By: V.Sundaram, IAS
April 18, 2005
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I welcome the announcement made by the Government Of India that a Second
Administrative Reforms Commission will be set up to prepare a blue print
for revamping the public administrative system across the country.
It is understood that this Commission would go into the entire gamut of
issues relating to public administration at all levels and submit its
report to the government within one year of its constitution.
In the late evening of his life, Rajaji campaigned against the evils of
one party system and the blind and wholesale acceptance of State-sponsored
socialism, licence-permit-control-quota Raj as he called it. Subsequently,
at all levels in the government, it degenerated into a system of
State-sponsored, State-guided, State-controlled and State-directed
corruption with the willing cooperation of all the organs of the State.
Rajaji had observed: `I want an India clear of the atmosphere in which it
is now enveloped where honest men engaged in the difficult tasks of
production and trade can carry on their occupation without fear of ruin at
the hands of officials, Ministers and party bosses`.
Thanks to the economic revolution created by the new process of economic
reforms initiated by the Narasimha Rao Government (unfortunately Sonia
Gandhi does not come to my mind in this context!) in 1991, India is slowly
getting out of the shackles of licence-permit-control-quota Raj of the 60s
THE ONWARD MARCH OF THIS NEW ECONOMIC REVOLUTION CAN BE SUSTAINED ONLY BY
REFASHIONING, RESTRUCTURING AND REORGANISING OUR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AT
ALL LEVELS --- CENTRE, STATES, LOCAL BODIES AND THE VILLAGE PANCHAYATS.
German sociologist Max Weber described a perfect bureaucracy as a system
in which everything is decided by inflexible rules of operation.
Our bureaucracy, after independence, has degenerated into a system in
which everything is delayed by inflexible rules of inaction and
indifference with total commitment to neutral performance or perpetuation
of status quo or both.
In short, the system of public administration has stifled and continues to
stifle creativity, creative thinking and quest for positive action. It
reduces leadership. It blocks innovation. It multiplies and perpetuates
inefficiency like Tubercular Bacilli. Our unscrupulous Ministers and their
cohorts are the only beneficiaries of this system.
Unfortunately, our systems and structures of public administration ---
relics of a colonial past --- still continue almost in tact. Czar
Alexander of Russia once said: `I do not rule Russia; 10,000 clerks rule
Russia`. The same could be said of our Prime Minister and Chief Ministers
throughout the country.
The consequences of anonymity in responsibility in our public
administration have been disastrous. The common man in the street in India
is impotent and helpless. He has given up the struggle to get back his
legitimate dues and rights. In this context I am reminded of what
President Johnson once said when he was asked as to why he did not fire a
man who had scuttled one of his favourite public welfare programmes: `Fire
him? Hell! I can`t even find him!`
In the mid-60s, the Government Of India had appointed the First National
Commission with Morarji Desai as chairman to make suitable recommendations
in the sphere of Administrative Reforms. After 1969, for the past 36
years, the Government Of India has not given any thought to re-structuring
of public administration. Once in six or seven years, the Government Of
India and the States have been appointing a Pay Commission with unfailing
Likewise, the Nabobs of Modern India (I mean the reprehensible MPs and
MLAs) have been voting financial benefits and other perks for themselves
in the glorious tradition of Chengis Khan, Tamaerlane, and Nadir Shah. The
sensitive concern shown by the Government Of India and the States towards
the welfare of Government employees, MPs and MLAs has not been shown
towards the myriad millions of India leading a wretched subsistence
existence, finding themselves totally helpless against the stone walls of
It is a grim public tragedy that as a matter of high State policy, over
the years, adequate and effective concern or consideration has not been
given to administrative reforms so as to make every branch of public
administration an efficient and effective instrument of public service and
Our public administration is entangled in red tape. It entangles others in
it whatever their field, howsoever vital the function they may have to
discharge for the country. It does so in many ways and for a variety of
i) Ministries function as silos: from another silo, a question arises, in
a file; the file travels down to lower and lower forms of life; it comes
to rest at the desk of the long-suffering officer somewhere near the
bottom; he looks up the files on this or similar questions, and prepares a
draft response; the file now begins its journey up the ladder in this
particular silo - at each step the preceding noting is summarised, some
times a marginal addition of substance is made; eventually it reaches the
top; the imprimatur of the appropriately high authority having been
affixed the file is sent to the silo from which the question emanated.
ii) Every decision has to be referred to half a dozen other silos; thus
having returned from one silo, the file begins its journey to another
iii) The case has to be circulated among different `stake-holders` - a
much favoured corporate expression these days. The popular refrains in
Central Secretariat in Newe Delhi being: `May be sent to Law Ministry for
vetting`, `May be sent to the Ministry of Environment for examination from
pollution angles` and `May be sent to Finance Ministry for financial
iv) As a consequence, each case gets to be `processed` for periods that
are incomprehensible to every average citizen outside the government.
