Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: The Indian state is facing challenges due to administrative inefficiencies. The disorganisation of public institutions and the skill gap among officials have eroded the ability to form and implement sound policies. There is a thicket of the licences, permits, clearances, and permissions that is creating bureaucratic hurdles in the country.
ISSUES FACED BY THE INDIAN STATE
- Lack of administrative capabilities: Indian state is comparatively large in size and in population from other democracies in the world. However, the administrative capability of the state here is quite small. For example, in the G-20 group, India has the smallest number of civil servants per capita. The public sector share in total employment in India is at 5.77% which is half the corresponding figures for Indonesia and China, and just about a third of that in the United Kingdom.
- Scarcity of resources: The Indian state is relatively small on the other metrics, such as the tax-GDP ratio and public expenditure-GDP ratio, public goods provisions, welfare payments, or the justice system. Due to an inadequate state capability, governments at the Centre and States end up outsourcing services from the private sector.
- Skill gap among bureaucrats: It is often stated that Indian state is ‘people-thin’ but ‘process-thick’. The main problem is the skill gap among the officials which have eroded the ability of the political executive and civil services to make and implement sound policies. There is also an extreme concentration of policymaking and implementation powers within departments.
- The technocratic gap: The top policymakers exhibit a lack of technocratic skills to govern an increasingly complex economy. In the absence of adequate capability to deal with economic, financial, contract and other technical matters, the Centre and the States hire consultancy firms. According to media reports, the central government paid over ₹500 crore in the last five years to outsource crucial tasks to the big five consultancy firms, i.e., PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, the KPMG and McKinsey.
- Lack of accountability: Moreover, restrictions on the frontline personnel to decide on implementation-related issues foster a culture of mistrust and lack of accountability for poor implementation. The net outcome is delayed procurement of goods and services and unnecessary contractual disputes. Appealing against arbitration and court awards have become the default mode by officials, making the government the biggest litigator.
- Narrowly scoped audits: Yet another problem is the narrowly scoped audits by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. It encourages the finance and administrative divisions in government to focus on compliance with rules rather than policy objectives.
- Less effective: The political economy of the public sector also undermines its efficacy. It is well known that performance-linked pay and incentive schemes such as bonuses, which work well in the private sector, are not very effective in the public sector. Paradoxically, the relatively high salaries in the public sector reduce its effectiveness. Because of job security and better working conditions, it breeds corruption in appointments as it makes government jobs very lucrative for all.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Increase welfare measures: The proponents of inclusive development rightly pitch for a bigger role for the state. For which, there is a need for increased public spending on health, education and social security.
- Augment strength of bureaucrats: There is a need to increase the number of bureaucrats for example by increasing the strength of professional staff with market watchdogs as the Securities and Exchange Board of India, and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). As, the SEBI has just about 800 professionals, whereas its counterpart in the U.S., the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has more than 4,500 experts to govern the corporates. Similarly, the professional staff strength of the RBI, less than 7,000, is tiny when compared to the US Federal Reserve which is assisted by 22,000 odd professionals.
- Lateral entry: An institutionalised and regular lateral entry at the mid and senior levels can help fill the civil services’ size and technocratic gap. Qualified officers in non-IAS services (such as the Indian Revenue, Economic and Statistical Services) should get a fair shot at high-level positions if they have the talent and the expertise required.
- Training and sensitization: Civil servants at different levels can be provided subject-specific training under Mission Karmayogi (National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building). Also, the oversight agencies must be sensitised to appreciate the context of policy decisions. They should factor in the costs associated with the actual decisions as well as their alternatives.
- Reduce corruption: There is a need to reduce the corruption by making the administration more accountable. One of the solutions is moderate pay raises by the future Pay Commission and a reduction in the upper age limit for government jobs. These measures can reduce corruption and increase the chances of socially-driven individuals joining the government.
- Global experience: Experiences of countries such as Australia, Malaysia and the United Kingdom show that separating policymaking and implementation responsibilities expedites execution. It encourages innovations, making the programmes better suited to local contexts. The Indian case in point is the National Highways Authority of India, which is tasked with executing national highway projects, while policy decisions are made at the ministry level. This arrangement has drastically reduced delays and cost overruns.
With changing needs and with the advent of globalisation, and economic reforms, the role of the state has changed. Administration in India is facing several challenges due to bureaucratic hurdles in the existing system. Ensuring transparency and accountability along with participatory and representative decision-making are some issues that need to be addressed. Only then bureaucracy can fulfill its role as an efficient and effective instrument of governance that can serve the needs of the citizens.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTION
Q.1 “Institutional quality is a crucial driver of economic performance”. In this context suggest reforms in the Civil Service for strengthening democracy. (2020)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q.1 Changing times requires that the civil services must brace up for the rapid and fundamental changes taking place in the wake of changing needs and the challenges faced by the societies. Critically analyse the statement.Spread the Word