Insights into Editorial: Why Competition will be Good for the Bureaucracy
07 November 2015
Many experts are of the opinion that the bureaucratic system in India has not evolved according to the changing nature of administrative challenges and a growing economy where the activity is shifting towards the private sector. In 2012, Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd, a Hong Kong-based consultancy, found that the bureaucracy in India was the worst among 12 Asian countries surveyed.
What makes structural reforms necessary?
Some recent media reports showed that the officers of the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) are lobbying hard against parity with other All India Services in compensation, promotions and other benefits. This shows that officers belonging to one service are trying to maintain the supremacy over all others and thus reduce the competition in appointments at higher levels.
This is an indication of the need for structural reforms in the Indian bureaucratic system, especially at the top level.
Various attempts so far:
Since independence, about 50 committees and commissions have looked into administrative and related issues. Important amongst them are- the First Administrative Reforms Commission (FARC) and the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC).
First Administrative Reforms Commission (FARC):
- The government in 1966 constituted the First Administrative Reforms Commission (FARC). It recommended changes in the appointment process at the higher levels of the civil service to make it more open.
- It recommended that the entry in middle and senior positions in the Central Secretariat be allowed from all services on the basis of specialization, experience and knowledge.
Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC):
- The United Progressive Alliance government in 2005 constituted the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC). Like its predecessor, it also recommended changes in the appointment process at the higher levels of the civil service.
- It also argued in favour of lateral entry from the private sector in senior positions, as that would bring in corporate culture and domain expertise which may not be available with civil servants in key areas.
- However, the SARC in its consultation found that most officers’ associations were not in favour of lateral entry in government jobs from the private sector, though some were in favour of being allowed to join the private sector for a specified period.
Practice in developed countries:
- In developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, appointments at senior levels are made from a wider talent pool, which includes eligible civil servants and aspirants from the private sector with relevant expertise.
Why entry from private sector should be allowed?
- Outside talent from the private sector is more likely to be target-oriented, which will improve the performance of the government. Also, more competition will encourage career civil servants to develop expertise in areas of their choice.
Most of the incumbent civil servants in India are not in favor of competition. As a result, higher positions in the government have remained largely with officers belonging to one service. Even appointment to head regulatory agencies also normally goes in the favour of a serving or a retired bureaucrat.
Both administration and policymaking are getting increasingly complex and require specialized skill sets. It is high time that necessary changes which have been recommended and discussed over and over again are implemented. The government should make way for more competition for appointments at the higher levels as policymaking needs technical knowledge and domain expertise.
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