The proposal of the Union government to finalise cadres of successful candidates of the Combined Civil Services after the training has invited the wrath of serving and retired bureaucrats. They feel that an impartial selection process is being sought to be politicalised which will rob the administration of its neutrality. It is also being assailed as being unconstitutional as the UPSC is authorised to select babus and the institute like the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy which imparts training is neither part of UPSC nor autonomous.
Legal technicalities may be resolved by proper amendment if it serves the wider purpose of shoring up administration and making it people-oriented. Apprehensions that marks awarded at the foundation course will be influenced by extraneous considerations are an impeachment of their own brethren as the director of the Shastri Academy is invariably an IAS officer. A drawback of the proposed change is that if cadres and states are finalised after the training, they would not be able to learn the language of the state allotted to them which is taught during the training. But if such a change is made, arrangements can be made for a separate crash course in language learning.
However, such patchworks may not prove effective. A thorough overhaul is required to instill the sense of service in bureaucrats who consider themselves rulers, not public servants. In this context, the recommendation of the Niti Aayog to make lateral entry at all levels is more germane and practical. The bureaucracy is the fulcrum of governance, and so, it must be made responsive and accountable. Bureaucracy, in the opinion of Max Weber, has to be neutral, and has to serve any government with enthusiasm, impartiality, integrity and disinterestedness. For this, he wanted bureaucrats to be anonymous working from behind the scene. In India, this concept of neutrality got a body blow when Mohan Kumaramangalam, in early 1970s, floated the slogan of committed bureaucracy and committed judiciary. Now, most of the babus have no qualms identifying themselves with some powerful politicians. Keeping the post-retirement assignments in mind, they indulge in naked nepotism. Such babus are rewarded with governorship and membership of various commissions and the honest ones, an endangered species, are left high and dry. Officers eyeing plum posts and post-retirement rehabilitation readily chime in. The bureaucratic neutrality is now only a concept which is extinct in practice.
Earlier, ministers, many a time, disapproved the proposal of departmental secretaries. Now, they do not have to do it as secretaries send only those proposals which the ministers want. The practice is not new, but now it is almost the accepted way. We find it happening even during the Nehru era and its classic example is the Mundhra scandal which speaks volumes on the relationship between the then Union finance minister T T Krishnamachari and the principal finance secretary H M Patel who did not show any neutrality. In 1956, the government decided to invest Rs 1,26,86,100 of the LIC in private companies owned by H D Mundhra. The Chagla Commission indicted both Krishnamachari and Patel and both had to quit. It is an undeniable fact that ministers cannot indulgence into corruption without the acquiescence of babus.
Bureaucratic inertia can be jolted and corruption checked if there are lateral entries at senior levels. We have the example of Britain where all senior posts of civil servants are advertised as there is no promotion. There is no reason why India cannot do it. At present, anyone qualifying in an all-India service by merit or by fluke keeps reaping the benefits of success in one exam lifelong. Merit is not a constant factor; it degenerates and regenerates. Its best example is last year’s IAS topper Tina Dabi. She is in the reserved category despite topping the exam because she cleared the preliminary test in reserved category. Only three inferences can be drawn from it- either she is quite able but flunked the preliminary exam in the general category just by chance or she topped by fluke or she improved herself so much in the next few months. Babus of these All India Services begrudge any lateral entry at any higher level and ensure their failure by sheer groupism. IIS officers are guests in DD and AIR according to Prasar Bharati Act and they cannot head the news organisation. But they are doing so, and anyone having no knowledge or expertise of either news or television becomes DG (News) while the insider professionals are forced to lick their boots.
In India, passing one exam ensures a life of comfort, power and position. IAS officers treat themselves as a separate class altogether. So, there is not only an IAS officers’ Association but also an IAS Officers’ Wives’ Association. Obviously, these women are an elite class who wield extra-constitutional power. In July 2016, a young IAS officer posted as SDM at Mohania (Bihar) was caught red handed by the vigilance sleuths of the state government taking bribe from a transporter. Soon the IAS Officers’ Association was in high dudgeon and its representatives lost no time in meeting CM to complain that he was being framed. IAS officers in Bihar were again up in arms against the state cops over the arrest of their colleague Sudhir Kumar, then chief of the Bihar Staff Selection Commission in connection with a paper leak scam in clerical grade recruitment examination. The Bihar IAS Officer’s Association soon came out in support of Kumar and called for a CBI inquiry to ensure fair probe on the matter.
The question is: Do they believe in the due process of law? If it were true that they had been framed, are they the only ones to be victimized? There are countless false cases pending against innocent people. Did any IAS officer raise any voice against the hapless victims suffering at the hands of the state? Countless people suffer at the hands of obdurate and swaggering bureaucrats who give the brushoff to common man. Moreover, if an IAS officer can be arrested out of sheer malice, one can imagine the fate of the common man. And who is responsible for this state of affairs?