Sunday, December 28, 2008

A life term for bureaucrats!

Bureaucracy should be gradually phased out to technocracy

A recent report by the name Refurbishing of Personnel Administration brought out by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India has suggested a scrutiny of the track record of bureaucrats after 14 and 20 years of service and if found inadequate, they should be summarily dismissed. This no doubt sounds like harbinger of good days coming a long way from the days of license Raj and babudom, which is deeply entrenched in the corridors of power.

Yet in the hindsight, for all the semblance of better days of administration to come with very concept of bureaucracy possibly going to have a dressing down, one wonders if at all such an initiative would actually have any impact. In the first place does anyone need to wait for 14 or 20 years to see if someone is performing or not? In today’s fast paced world professionals in every field are literally judged by their everyday performance, forget about a decade. In the corporate world, decisions by people higher up in the ladder can make or break a company in a matter of days. By all these standards judging a person after one and half decade of work, for those who are mandated to run not a company but the nation, is like not judging at all.

One has to accept the fact that India over a period of last thirty-forty years has completely sidelined the technocrats and replaced them with bureaucrats. And the bureaucrats themselves have had a key role to play in this endeavour. Even within the bureaucrat pedigree, those belonging to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) cadre have always dominated the rest. Unfortunately the entire system, systematically cultivated inadequacies at the helm of affairs. Someone who used to be say a municipal commissioner or chairman of a development authority, suddenly by virtue of seniority becomes home secretary, which is an extremely specialised job. And the men at the helm of affairs, be it the home minister or home secretary, if they remain novice, then what the result can be, this nation has just witnessed. No amount of scrutiny would help this country unless we make it a point to have specialised professionals handling specialised departments. Just like a veteran and a decorated Indian Police Service (IPS) is far more suited to become a better home secretary, a veteran and decorated army officer would perhaps do more justice to the position of defense secretary, than what an IAS officer would do. All the more reason as to why many of the Public Sector Units (PSUs) in spite of their intrinsic potential find it difficult to compete against their more agile private counterparts. A private entity would always have professionals running both day to day as well as strategic affairs rather than protocol driven bureaucrats.

In countries like the US, incumbent presidents bring their own administrative teams to run their tenure who are mostly professionals from the industry with chequered career track records. No wonder then that successive US administrations, across all departments, have been far more competent and proactive than what their counter parts in India have been.

A decision of scrutiny of every 14 years or 20 years might be too little too late for India. What it requires today for better tomorrow is a complete overhaul of the India administrative system and weed out the very bureaucratic mindset and replace it with technocracy. Only then real changes for a better tomorrow would be possible.


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