In a modern democratic polity, there is a concept of the political executive and permanent executive elected people’s representatives forms the political executive and bureaucracy form the permanent executive. Ministers frame policy decisions and bureaucrats execute these. In the initial decades after independence, the relationship between the permanent executives and the political executives were characterized by mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation, without encroaching upon each other’s domain. However, in subsequent decades, the situation has changed. There are instances of the political executive insisting upon the permanent executives to follow its agenda. Respect for an appreciation of upright bureaucrats has declined. There is an increasing tendency among the political executive to get involved in routine administrative matters such as transfers, posting etc. Under this scenario, there is a definitive trend towards ‘politicization of bureaucracy’. The rising materialism and acquisitiveness in social life has also adversely impacted upon the ethical values of both the permanent executive and the political executive. What are the consequences of this ‘politicization of bureaucracy? Discuss. (20 marks)

Answer:

Cooperation between elected representatives and bureaucrats is essential for democratic governance of the country. However, due to the ‘politicization of bureaucracy’, there is a deterioration in the functioning of the civil services.

Values involved in the case

  • Political neutrality and impartiality
  • Integrity and probity
  • Courage of conviction
  • Following the code of conduct
  • Legal responsibility

Consequences of politicization of bureaucracy

  • Policy paralysis: Fear of political vendetta against non-cooperative officers in the form of frequent transfers, delay in promotions, etc results in red-tapism and culture of secrecy in their decision making.
  • The dilemma in personal v/s professional life: A bureaucrat indulged in material benefits have to compromise with his conscience or inner voice just to be in tune with outside reality, thereby disturbing his mental peace and work ethics. The person loses self-respect and trust of his family and children who inculcate such inadequate values from him.
  • Detrimental to the moral fiber of bureaucrats: Even honest civil servants with political leanings have the compulsion to take biased decisions in favor of one political group.
  • Impact on governance system: Lack of impartiality in the functioning of civil servants has a direct impact on their decisions in day to day administration either in public service delivery or implementing social welfare schemes.
  • Problems in chaotic situations: Difficult circumstances like communal riots demands officers with strict political neutrality. Biased decisions can lead to loss of lives and property. Hence, a civil servant must be accountable for his decisions in such situations.
  • Negative impact on civil society: Civil servants occupying top positions in the government are role models for young aspiring Indians. Their impartial attitude is detrimental to societal ethics at large.

Way Forward – Steps to reduce politicization of bureaucracy

  • Moral education: To make an individual high on integrity, it is necessary to provide him with ethical training that will inspire him to improve governance. The moral education will surely ensure that this takes place. Ex: Training on the importance of avoiding bribes.
  • A dedicated unit to oversee violations of the Code of Ethics & Code of conduct by government officials be set up both at the state and center level.
  • Transparency: Information must be made accessible to the common public through websites.
  • Mandatory declaration of assets and liabilities of government employees, accompanied by proper auditing.
  • Establishment of Independent Anti-Corruption Agency.
  • Citizens Advisory Boards to incorporate ideas of the common public in improving governance.
  • Mandatory Social Audit of all government programs, for example, Meghalaya has passed a law for social audit of government programs.

Conclusion

In a democracy, it is essential that the politicians play the role of masters assisted by the civil servants. However, the extent of interference of the bureaucracy in the affairs of the state is crossing every limit. This is mostly because of the bow-down policy and inefficiency of our political leadership. We must ensure that both political and permanent executives perform their roles within their domain without one domination the other.

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