Monday, March 23, 2015

India should reform the way top bureaucrats are recruited and function

For quite sometime I was thinking that it's high time to consider reforming Indian civil service, viz. IAS (Indian  Administrative Service), IPS (Indian Police Service), IFS (Indian Foreign Service) type 'elite' services. Such public service was introduced by the British rulers, mainly for tax collection purposes. That's why these people are still called collector. India should reform its top bureaucracy and the way it's recruited and function. 

If any ministry or department or agency need any officer, they can directly advertise, mention what qualifications/experience etc. they need and select the most suitable candidate. It's how civil servants and bureaucrats are recruited in USA, Canada, UK and most, if not all, other developed democracies. The British themselves never had the same system, which they introduced in its colonies like India. 

That's one of the main reasons for rampant corruption and lack of governance in India since long. Indian civil servants are utter misuse and wastage of few genuine talents who join through one of the most competitive exams in the world with less than 0.3% success rate via UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). It has been proved time and time again that, "Indian bureaucracy is the worst in Asia" and also among the least effective in the whole world.

Such, basically, clerical job whose main purpose is to implement whatever is told (read, ordered) to them by their political masters. Previously it was the British rulers and now (mostly) the criminal and/or corrupt Indian politicians. Subservience to politicians and feudal governance hardly attract any candidate with awareness who has natural leadership, dignity and personal integrity. It's not so surprising that mostly students from relatively lawless states and areas, where they experience and expect huge extra-constitutional power of such public servants, their ability to get huge bribe (and dowry), are attracted to such jobs. 

Rare few who join the service with a passion to serve the  country with basic sense of justice and ethics, are either 'tamed' or leave the service sooner. Few continue with high level of frustration and just wait for retirement. 

Such recruitment of top bureaucrats from outside the lower grade employees are also a major reason for low efficiency and rampant corruption in Indian civil service. It's more dangerous for law enforcement and security agencies.  In most, if not all, developed western democracies, higher officials in any law enforcement agency (and many other civil service agencies) are only promoted from lowest positions- unlike that in India. No IPS type recruitment to fill vacancies in top positions in police or other security and investigative agencies in UK or USA. That's a big reason for its neutrality and efficiency.

A feudal society which is so obsessed with socio-economic hierarchy that include power without much accountability, and show off of (mostly) ill gotten wealth is bound to have such infatuation. Even abroad, many, if not most, people from Indian subcontinent are insanely obsessed with "too busy" culture and other socio-economic hierarchy irrespective of their ability and professional satisfaction in 'prestigious' positions like manager, group leader, C suite executive, professor etc. The typical “Sirji” (or its 'hindu equivalent'- Guruji, Sri Sri) culture, the tendency to show-off relationship with influential people, teenage obsession of  showing pictures with famous people are so visible among many adults. It’s just another symptom of the same disease, if I may say so.

I think it's high time to reform Indian civil service and introduce some civility into it.

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  1. S. Roy12:47 PM

    Among the English speaking countries with advanced economies such as US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that used to be colonies of UK, as well as UK itself, NONE has the kind of bureaucracy related programs such as IAS, IPS, IFS, etc. etc.

    IAS is a leftover from ICS that was set up by the British simply for tax collection and administration and ICS started their careers as Collectors (even now the term is used). With democracy why is there any need for such anachronistic systems?

    There are several problems with such systems. Firstly, they are part of India's infamous deeply entrenched bureaucracy and wield enormous power. Secondly, these systems create cliques and mutual back patting societies. Thirdly, and because of first two, these systems fortify corruption.

    Lastly, and the not the least, is a problem that is often overlooked by others. This is the poor application of talent. Since they are usually selected through extreme competition (barring few that enter through back doors), these talented minds become pencil pushers - a huge wastage of their talent and other skills.

    Instead of putting to productive use of talented minds in private industries to create wealth for the nation, their functions results in a regressive nation.

  2. Anonymous1:18 PM

    It's not easy to improve your country! But I hope they'll do theirs best! If I have a problems, like writing papers I usually give it for a specialist from, and get a perfect paper. So everyone should do what he/she can do perfectly!


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