(Public Administration Paper II / Chapter: Administrative
(Current Based) Question:
Why Committees for reforms falls into bureaucratic trap ? Comment. (25 Marks/350
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)