene – To run the administration of a country nicely, a band of capable officers—efficient, prompt, just and sympathetic—belonging to different disciplines of civil services are required. Though they always live behind the scene, but it is the bureaucrats/civil servants, who not only dig expert knowledge from the raw material, but give it a shape with a sense of commitment. Politicians come for a short period and go. It is the bureaucrats, appointed on a long-term basis, who provide continuity in the governance of the nation.

Governance the most complex task – Governance/administration of a country is perhaps the most complex one, of all the acts/tasks a government performs, as it has to deal with living human beings prone to unpredictable behavior. As, it deals with different kinds of issues – political, economic or social, which directly affect day to day life of common men – the people.

Emergence of Welfare and Development activities – Earlier in the nineteenth Century the main tasks of an administration were universally the maintenance of law and order and revenue collection. In the post Second World war period, in general and especially in the new nations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe, Welfare and Developmental tasks were added in the responsibilities of civil services. Since the emphasis in administration has shifted to the welfare plans, national reconstruction and development, every nation require and civil service for effective implementation of its developmental activities. It, in turn demands officials of integrity, equipped with administrative ability and practical sagacity.

Civil services in a ‘Welfare State’  – French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Industrial Revolution 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. The ultimate aim of governance is to help common men live a peaceful, safe and secure life. Today, this simple and powerful truth is too often forgotten.

Demand of Public for better deal – Increased consciousness of public compelled them to demand, with persisting insistence, better standard of living, better housing, better education and better medical facilities. The masses now wish themselves to be benefited as much as possible, from the resources of their nation. The desire of public to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common people could have better deal, gave rise to the concept of `Welfare State’ and Developmental Administration, the former being the objective and the later the machinery to achieve these objectives.

Aims of a Welfare State – In a welfare state the government assumes and aims at improving the quality of life of its masses and the responsibility of its citizens from `womb to tomb’. It tries to bring about `social, political and economic justice’. The main aim of initiating and nurturing this concept is to bring about betterment to the lots of weaker section of society by building up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy. Uplift of the marginalized sections of society, provision of basic necessities to all, irrespective of their caste or creed, voluntary abdication of riches and power, that these riches bring and establishment of a productive, vigorous and creative political and social life are some of the aims of a Welfare government.

In short its objective is a massive attack on five major evils of society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. The welfare concept of state has no utility in itself unless it is translated into action. The instrument deployed for achieving welfare goals – national reconstruction and development – is that of the development of administration through the institution of civil service, which puts all its energies at bringing about socio-economic and political development of the nation as a whole. An efficient administration can successfully comprehend what is attainable, what is practical and what can help the agencies in the community to formulate plans and policies, by which the community can seek to assure welfare of all its members.

Maintenance of law and order all over the country is still very important. Then only, desired objectives for the sustainable development of the nation could be achieved. Those engaged in the task of governance could yield maximum results with minimum labor and resources within time and cost parameters and provide convenience to public at large.

In the post war period in general, development consciousness and development efforts, emerged in the new nations of Asia, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe, required a civil service of integrity, equipped with administrative ability and practical sagacity for development.

Requirements for efficient governanceFollowing are the requirements for the civil servants engaged in welfare and development administration –

  • Mental framework – it should never be conservative. It should have a scientific outlook and should be progressive, innovative, reformist and even revolutionary in mental attitudes and approaches.
  • Knowledge – it should have knowledge of science, technology and social sciences.
  • Skills – it requires conceptual skills (ability for innovative problem – analysis), planning skills, technical skills, managerial skills and human skills.
  • Vision – A development bureaucrat requires the vision of a statesman and not that of either narrow-minded politicians or a rule-minded bureaucrat.
  • Structures – it requires less hierarchical and more team-like structures such as Commissions, Boards, and Corporations etc.
  • Behavior – The behavioral pattern should consist of (a) action and achievement orientation (b) responsiveness (c) responsibility (d) all round smooth relations inside with juniors and seniors and outside with clientele and the public (e) commitment to development ideologies and goals.

Besides, there should be –

  • A working partnership between the civil servants and the people.
  •  A sense of service, a spirit of dedication, a feeling of involvement and a will to sacrifice for the public welfare.
  •  A pragmatic application of the basic democratic principles. Higher civil servants should provide the required leadership to the lower levels of administration.
  •  Constant field inspection by senior officials.
  • to provide the government with the ability to be in constant contact with the people;
  • to make the people conscious that the government is alive to their problem;
  • Smooth relationship between generalist administrators and experts/specialists; and
  • Training from time to time to understand the success already achieved in the field of development administration and the efforts to be initiated in future.








July 6, 2017 Posted by | Bureaucracy/Civil Services | , , | Leave a comment


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