Sunday, 30 August 2015

Is the Indian Administrative Service a 'Steel Frame' or a 'Steel Cage'?

Indian Administrative Service is the backbone of the executive authority in India. Coming from diverse backgrounds, cultures and regions, these officers under one roof truly encompass the feeling of ‘unity in diversity’. The UPSC is responsible for the selection of the officers in a fair and transparent manner, exhibiting faith in the noble ideas of democracy. The diverse and rich experience of the members of the service allows the officers to handle the complexity of on the job administrative situations and therefore adds to the valor of the post itself. It is perfectly described as ‘permanent executive’ because they generally serve the country until their age of retirement and do not fall with the fall in the ‘political executive’.
The IAS helps in the smooth functioning of the government and administer complex on the job situations for which they are adequately trained in advance and are put forward to the job for execution. They are the policy formulators who manufacture future-oriented policies that could give a fillip to the prudent administration and inclusive growth of our country. As they are accorded with the task of maintenance of law and order too, they are generally considered very essential especially for the local administration. They are selected and trained by central authorities, therefore adequate safeguards are provided by the Central Government for the security of their tenure via inter-cadre transfers, deputations on central machinery and transfers under central pool. Also, the officers are the members of various IAS Associations which help the officer in the hour of the need to combat any act of injustice forwarded towards the officer, at the root level itself and also helps in case the matter reaches the judiciary. The IAS Officers theoretically work in an environment free from external pressures, accorded special protection and are adequately remunerated to dissolve the family tensions. They generally do enjoy the power to make decisions and are regarded essential for the administration. Their assistance to the political executive with special reports, documents of proof and ideas for the formulation of laws with the approval of the superior authorities generally sums up their executive work in totality.
But the picture is not as rosy as it is perceived. In the past few cases, the political interference has far exceeded its limit with the use of coercive, threatening and forceful abuse of political power on the permanent executive. The whole idea of subordination of bureaucracy lefts little scope of independent decision making. The agents of policy formulation and implementation of the same are merely accorded with the task of implementation in practicality. It is a common practice to change the bureaucrats via transfers and postings from time to time according to the whims and fancies of the political party in power, especially when the new government takes charge after the elections. The bureaucrat swears on the constitution for the prevention of any malpractice and corruption to uphold the sanctity of the constitution but the inadequate protection to the whistleblower invites threat from the non-state actors (like Mafia) and criminals, often working under the umbrella of the political power of the state. It jeopardizes the life of the concerned bureaucrat and his/her family and in such a situation he/she chooses to remain silent and thereby unwillingly compromise on his/her duty towards the state.
Also, with recent increase in complexities of administration, the workload of the officers have increased manifold as evident with inadequate supply of the officers as compared to the need of them in various departments. Adding insult to the injury is frequent transfers that are ‘rewarded’ generally to hide the malpractices of the political game, ultimately weakening the ‘war on corruption’. Frequent transfers have also hurt badly to the functioning of the concerned department because by the time the officer acquires experience to deal with the complexities of the issues of the department, he/she is transferred and the new head starts gaining experience from the scratch.
Increased unnecessary regulations via archaic laws in the name of transparency, is also detrimental to the working of the bureaucracy. It affects the functioning and questions the ability of the bureaucrats to handle the different real life situations for which there can not be a perfect way to carry out. Over emphasis on regulations in the name of transparency have instilled a fear in the minds of the bureaucrats and therefore, they generally avoid risky decisions that could add to the disadvantage of their job profile. Unnecessary accountability practices are also hurting the day to day work of the department by increasing the workload of the already under-staffed departments.
Therefore the need of the hour is to diversify and regularly update the selection procedures with special emphasis on the required skills for the job. We could always stop regarding the bureaucrats as ‘jack of all and master of none’ and rather bring them under a more demand of the job oriented framework for which the candidate would already possess certain skills and the training would merely work as a polish for their skills.
·         The frequent transfers and postings should be avoided until or unless there is a dire need of it because the officer acquires rich experience in a department and transferring him/her would mean killing that valuable experience.
·          Regular exchange programmes (like University Students) with foreign bureaucrats would add to their skills and capabilities and would ultimately provide innovative ideas to deal with the complexities of administration.
·         According adequate safeguards to the whistleblower (with certain exceptional cases) would arm our officers against the ‘war on corruption’.
·         Loosening unnecessary regulations, strengthening UPSC like authorities through autonomous functioning, getting rid of archaic laws would enhance the competitiveness and capabilities of our bureaucrats.
·         Accepting major recommendations of the ARC II Report without adding any political colour to it could strengthen our executive backbone.
The Indian Administrative Service is not a ‘colonial legacy’ but a dream of an independent India whereby the educated, hard-working youth of our country comes with a very high morale to serve the country and thereby contributing their rich experience to the ever growing and ever expanding dream of a ‘United and Shining India’. For the dream to become a reality, we have no right to keep the IAS in the ‘steel cage’, rather a ‘steel frame’ should be built around this organ of the executive so that it could work for the betterment of our society, region as well as the country in large.

No comments:

Post a Comment