Initially, Civil Services in India were designed to achieve the goals of neutrality and effectiveness, which seems to be lacking in the present context. Do you agree with the view that drastic reforms are required in Civil Services. Comment. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:
  • What are the initial goals of Civil Services in India?
  • What are the gaps between initial design and the current state of working of civil services?
  • Suggest reforms for the same.

Answer:

Sardar Patel famously called the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) “the steel frame” of India’s government machinery. It has played a critical role in the formulation and implementation of strategies and programmes for the development and modernization of the nation.

What were the initial goals of Civil Services in India:

  1. Service presence throughout the country and its strong binding character.
  2. Non-partisan advice to political leadership in the midst of political instability and uncertainties.
  3. Effective policy-making and regulation.
  4. Effective coordination between institutions of governance.
  5. Leadership at different levels of administration.
  6. Service delivery at the cutting edge level.
  7. Provide “continuity and change” to the administration.

However, with changing times, there is a need for reforming the civil services as they have fallen short on the goals of neutrality and effectiveness.

The reasons for the flaw in the current setup of civil services:

  • Career-based civil services coupled with excessive job security have led to a sense of complacency and lack of accountability amongst civil servants.
  • Goal displacement due to emphasis on rules rather than results – with rules becoming an end in themselves.
  • The current system of training for civil services does not adequately reflect changes in the socio-economic scenario and the emerging new challenges render conventional approaches and practices of administration obsolete and dysfunctional.
  • Ivory-tower approach of civil servants due to disconnect from ground realities is reflected in their ineffective policymaking. There is a marked lack of citizen-centric approach which is essential to understand and redress problems of the poor and the weaker sections.
  • Political interference in the form of arbitrary and whimsical transfers to ensure administrative acquiescence prevents civil servants from acting neutrally.
  • Promise of post-retirement appointments to statutory commissions, quasi-judicial tribunals, constitutional authorities or contesting election for a political office on the ticket of a political party prevents the civil servant from acting impartially.

Some of the reforms needed for the smooth functioning of the government machinery are:

  • Recruitment:
    • Improve the teeth to tail ratio: Promote an officer oriented culture and focus on expanding the number of officers.
    • Rationalization and harmonization of services: Reducing the existing 60 plus separate services at the central and state levels. Recruits shall be placed in a central talent pool, which would then allocate candidates by matching their competencies and the job description of the post. (NITI Aayog Strategy for New India@75)
    • Nurture specialization:
      • Internally officers may be encouraged to gain expertise in domain-specific areas in the early stages of careers like Agriculture and Rural Development, Natural Resources Management, Industry and Trade, etc. (Surinder Nath Committee 2003)
      • Current system of rapid rotation of officers across ministries may be replaced by a system of longer postings to gain specialization.
  • Training:
    • With economic gravity shifting towards cities, training should be reoriented to focus relatively more on managing urban areas.
    • Three mid-career training modules should be introduced for all services in the 12th, 20th and 28th years of service. (Yugandhar Committee, 2003)
  • Accountability:
    • Each department should lay down and benchmark services to be delivered, methods of grievance redressal and public evaluation of performance.
    • Model Code of Governance should be drawn up benchmarking the standards of governance to be made available to citizens. (Hota Committee 2004)
    • Performance budgeting should be introduced for departments which are in direct charge of development programmes. (1st ARC)
  • Efficiency:
    • E-Governance should be emphasized upon, by the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to transform government, making it more accessible, effective and accountable. (Hota Committee, 2004)
    • Each government department and agency should be ranked on the basis of their move to the e-office system, reduction of paper use, and citizen engagement through the electronic medium. (Niti Aayog 3 yr agenda)
  • Governance
    • Citizen-Centric framework: Public access to information should be increased through the use of ICT and RTI. RTI’s management information system portal needs to be expanded to cover more public authorities, especially subordinate offices of ministries and public sector units.
    • Capability and knowledge base of public authorities like CPIOs, appellate authorities, information commissions need to be upgraded on a continuous basis.

Reforms are a continuous process and several initiatives have been taken in recent years by the present government. These include lateral entry at higher levels of government, the introduction of a multi-stakeholder feedback (MSF) performance evaluation, introduction of online mechanisms for appraisals and filing of various returns by employees, and strengthening training and merit-based postings.

The purpose of ‘reform’ is to reorient the civil services into a dynamic, efficient and accountable apparatus for public service delivery built on the ethos and values of impartiality, neutrality and effectiveness.

Also, there is a need to shift from pre-eminence of governance to effective governance with a focus on decentralization and citizen-centricity. The civil servants, civil society organizations, and the private sector should act in coherence and as partners in the process of the country’s governance.

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