Corruption-ridden Indian bureaucracy needs complete overhaul with  transparency, efficacy

Indian bureaucracy mired in inefficiency, apathy and a culture of non- performance, which needed urgent changes to improve governance, writes V.S.Pandey

The elections to five states are over and the frenzy has subsided. Soon people will be asked to elect their representatives in Himachal Pradesh and Gujrat and so on. The next Parliament elections are now nearly two years away. People will excitedly and hopefully keep electing governments  and keep  waiting for them to deliver. Public keep waiting for Godot. Where  is the much awaited Governance? Despite 75 years of independence, only some small strides have been taken and we remain an underdeveloped and poor country with abysmal performance on all major social indicators. We have even started lagging behind our poorer neighbors and that should  seriously alarm   our citizenry.

In his speech ‘Three Warnings’, Dr Ambedkar had said “On 26th January, 1950, India will be an independent country. What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people”. When we analyze the situation today we can infer that the  pathetic performance of our nation is also the consequence of the corrupt ways and ‘treachery’ of many.

Speaking about the role of the political parties. Dr Ambedkar, in his last address to the Constituent Assembly, had warned that “If the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in a jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever”. Under our constitution the elected executive have been vested with paramount powers , but this  most important organ  has unfortunately degenerated  profoundly.  Generally  politicians  have worked only  to further their own self interest and that of their parties  at the pyrrhic  cost  of callously undermining  public interest.

Where as people are aware of the serious flaws that have crept into our political system which is rotting and decaying progressively, the other important instrument of governance, the bureaucracy is also not helping the cause. Our former President, Dr Pranab Mukherjee, had asserted that  “Bureaucracy is the biggest hurdle of our development and we must rectify it”. The problem is that these observations have repeatedly come from the highest levels , but still no corrective measures have been attempted and whatever changes were implemented turned out to be cosmetic in nature only .They did not succeed in altering even the slightest –  leave alone radically changing the bureaucratic culture . It is not  that everyone in the system is dubbed corrupt or rotten but unfortunately holistically , the bureaucracy is not being transformative. Instead it is mired in inefficiency, apathy and a culture of non performance. This must  change  immediately  as  their role is critical today -in the current dismal scenario .  Being  the most  vital and a permanent part of the governance system of our country , it has to perform efficaciously. If it  continues to remain inept  and corrupt , it will derail the spasmodic efforts of the political establishment to improve the state of the nation .

The  job of the executive was to ensure efficient implementation of the laws passed by the legislature and to provide honest , transparent and just governance. Unfortunately the famed steel frame ,the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) seems to have corroded and has either joined the corrupt bandwagon or has withdrawn totally into a shell , where it  hears nothing, sees nothing , says nothing. This culture of inaction has cost the nation dearly. They were mandated to work honestly and efficiently to uphold the rule of the law and ensure that  the politicians act according to the rule book. Unfortunately, they now seem to be in cahoots with the political class and instead of opposing/resisting their wrong doings ,  are pro actively colluding with them and negating the rule of law.

This  must change. Till such time that  politics gets cleansed  , the second most important institution of governance- has to not only  wake up and shed its lethargy  but also act  in the true spirit of Service before Self.  A concerted effort needs to be made to rejuvenate the lost spirit of service to the people .The bureaucracy has to be reminded that they are being paid by the public  so they have  to  reorient their loyalty towards the people and  their game changing role as  servants  of the hapless public . Twenty five years ago, in the state of Uttar Pradesh , a group of conscientious IAS officers decided to do so. They  launched a crusade against corruption and the lack of accountability rife in their cadre. Despite virulent opposition ,they  went on to elect the’’ three most corrupt IAS officers’’ amongst them through a secret ballot. That experiment had a salutary effect on the system -for some time. However, these  radical one time experiments can not solve the problem . The time has come for bureaucracy to do some serious soul searching, check the culture of corruption and  gross selfishness and instead become accountable to the people and promote their welfare ceaselessly.

On April 21 , 1947 , Sardar Patel while addressing the probationers of Administrative service officers at the Metcalf house, New Delhi, referred to civil services as  the steel frame of India . His advice to civil servants was to  ““Take to the path of dharma – the path of truth and justice. Don’t misuse your valour. Remain united. March forward in all humility, but fully awake to the situation you face…”. India will progress only when the bureaucracy begins to practice what Sardar Patel had prescribed.

(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)







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