The prime causes of the decline of the civil service and
subsequent threat to administrative reforms appear to be the
tendency to play safe and a lack of trust between the minister
or the political boss and the bureaucrat. Apparently, the IAS
officer’s relationship with the villagers today has snapped.
The culture of conferences and committees has eroded the system
of tours, spot inspection and assessment. As a result, IAS
officers seems vulnerable to the politician who makes full use
of this to malign the ones who do not play ball.
The change in the
civil service is not accidental. It is part of a design to
isolate and break up its homogenous character. This has been
largely due to the qualitative change in the character of the Indian
politician. He started strengthening his power base not by
effective leadership or social service, but by canvassing
unreasonable causes. Friction with the civil service began here.
Sadly, under the
pretext of specialisation, alternate focal points of authority
were created, eroding the role of the Collector (or Deputy
Commissioner) and the District Magistrate. Under the garb of
separation of powers, his judicial functions were taken away.
The District Magistrate, though acknowledged as the nodal
authority of district administration, is no more than a puppet
today. The chain of command has been broken because of the
emergence of Trojan Horses in the revenue hierarchy. If
politicians have bent the steel frame and manipulated the
system, civil servants, too, have played havoc with it. To serve
their own interests and in anticipation of plum postings, some
of them readily kowtow to the wishes of politicians, negating
the doctrine of neutrality and eroding the image and credibility
of the civil service.
Despite all these
vicissitudes, there is still reason for hope. The revised
edition of Dr Maheshwari’s book is timely. The author’s
observations on the conduct of today’s politicians and
administrators are free and frank. While blaming the politician
for the present mess, he doesn’t exonerate the administrator.
He observes, for instance, that if the politician has developed
a vested interest in the existing system and thus, is not
"pro-change", the civil servants, who benefit from the
status quo, are as a class "hostile" to administrative
acknowledges the fact that implementation of administrative
reforms has been "unimpressive" and
"sluggish" because of the antipathy on the part of the
career bureaucracy. Not that our administrators are short of
fresh ideas. But the bane of administrative reforms is the
general tendency on their part to take up the task with
"fixed notions" and indulge in "overselling"
a "pet model" for reasons best known to them. Dr
Maheshwari rightly observes that this overcommitment to
pre-selected techniques, philosophies or viewpoints has affected
the reform process. Another reason for the slow pace of
administrative reforms is the lack of meticulous planning,
monitoring, reporting and evaluating mechanisms. Surely, unless
these aspects are taken care of and strengthened in tune with
the fast occurring advances by both the political leadership and
the bureaucracy, the future appears to be bleak.
The book is,
certainly, an asset for every student and administrator. While
it is expected to make a significant contribution to the study
of political science and public administration, the author’s
efforts would bear fruit if the various suggestions he has made
in the book are pursued in the right direction and implemented
by the powers that be.