(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Significant issues in Indian Administration: Administration in Coalition Regimes (Paper -2)

(Online Course) Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams

Topic: Significant issues in Indian Administration: Administration in Coalition Regimes

The Civil Service is an integral part of our society and its structure of governance. Its DNA is shaped by the imperatives of socio mores, political calculus, and economic context of the times. One aspect of this is the emergence of coalition politics and governments constituted pursuant to it. It can be attributed to a deepening of democracy and the emergence of a genuinely federalized multi-party system accompanied by the rise of regional, linguistic, caste-based and other parties promoting such sectional interests. Unlike popular perceptions coalitions are neither unique to India nor inherently destabilizing. In many countries the world over, as also in India itself at the state and federal levels, coalitions on agreed programmes have worked satisfactorily. The difficulty lies in demarcating the fine line between political like-mindedness and political opportunism. It is rarely articulated coherently and inevitably surfaces in the day to day functioning of the administrative structure. The first impact of the mischief is thus experienced by the civil servant. What then should the role of the Civil Services be in an era of political coalitions?

The most important quality for the bureaucracy in the coalition era is to be ‘apolitical’, in the Indian context it means that the bureaucracy is loyal to the Constitution, and though under the Party in power, it functions in a way which is fair to all irrespective of their political affiliations”, Second, an editorial in a business daily observed recently that ‘coalitions have taken on the nature of the old mansabdari system - the greater the number of horses you can offer to the King, the greater the size of territory for you to pillage’. It expressed concern at the monetary and economic cost for the nation as a consequence of coalition arrangements in power. One consequence of this, in the words of a distinguished former civil servant and legislator, is the propensity to ‘follow the policy of least resistance.’ This ‘indirect participation in the wrong doings of the politicians’ by the civil servants through silence and passive inaction, he notes, has ‘contributed substantially towards the erosion of people’s confidence in the objectivity and impartiality of civil servants.’

The challenge for the civil service today is to explore and develop the avenues for proper functioning in the context and the spirit of the responsibility assigned to it by the laws of the land and the policies developed through appropriate legislative processes.

The first of these responsibilities pertains to the dispensation of justice. This, in our vocabulary, means the Rule of Law. It is the foundation of democratic governance and the Civil Service has a pivotal role in upholding it. Civil society groups consider the’ delayed justice dispensation system’ responsible for It. Why does this happen? We know that the legal process of securing justice in our country is time consuming; there is also an acquittal rate of around 90 percent. The public has thus little option but to resort to administrative facilitation and the procedures of administrative justice. Legislators are commonly assessed by their ability to secure administrative facilitation and justice to their constituents rather than by their efficiency in law making or holding the government to account! Thus the ultimate victim of nonimplementation of the Rule of Law and delayed justice dispensation system is the common man and woman who are at the receiving end of nonenforcement of their rights and discriminatory application of the laws, and without the clout to secure either of them. Consequently, every effort by a civil servant towards administrative facilitation and accelerated dispensation of administrative justice to the public goes a long way in ameliorating its material condition and redresses its grievances.

Next in relevance to the dispensation of admin iterative justice are questions of social development and empowerment. Some civil servants have done exemplary work in these fields. It is, however: a matter of some concern that very few civil servants today feel attracted to it. Their priorities, instead, are on finance, banking, communication and IT, Railways, aviation, petroleum and natural gas, shipping, road transport and highways, etc. This is suggestive of social priorities and the choices emanating from it and should be a matter of concern.

Take the question of integrity. We constantly hear, and rightly so, oi1he need for public figures and civil servants to exhibit the highest standard of personal probity and honesty. This lack of intellectual and professional integrity has taken many forms from introducing a slant in policy notes to an excessive careerism and focus on postings leading to regrettable acts of omission and commission. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that any of the functions listed above would be more adversely affected by the existence of a coalition any more than with a one-party government. These perceptions can be quantified. More importantly, they impact decisively on public opinion. There is, therefore, a demonstrated need for corrective.

A performance survey of half a century shows at in terms of Sardar Patel’s, Parameters while the polity has delivered by giving constitutional safeguards to civil servants and implementing sound recruitment procedures, the politicians have faltered in varying degrees on discipline and control and the civil servants have often enough succumbed to the temptation of tailoring professionally sound advice to subjective considerations. The only answer would lie in the principles of the Constitution. Civil servants are the servants of the state and not of the government alone. More than at any time in our history as a Republic, the necessity for the civil servant to be guided by the Directive Principles of State Policy is paramount and immediate. Each of you is enjoined to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting a social order in which social, economic and political justice shall inform all institutions. You need to work to minimize the inequalities of income, status, facilities and opportunities and to secure a legal system that promotes justice on a basis of equal opportunity. These are not rhetorical assertion and the realisation of these ideals should be fundamental to the governance of the country. Coalition programmes cannot be at variance with these principles.

“The ruler cannot dispense with you (Civil Servant). You alone make him a competent ruler. Your position with regard to rulers is that you are the ears through which they hear, the eyes through which they see, the tongues through which they speak, and the hands through which they touch. No craftsman needs more than you to combine all the praiseworthy good traits and all memorable and highly regarded qualities...

(The civil servant) needs on his own account, and his master who trusts and expects him, to be mild where mildness is needed, to be understanding where judgement is needed, to be enterprising where enterprise is needed, to be hesitant where hesitation is needed. He must profess modesty, justice and fairness. He must keep secrets. He must be-faithful in difficult circumstances. By virtue of his natural intelligence, good education, and outstanding experience, he must know what is going to happen to him before it happens, and he must know the results of his action before action starts. He must make proper preparations for everything, and he must set up everything in its proper form.”

(Honourable Vice-President Hamid Ansari)

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