Monday, June 24, 2024

Starved administration

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) are high-sounding words. People associate a mystique of power and position with these abbreviated nomenclatures. They trace their origin to the British Raj when it was called the Indian Civil Service. Being the class of officers created to carry out administrative functions of a colonial power, the ICS officers had created an aura of grandeur, influence and position around them. Their lifestyle was imperialist in all of its manifestations and those who worked under them, the vast army of slaves, could behave in no other way. Soon after independence, somebody asked the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, known as the Iron Man, what he would be doing with the ICS cadres, who, as common knowledge goes, did not show much sympathy with the freedom movement. The Sardar made a historic comment. “I would sure want to shoot them but who will run the government?” The difference between the ICS bureaucrats of Sardar’s days and IAS of our times is this: that while the former were dedicated to their colonial masters, the latter are predominantly obsessed with their self interests. Here we are not generalizing the theory; we know that a fairly good number of IAS or IPS officers are nationalists, efficient in their profession, dedicated and committed to their job profile. Many of them have been men and women of honesty and integrity and thus retained the ordinary peoples’ faith in executive. Deputations are a routine in All India Services and every state has a sanctioned strength of deputation quota in its bureaucracy. Babus proceed on deputations or study leave and return to deliver in their respective states after completion of the period. But things are a little different in Nagaland. Many top rung IAS, IPS officers allotted to Nagaland cadre who have, through influence or their smartness or through the kid-glove handling of the state government, managed to get themselves adjusted in different positions in New Delhi to keep away from the dirt and din of the state. One debilitating consequence of this kind of escapism is that the government is forced to give the charge of their assignments to lower cadres who are kept in their own pay and grade as per rules, but in practice enjoy all the perks that would accrue to a regular incumbent at the higher post. And this is how adhocism is promoted to the detriment of efficient administration. Quite naturally this creates groups with vested interests within the administrative structure and then politicians and other influential persons form a nexus of their own. This is an unhealthy trend and the government appears to be at loss how to deal with such cadres who show little commitment either to the state government or to the people. Escapism of the higher cadres is solely responsible for the stopgap arrangement and induction of non-professionals into service who are unable to deliver the goods. Since they have the patronage of politicians that are part of the nexus and the immediate bosses in the hierarchy, these half-baked babus enjoy the best of both the worlds. It is all to the loss of the state and the people. What can a Chief Minister do when a senior rank bureaucrat has no commitment to the state, to the people and to his own conscience? Sure, IAS and IPS cadres are imparted professional training and expertise and that is very right. But at no stage are they lectured exhaustively on the need of breaking away from the mindset of ICS cadres of British colonial days and adapting themselves to a new phenomenon of India in making. Today our bureaucrats expect his juniors to bow and prostrate and fold his hands and meekly open the door for him. They lack socialization; they labour under superiority complex, and in the process many of them have become the victims of split personality. Indeed there is an urgent need to radically reform the tight jacket administrative norms established originally by the British for ruling over enslaved India.