Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine
“To be or not to be” a civil servant
The Indian Civil Service (ICS) came into being after the
passage the Government of India Act, 1858. The immediate trigger for passing the
Act was the Indian rebellion of 1857, what the British called the Sepoy Mutiny.
This new administrative structure, in turn, helped annex new territories.
Youngsters in the first five decades of independent India got
enticed by the residual goodwill of ICS, which catapulted them into the higher
echelons of society. The “social prestige” associated with the service became a
fatal attraction and enrolment in the civil service a tour de force.
Initially, the entrants were drawn from the presidency towns;
then from other State capitals. Subsequently, students who had education in
vernacular medium also joined the service in droves, enriching it, with their
There is a felt need to stand out in a crowd of 121 crore
Indians. Selection into civil service instantly satiates this need. To an
insecure mind it provides eternal solace. Shakespeare said that “Security is
mortals’ chiefest enemy” and entry into the civil service helps obliterates
Jawaharlal Nehru often ridiculed the ICS for its support of
British policies. He noted that someone had once defined the ICS, “with which we
are unfortunately still afflicted in this country, as neither Indian, nor civil,
nor a service.”
As Prime Minister, he retained the structure and its top people, albeit with
a change of title to the “Indian Administrative Service.”
Does America need a foreign policy; towards a diplomacy for the 21st century.
In post-liberalised India, the All-India Services (AIS) are
ordained the role of a facilitator, and not necessarily one of a regulator. This
took the sheen off AIS and its pre-eminence in economic decision-making is being
Besides, in the past three decades regional parties have taken over the reins
at the State level and the immediacy of the next election drove the agendas of
these parties in power.
The AIS officers are made to toe the line of the political bosses. The
concept of a “committed bureaucracy” is being encouraged subtly.
Furthermore, the ethos of society itself is getting metamorphosed. Ill-gotten
wealth now bestows instant respectability.
The AIS officers, who always had a ringside view of this
process of ill-gotten wealth in the Licence-Quota-Permit Raj, started
collaborating with political masters. The percentage of officers who are in this
collusive collaboration is increasing by the day.
The parties in power bestow favouritism on civil servants
loyal to them. As is evident, from the recent incidents even “Lady Officers”
have joined the party. It is no more true that women officers are more honest,
they have made news for the wrong reasons.
The cardinal principles of civil service, viz. professionalism, anonymity,
integrity and neutrality, are slowly withering.
The chains with which the AIS binds itself are self-acquired,
the links were non-existent at the entry, the links are slowly forged and the
chains formed. The process is full of compromises, both intellectual and fiscal.
Civil servants taking to politics is a detestable phenomenon. One even rose to
become a Chief Minister. This trend severally compromises neutrality during
their tenure in service. Traditionally, civil servants were sent as Governors,
post-retirement. Now even for this honour civil servants are cultivating
politicians unabashedly. Most of the evils perpetuated by ‘to-retire’ civil
servants are their craving for post-retirement sinecures. Ronald Reagan once
said “politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession; I have come to
realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” Perhaps had he
worked with the AIS in close quarters, he would have extended the courtesy of
comparison to civil servants also.
Vinod Mehta, in his book The Lucknow Boy, pays tribute to E.A.S. Sarma, who
fought the PMO to uphold steadfastly what, he thought, was in the larger
interest of the nation.
Recently, in Andhra Pradesh, some officers who withstood the onslaught of a
former CM are breathing easy, and their successors who obeyed the ‘diktats’ of
the former CM are under the CBI scanner.
Noam Chomsky in Deterring Democracy predicted that the unholy
businessman-politician nexus will undermine democracy. No party is wholesome,
now, without the media. The politician-business-media house nexus, with the
tentacles in the bureaucratic network, is a heady mix. Now, well heeled,
highly-networked women in the media coalesced into business groups and when
caught, vociferously pleaded an “error of judgment” and got away with the
egregious. Where does this leave the civil services — in the fox holes?
Judicial activism is yet another new dimension. Now, a few
high profile cases against the AIS get so much adverse publicity that it becomes
a feed forward mechanism for the judiciary to indulge in more activism.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the only person you are destined to become is the
person you decide to be.” The destiny of civil servants is in the conduct of its
own brethren. Unless we steadfastly return to the old edicts of professionalism,
anonymity, integrity and neutrality, the evanescent goodwill will be completely
The need of the hour is silent hard work. One should leave the system
unheard, unsung and unwept and while in the system one should sbe free, fair and
Off with the fetters
That chafe and restrain
Off with the chains…(anonymous)
It is worth recalling the most famous ‘Pogo’ quotation: “we have met the
enemy and he is us.” The civil servants we wish ‘to be or not to be’ are within
(JARUGUMILLI RAMA KRISHNA RAO, is an IAS officer of Bihar cadre)
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