Role of civil services in a democracy

Role of civil services in a democracy

1 . Civil Servants as Agents of Economic Development

  • They look after planning, resource allocation and resource mobilisation by managing taxation , subsidies and grants
  • They are behind formulation & implementation of strategies and programmes for  development & modernisation of  nation.
  • Civil servants manage government owned business, industrial enterprises and public utility services.
  • NITI Aayog CEO to District Magistrate are all IAS which ensures balanced development of all states and tehsils

2 . Agents of National Integration

  • They ensure equal development of all regions of the nation and thus help in national integration. If some areas are more developed and others are less developed , then problems like Naxalism can develop.
  • When nation is newly formed, nationalism bond between people of different regions is very weak . In such situations , Civil Servants act as Steel Frame so as to keep the nation together. Vallabhbhai Patel knew this and as a result he didn’t dismantled ICS Officers and just changed its nomenclature to IAS
  • In All India Services , officers from one region are send to serve in some other region . In these situations, these officers can work well because they are free from any  bondage

3. Welfare State

  • Since we want to make India a welfare state. Hence, we have to keep care of minorities, workers, child , women , youth. Hence, we require large number of generalist & specialist officers who will work according to needs of these groups
  • Anti argument – This bureaucracy becomes self perpetuating . Instead of being sensitive to their needs and being the facilitators, they become main impediment to development of people. This is seen in India now when bureaucracy has lost its touch with general public.

4. Execution of Program

  • All the programmes are executed on the ground by these Civil Servants. Eg : Right to Education is made by Parliament but to make that work, it is the Civil Servants who do hard work to implement it in schools.
  • Anti Arguments : But we have seen now a days, most of the schemes are implemented on papers with almost no work visible on the ground. Execution of work cant be solely left on them because they aren’t accountable to people and aren’t elected representatives.

5. Channel of Communication to / for the State

  • In democracy, each section has aspiration , needs and problems.
  • Bureaucracy is the only mechanism to convert demand of these people into policy
  • Eg Farmer needs water, he will report to District Collector and then District Collector will place that information in front of Irrigation Department

6. Serve as knowledge bank for good policy formation

  • These Civil Servants are transferred from one place to other . They serve in all type of areas and as a result becomes repository of huge practical knowledge . This knowledge helps in formation of better policies 
  • Along with that, Secret Information like Foreign Affairs and database of secret agents working abroad can’t be left in hands of elected representatives. Such information is handled by Civil Servants only .

7. Provides Continuity

  • Civil Servants carry on the governance when governments change due to elections etc.
  • Ramsay Muir has remarked that while governments may come and go, ministers may rise and fall, the administration of a country goes on forever.

8. Crisis Managers

  • In the event of occurrence of  natural calamities, it is the Civil Servants that comes first to help  & act quickly and undertake rescue operations in order to prevent loss of life and property of the affected people.
  • They act as moral boosters and life savers in times of calamity .

Problems with Civil Services 

  • Top Down Approach  of Decision Making and given the elitist composition of the IAS cadre, the administrators are  unfamiliar with  complex ground realities=> IAS hierarchy is insensitive to the needs, constraints and aspirations of local populations.
  • Lack of accountability because of proliferation of departments with conflicting jurisdictions . It is easy to evade responsibility. 
  • Incompatibility with Changing Political Scenario (after 73 & 74 Amendment): In the political sphere, although Panchayati Raj (elected local governance) has been instituted but District Collector and  rest of  local bureaucracy continue to be accountable to the governments in the state capitals. Elected representatives find their initiatives thwarted 
  • Insecurity of Tenure:  IAS officers are not protected from persecution by their political bosses. They have to kow-tow to the dictates of these masters even if that means working against the interests of the people. 
  • More concerned with Processes than Results due to Weberian Model of Bureaucracy
  • Not able to change : Rapid and fundamental changes are taking place in the country in terms of rapid economic growth,  urbanization, environmental degradation  & technological changes .  The response time to adapt to these changes is much shorter than it used to be. But our Civil Services haven’t changed at same pace  with the changing situations

Suggestions to improve Civil Services

  • Training should be revamped – Currently much of the focus of the training programme for civil servants are on imparting them -administrative and technical skill. What is required is that maximum focus should be on imparting democratic and ethical values so that they could show empathy and compassion towards the weaker sections during their tenure as civil servant. Technical skills could be learned during the service.
  • Break insulation in  Labour Market : bureaucratic structure in India is  an insulated labour market . There should be lateral-entry in contractual jobs with a well-defined career progression. 
  • Performance based promotion-instead of seniority based promotion 
  • Fixed tenure–  so that committed officers  are protected from persecution by their political bosses.
  • Increasing accountability and transparency – For this
    • Lokpal should be strengthened.
    • Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services Bill, 2011 should be passed at the earliest.
    • Provisions of RTI should be implemented in letter and spirit 
  • Restructure Bureaucracy keeping in view 73rd & 74th Amendment

Recommendations wrt Civil Service Reforms by Various Commissions & Committees

1 . About Recruitment

  • Professor Yoginder K. Alagh Committee recommended testing the candidates in a common subject rather than on optional subjects.

2. Training

  • Yugandhar Committee, 2003 recommended need for three mid-career training programmes in 12th, 20th & 28th years of service. There is a “major shift” in the nature of work of the officer, at these stages  of their career.

3. Weeding out

  • Hota Committee (2004) recommended to weed out unsuitable candidates via  performance review after 15 years of service 

4. Efficiency

  • Hota Committee, 2004 recommended use of ICT to transform Government by making it more accessible, effective and accountable.

5. Accountability

  • Committee on Prevention of Corruption (Santhanam Committee) suggested constitution of the Central Vigilance Commission
  • First ARC recommended  establishment of Lok Pal & Lok Ayuktas  to deal with complaints against Ministers & Secretaries at Centre & State level
  •  Hota Committee recommended formulation of Code of Ethics   for civil servants 

6. Performance Appraisal

  • Surinder Nath Committee, 2003  recommended that performance appraisal should be done and only those who can demonstrate a credible record of actual performance and possess the necessary knowledge and skills required for higher responsibilities should be promoted.

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