January 27, 2013
N C Saxena’s scathing report on India’s bureaucracy
I chanced upon the following comment by Harsh Mander on NC Saxena's recent scathing report on India's bureaucracy, entitled: "Administrative Reforms for Better Governance". (The paper was launched on 26 November 2012 but doesn't seem to be available online.)
NC Saxena was Director of LBSNAA when I taught for a few months in 1994 before leaving for US for higher studies. Harsh was fellow faculty member. [See this extracted PDF containing all faculty members at LBS in 1994].
What is important here is that both NC Saxena and Harsh Mander have direct access to Sonia Gandhi, being members of the National Advisory Council. Yet it is self-evident that they have no influence in changing any policies.
I'm not sure whether NC Saxena or Harsh have read BFN, which critically analyses the causes of India's bureaucratic (and political) malaise, and offers straightforward proven solutions that will work – even in India. But they will require significant political will. I don't see any possibility of that with the Congress government.
In an important recent monograph by National Social Watch, scholar administrator NC Saxena … diagnoses the maladies of India’s higher civil services and suggests an imaginative range of possible prescriptions.Saxena is scathing in his assessment of the Indian bureaucracy today. It is “a troubled institution” riddled with “a lack of professionalism, the creation of redundant posts, unsatisfactory structures of reward and punishment, and an inability to deliver services adequately”.Postings are often “dictated by vested interest of mafia gangs, organised criminals, builders’ lobby, contractors”.He observes that “over the years, whatever little virtues the civil services possessed — integrity, political neutrality, courage and high morale — are showing signs of decay”.Newer values emphasise “political loyalty, flexibility”, and several senior officials “have become a link between politicians and the business class”.Today many civil servants in the course of their career “lose much of their dynamism and innovativeness, and end up as mere pen-pushers and cynics, with “stagnation in their intellectual capabilities”, “decline in self-esteem”, “disillusionment, pliability and corruption”.They have become agents of exploitation in a state structure which now (is)… authoritarian, brutal, directionless, and callous to the needs of the poor”.The Indian State is “being treated as a private property of those who are at the top, and this culture of using executive power for private gains has become the norm since then. So the Housing Minister thinks that all government houses and shops are her private property, and she can allot them to any one she liked, often for a price. The Petroleum Minister thinks that he can distribute any number of petrol and kerosene depots at his discretion. An impression exists that the State of India is an open treasury that can be looted at will.”Solutions … lie potentially with the people: a “free press, judicial activism, and civil society action has emerged as a big corrective factor on the arbitrary use of executive power”.
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