v) The bureaucratic maze dulls the sharpest of minds. It changes the very
idea of what `work` is. Many a civil servant, when he has sent the file to
the next step, feels that he has done `work`. I always used to quote
Acharya Vinobha Bhave`s famous remark in this context: Hamaare Yahan Baat
Hi Ka Kaam Hai, Kaam Ki Baat nahin. (We only talk about work, there is no
question of our doing any work). A system conditioned in this way seldom
throws up creative solutions.
vi) In place of seizing the initiative, over the years each civil servant
learns to duck and look for some precedent. To say little of blazing new
trails, even ordinary pragmatism gets to be shunned. Each civil servant
`sticks to principles`, to `consistency` rather than to pursue pragmatic
vii) Procedural routine drains the ability to think --- I am referring to
the system as a whole.
viii) No harm comes to any officer because of delay. Prompt action can
always get reviewed and questioned. Delayed action or more appropriately
deliberate inaction never gets any civil servant into any difficulty.
Every Commission of Enquiry after independence has questioned all civil
servants and Ministers about instances of speedy action---never once for
delay or inaction.
ix) The system does not hear enough from those who suffer on account of
it. THE COMMON PEOPLE OF INDIA ARE TREATED ALL THE TIME LIKE CONSUMABLES
IN THE SYSTEM. This has been the greatest contribution of the Congress
Party after 1947---a glorious tradition which is not only being maintained
but enriched by the UPA Government under the inspiring de-facto leadership
of Sonia Gandhi.
The current system of public administration is marked by delay, red-tapism,
inefficiency, carelessness and callousness, contempt of the public and
above all uncontrolled and unabashed corruption.
If the far- reaching liberalisation measures taken during the last decade
have to produce their full impact, we have to completely re-structure the
existing systems, structures and procedures of public administration. Our
national endeavour should be to establish a new system of public
administration throughout the country which will enable the common man to:
DO MORE THAN EXIST -- LIVE
DO MORE THAN TOUCH -- FEEL
DO MORE THAN LOOK -- OBSERVE
DO MORE THAN BREATHE -- ABSORB
DO MORE THAN HEAR -- LISTEN
DO MORE THAN LISTEN --- UNDERSTAND, PERFORM AND DELIVER IN THE MANNER AND
There is also an urgent national need for the constitution of NATIONAL
VIGILANCE MACHINERY RE-ORGANISING COMMISSION. The government should
appoint this Commission to look into this aspect of public administration,
to protect the common man against the corrupt deeds/practices of the
The existing machinery for Vigilance and Anti-corruption was created by
the government in 1963 when Gulzarilal Nanda was Union Home Minister. At
that time, in a great hurry, the vigilance and anti-corruption work
throughout the country was handed over to a machinery completely manned by
officials drawn from the police. In effect, this has meant that in the
normal course, vigilance cases would be taken up against all excepting
those belonging to the police. There is an urgent public need for
completely revamping and re-organising the machinery for vigilance and
anti-corruption with accent on transparency, accountability, efficiency,
effectiveness and speedy dispatch of public business. An autonomous and
completely independent Vigilance And Anti-Corruption Service should be
created to restore public confidence.
The Central Vigilance Commission should also be suitably re-organised by
increasing the number of Vigilance Commissioners (as has been done in the
case of the Election Commission) and Laws and Procedures should be devised
to completely insulate the Vigilance Commission from all political and
Public Vigilance Committees (PVCs) should be established in every district
consisting of prominent social workers, writers, journalists, retired
government servants and retired persons from Armed Forces to keep a public
watch over the deeds/misdeeds of Government Departments And Undertakings.
APPOINTMENT OF A NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR REFORMATION OF JUDICIAL
ADMINISTRATION WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON THE CREATION OF AN INDEPENDENT
MACHINERY FOR DEALING WITH THE NATIONAL MENACE OF CORRUPTION IN THE
JUDICIARY IN INDIA:
CORRUPTION IN JUDICIARY in recent years has reached alarming heights and
acquired menacing proportions. JUSTICE in many courts of law in India can
be bought and sold with a premium like any other commodity in short supply
in the black market. Corrupt judges go unpunished in the name of `Judicial
Privilege and Judicial Independence`. Judges are not above the law. The
Divine Right Theory of Kings and Emperors has been dethroned in India only
to be replaced by the Divine Right Theory of Judges and Magistrates.
Likewise, we have the Divine Right Theory of Ministers and Politicians!
The common man in India is an insignificant pawn - indeed an impotent pawn
- in the hands of the `independent` Judiciary, `irresponsible` Executive
and `insolent` Legislature. There is a public need for the appointment of
a NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR JUDICIAL REFORMATION to look into the various
issues connected with judicial corruption, judicial reforms and other
The sine qua non for a satisfactory means of reducing, if not ending
corruption and infusing efficiency and integrity into our battered systems
and structures of public administration lies in the inculcation of a high
moral purpose into the minds of the official classes.
We must create a climate where public officials who tread the way of
righteousness and dedicate themselves to the service of the country feel
confident that the path of selfless duty is the way to glory and not to an
ineluctable oblivion as is the situation prevailing today throughout the
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