Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

Last Updated: May 2023 (Role of Civil Services in a Democracy)

Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

This article deals with ‘Role of Civil Services in a Democracy.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Civil services in India refer to the administrative services of the Government of India, which are responsible for the implementation and execution of various government policies and programs.

Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

1. Civil Servants as Agents of Economic Development

Civil servants play a crucial role as agents of economic development in India. As government officials are responsible for implementing policies and delivering public services, civil servants directly impact the country’s economic growth and development.

  1. Revenue and Resource Mobilization: Civil Servants look after planning, resource allocation and resource mobilization by managing taxation, subsidies, grants and financial administration.
  2. Program Implementation: Civil Servants are behind the strategy and program formulation & implementation for the development & modernization of the nation. 
  3. Manage Government-owned Enterprises: Civil servants manage government-owned businesses, industrial enterprises and public utility services. 
  4. Regulatory framework and governance: Civil servants are responsible for establishing and enforcing regulatory frameworks that govern various sectors of the economy and ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness in business practices.
  5. Infrastructure development: Civil servants are involved in planning and executing infrastructure development projects, such as roads, railways, ports, airports, power plants, and urban facilities.
  6. NITI Aayog CEO to District Magistrate are all IAS which ensures balanced development of all states and tehsils.

2. Civil Servants as Agents of National Integration

The Indian Civil Services, particularly the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), plays a crucial role in ensuring the unity and harmony of the country by upholding the principles of impartiality, fairness, and inclusiveness.

  1. Administration of Diverse Regions: India is a diverse country with various cultures, languages, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They ensure equal development of all regions of the nation and thus help in national integration. 
  2. In a newly formed nation, the bond of nationalism between people of different regions is very weak. Civil Servants act as Steel Frame to keep the nation together in such situations. Vallabhbhai Patel knew this, and as a result, he didn’t dismantle ICS Officers and just changed its terminology to IAS.
  3. Maintaining Law and Order: Civil servants, especially those in the police and administrative services, play a crucial role in maintaining law and order and ensuring that communal tensions are diffused, conflicts are resolved peacefully, and all citizens can live in a secure and harmonious environment.
  4. In All India Services, officers from one region are sent to serve in another region. In these situations, these officers can work well because they are free from any bondage.

3. Role of Civil Servants for making India a Welfare State

  • Since the constitution envisages India to make a welfare state, the government must take care of minorities, workers, children, women, and youth. Hence, government require a large number of generalist & specialist officers who will work according to the needs of these groups. 
  • Civil Servants conduct research, analyze data, and provide expert advice to policymakers. Their inputs help shape policies that address social inequalities, provide essential services, and uplift marginalized sections of society.
  • Anti argument: This Bureaucracy becomes self-perpetuating. Instead of being sensitive to their needs and being the facilitators, they become the main impediment to the development of people. It is seen in India now when Bureaucracy has lost touch with the general public. 

4. Role of Civil Servants in Execution of Program

  • Civil Servants execute all government programs. E.g. the 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. 
  • Civil servants engage with various stakeholders to gather feedback, build partnerships, and ensure program success. They collaborate with community organizations, businesses, and citizens to identify needs, address concerns, and foster collaboration.
  • Civil servants monitor and evaluate the progress and impact of government programs. They develop performance indicators, collect data, and analyze outcomes to assess program effectiveness.
  • Anti Arguments: But we have seen nowadays most of the schemes are implemented on paper with almost no work visible on the ground. Execution of work cant be solely left to them because they aren’t accountable to people and aren’t elected representatives

5. Civil Servants as Channel of Communication to/for the State 

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

6. Civil Servants as Knowledge Bank 

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

7. Civil Servants provides Continuity

Civil Servants carry on the governance when governments change due to elections or any other reason. 

Ramsay Muir on Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

8. Civil Servants as Crisis Managers

  • In the event of natural calamities, the Civil Servants come first to help & act quickly and undertake rescue operations to prevent the 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: Given the elitist composition of the IAS cadre, the administrators are unfamiliar with the complex ground realities. IAS hierarchy is insensitive to the needs, constraints and aspirations of local populations. 
  • Lack of Accountability: Lack of transparency and the proliferation of departments with conflicting jurisdictions make evading responsibility easy. Instances of non-performance, negligence, and misconduct are not adequately addressed, leading to a culture of impunity.
  • Incompatibility with Changing Political Scenario (after 73 & 74 Amendment): In the political sphere, although Panchayati Raj (elected local governance) has been instituted, the District Collector and the rest of the 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 kowtow to the dictates of these masters, even if that means working against the interests of the people.  
  • Weberian Model of Bureaucracy: More concerned with Processes than Results due to the Weberian Model of Bureaucracy.
  • Bureaucratic Red Tape: Indian Civil Servants are known for their red-tapism and act as impediments in public works. 
  • Unable to change: Rapid and fundamental changes are occurring in India due to rapid economic growth, urbanization, environmental degradation & technological changes. The amount of time it takes to react to these changes is substantially shorter than it ever was. But our Civil Services haven’t changed at the same pace with the changing situations.

Suggestions to Improve Civil Services

  • Training should be revamped: Currently, much of the focus of the training program for civil servants is on imparting them administrative and technical skills. What is required is that the maximum focus should be on imparting democratic and ethical values so that they can show empathy and compassion towards the weaker sections during their tenure as civil servants. Technical skills could be learned during the service. 
  • Break Insulation in Labour Market: Bureaucratic structure in India is an insulated labour market. A lateral entry into contractual jobs with a well-defined career progression should exist. 
  • Performance-based promotion: Instead of a seniority-based promotion, the government should move towards performance-based promotion.  
  • Fixed tenure: There should be 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 the 73rd & 74th Amendments. 

Recommendations of Various Commissions & Committees wrt Civil Service Reforms

About Recruitment

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


  • Yugandhar Committee, 2003 has recommended that there is a need for three mid-career training programmes in the 12th, 20th & 28th years of service as a “major shift” takes place at these stages of their career. 

Weeding Out

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


  • Hota Committee, 2004 has recommended using ICT to make governance more accessible, accountable and effective.


  • Santhanam Committee recommended changes in Article 311 of the Constitution of India, like the offering of bribes, should be made a substantive offence. 
  • First Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) recommended the establishment of Lok Pal & Lok Ayuktas to deal with complaints against Ministers & Secretaries at the Centre & State level.

Performance Appraisal

  • Surinder Nath Committee, 2003  has recommended that the performance appraisal should be done periodically, and those who demonstrate credible records and possess necessary skills should be promoted.

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