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The Myth of Bloated Bureaucracy

Today’s The Hindu newspaper reports that there are 1,622.8 government servants for every 100,000 residents in India. It also says that Indian Railways employs 44.81% of entire Central government workforce. Also, 59.69 per cent public servants belong to Group C and 29.37 per cent to Group D.

In USA there are 7,681 servants for every 100,000 residents. Four times more than India’s. The Hindu says that this figure busts the myth that India’s bureaucracy is “bloated”.

Do we need stats to prove a point even though it is apparent most of the times that things are not working properly. Take for example the percentage of malnourished children; people below poverty line; farmer suicides etc. – though media neglects these issues, it is visible in the countryside that all is not well. Government awakens (but doesn’t take any action) only when a report is published and publicized.

Coming to much maligned and abused bureaucracy, it was not a white elephant as it was projected. The fact is that there are not enough number of qualified, skilled and talented workforce to guide, support and inspire Group C and D workers – who have grown thick skins in the absence of such talent above them.

It is these class of workers who are part of actual white elephant.

3 months ago I applied for a new BSNL land line and broadband connection. I got this connection only 10 days ago, thanks to lackdaisical attitude of BSNL staff. It took active coercion through regular calls’ mails and threats of consumer court stuff from me to make them work. The reason for delay, if I have to believe the engineer in charge, was that there were no people to dig and erect a pole to draw phone line to my home!! And also he explained some confusing stuff that he has to call tender and allot contract etc etc.

Here is a public sector loss making company which has excuses to make instead of delivering services to its customers. What is the meaning that there are no people to dig? Visit any office of BSNL, all you see is lazy Group D employees chit chatting. When they finally came to install connection, when I enquired the reason behind delay, a staff said that recruitment for the C and D posts hasn’t took place for long time, and old staff is reluctant to involve in manual labour as they have been promoted and are earning handsome salary now!!!.

In some cases these workers ‘outsource’ their job to daily wagers. It costs them less than 20% of their salary.

If MGNREGA has failed it is because of lack of skilled man power at panchayat level. Instead of pouring thousands of crores in the heat of publicity, government should use common sense to equip panchayat with necessary infrastructure and manpower first. They should be trained also. It costs fraction of allocated budget. They pour money into a bottomless system, and later complain that the money did not reach the poor.

It is common sense that proper implementation requires proper people in proper places.