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Public Administration Mains 2018 : Model Question and Answer - 93

(Public Administration Paper II / Chapter: Administrative Reforms)

(Current Based) Question: Why Committees for reforms falls into bureaucratic trap ? Comment. (25 Marks/350 Words)

Model Answer:

Every committee that studies the Railways identifies departmentalism as a major constraint for bringing about rapid change in the organisation.

Currently the personnel for each of the departments are recruited as distinct cadres through the civil services examination for the four non-engineering disciplines and the engineering services examination for the five engineering ones. The Debroy Committee’s suggestion of two services, one recruited through the civil services examination and the other through the engineering services examination, is worth examining in the current context.

Consider a scenario where a divisional engineer has imposed highly restrictive speeds for train running because of water-levels having risen near the track or under the bridges. Imagine if the situation gets so bad that mobility is seriously-affected and the matter is reported to the general manager who asks the principal chief engineer to intervene. Now in a merged cadre world, let us say the principal chief engineer had previously worked in procurements and locomotive maintenance.

The underlying philosophy is that the sum of departmental goals will lead to the attainment of the organisational goal. The departmental view is often the specialist view and in the rail industry, much like any other, specialist views have to be considered before arriving at decision that is optimal for the organisation. Thus departmental views are not necessarily antithetical to the organisational view. Therefore what we might be lacking is a mechanism that ensures an efficient trading of views between specialists to bring about a cooperative outcome, superior to that produced by unilateral actions. Thus, it is much like the prisoner’s dilemma where the departments would be better off cooperating but the payoffs from pursuing departmental goals are such that they betray each other ending up at a lower equilibrium.

The merger of cadres is a major surgical intervention proposed by the Debroy Committee. It is possibly a way of resolving career progression issues but not coordination issues. It seems that the committee, quite ironically, fell into the bureaucratic trap of picking a cosmetic solution (albeit surgical) to a complex problem. (Total Words- 339)

Valuable inputs from The Indian Express Coulmn: ‘Merging Ideas, Not Cadres' by R Badri Narayan

(Linkages: Committees for Reforms and Bureaucratic Trap, Organisation and Departmentalisation, Debroy Committee and Merger of Cadres)

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