Role of Civil Services in Democracy

  • Basis of government: All nations, irrespective of their system of government, require some sort of administrative machinery for implementing policies.
  • An instrument for implementing Laws and Policies: Civil services are responsible for implementing the laws and policies of government.
  • Participation in policy formulation: Civil servants participate in policy making by giving advice to ministers and providing them the necessary information.
  • Provides continuity: Civil services carry on the governance when governments change due to elections or otherwise.
  • Role in socio- economic development: The developing nations are struggling to achieve modernisation of society and economic development and realize welfare goals. These objectives have placed challenging tasks on public administration such as formulation of economic plans and their successful implementation to economic growth and social change.
  • Administrative adjudication: This is a quasi- judicial function performed by the civil service. The civil servants settle disputes between the citizens and the state.

Changing Role

Economic Role:

  • To improve ranking in Ease of Doing business requires a complete transformation in the ease of permitting licences, approval and lowering down the redtapism.
  • To achieve a 5 trillion economy.
  • Rise of Economic multilateral organisation requires a seasoned diplomat.
  • Increasing competition for more and more investment in the state, requires Smart civil servants.

Environmental Role:

  • To frame policies keeping in mind the vulnerability of not only the country but all the third world countries.
  • To push for goal set up by the government in climate change summits like INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) Targets.

Changing Geopolitics and emerging challenges:

  • The rise of Non state actor and their challenges needs to be dealt with better coordination amongst the nation.

Expansion of the concept of Right and Justice:

  • The Judiciary has recently included Transgender as Third gender and invoked reasonable accommodation for disabled highlights that civil servants need to engage all the stakeholders of the society in the mainstream.

So, it is being rightly said that 21st century cannot run with 18th century rules and 19th century bureaucracy.

Role of Bureaucracy in the era of Minimum Government Maximum Governance:

  • Ease of management: Facilitates administration by logically organizing the organization in a structural hierarchy. 
  • Participatory: People for whom the policies are meant need to be involved. 
  • Responsibility and compliance: Ordinary folks can hold government officials and bureaucrats responsible for their conduct while doing their tasks.
  • Specialization: ARC recommended eight broad areas of specialization like Economic Administration, Industrial Administration, Agricultural and Rural Development Administration etc. 
  • Efficient: with fast changing time the public sector is getting competition from the private sector and the people’s expectations are rising.
  • Accountable and Transparent to build confidence among people as well as among business, private sector and global investors.
  • Learning and unlearning the new practices in the period of fast changes where new ideas emerge on a daily basis which requires a new mindset to provide good governance.
  • Providing ease of living to the people with innovations, specialisation, proactiveness, inclusiveness, equity efficiency, and rule of law.
  • Cooperation and collaboration to learn the best practices from the national and international experiences to make governance better and competitive.
  • To create an atmosphere of credibility and trustworthiness so that this system will become more people friendly.

Challenges in Civil Services:

  • Asymmetry of power: Due to systemic rigidities, needless complexities and over-centralisation make public servants ineffective and helpless in achieving positive outcomes.
  • Corruption is a matter of concern particularly at the cutting-edge levels of the bureaucracy.
  • Perceptible lack of commitment in public servants towards redressal of citizens’ grievances.
  • Red-tapism and unnecessary complex procedures add to the hardship of citizens.
  • Government servants are rarely held to account and complaints to higher authorities usually go unheeded.
  • General attitude of many public functionaries is one of arrogance and indifference.
  • Frequent transfers of officers reduce their effectiveness and dilute their accountability.
  • Unholy nexus between unscrupulous politicians and officers leading to poor governance.
  • No Cooling off Period for joining Politics. In Vivek Krishna Case, petitioner contended that bureaucrats deviate from observing strict political neutrality to get tickets from political party.

SC dismissed writ petition and refused to issue writ of mandamus (command) to government to legislate on the matter of cooling off period for joining politics.

Cooling Off Period for Retired Bureaucrats

All India Services Death-cum-Benefits Rules and Central Services (Pension) Rules provides for cooling off period of 1 year after retirement.

Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules:

  • Applies to Central Service Group A officers.
  • Prohibits commercial employment of such officers for 1 year after retirement. Referred as cooling-off period for such bureaucrats.
  • If retired officer wishes to join commercial employment before 1 year, then prior sanction of central government is mandatory.

All India Services (Death-Cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958:

  • Applies to three All India Service officers i.e IAS, IPS & IFS (Forest) and provides for a cooling off period of 1 year after retirement.
  • If the pensioner accepts private employment within 1 year and without government’s sanction, then central government can suspend whole or part of pension for specified period.

Post Retirement & Commercial Employment

  • Commercial employment is an employment, whether paid or honorary,
  • In any capacity including that of an
  • Agent under a company
  • Firm
  • Co-operative society
  • Body or individual engaged in trading, commercial.
  • Industrial, financial or professional business.
  • Includes a directorship of such company or partnership of such firm .

But does not include employment under a body corporate, wholly or substantially owned or controlled by Government.

When Can Government Allow or Turn Down Request for Commercial Employment From Pensioners

CCS (Pension) Rules specify several factors for the government to consider while granting or refusing permission, these include:

  • Whether no-objection has been obtained for the proposed commercial employment from the cadre controlling authority and from the office where the officer retired.
  • Whether the officer has been privy to sensitive or strategic information in the last 3 years of service which is directly related to the work of the organisation the officer proposes to join.
  • Whether there is conflict of interest between the policies of the office he has held in the last three years and the interests/work of this organisation.
  • Whether the organisation works against India’s foreign relations, national security and domestic harmony; and

Whether the organisation he proposes to join is undertaking any activity for intelligence gathering.

Reform initiated:

  • Changes in cadre allocation policy to preserve national character of civil services.
  • Mission Karmayogi to improve human resource development and structured training of civil services.
  • Lateral entry of professionals in bureaucracy.
  • Two months attachment as assistant secretary in central government departments before new officers joins their cadres.
  • Compulsory retirement of tainted officers.
  • Constitution of National Recruitment Agency for hiring on Group B and other lower civil services.

Specialist vs Generalists Approach

Adopting Specialist Approach

● In a developing economy specialists should be right at the top in the line authority rather than in a staff-cell attached to the generalist line authority. The advantage is the government would become less bureaucratic, more programme-oriented and committed.

● The generalist administrator usually does not develop a sustained interest in any particular field of activity. Even in exceptional cases when he does develop such an interest, this becomes infructuous because by the time he has learnt the job he is transferred to some other job.

● The management and the administration (such as that of PSUs) should be well- trained in the know-how of the enterprises that they manage. The emphasis should shift from mere theoretical, bureaucratic control to a self-contained knowledgeable set-up.

● It is said that generalists are prisoners of rules, regulations and precedents and there is too much stress on continuity, caution, and red tape.

● Understanding amongst experts (i.e. people with similar domain expertise) is better and it may resulting a conducive work environment and better policy.

Adopting Generalists Approach

● Generalist Administration is politics in action. As one rises up the hierarchy, there is less hands-on job and more management of resources. It vests in a bureaucrat a successively larger responsibility for enforcing the general point of view of the government.

● Top management job requires a general understanding. It requires a view of the whole.

● Most specialists usually employ an esoteric language to convey their ideas. In administration it leads to difficulty in communication between the non-expert minister and the highly specialized expert secretaries.

Lateral entry

● Lateral entry into civil services refers to induction of eligible candidates into bureaucracy by bypassing the regular mode at a higher level of its hierarchical structure.

The eligibility criteria include:

  • “Individuals working at comparable levels in Private Sector Companies, Consultancy Organizations, International/Multinational Organizations with a minimum of 15 years’ experience”
  • Besides those working in central public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, statutory organizations, research bodies and universities.

Need for lateral entry

● Shortage of Officers

● Specialists and domain experts

● Burden to Exchequer

● Incentives to innovations and out of the box thinking

● To induce Competition

Issues With Lateral Entry

1] Bypassing UPSC: UPSC is a constitutional body and has retained legitimacy and credibility of the selection process over the years. Some experts opine that lateral entry is unconstitutional in nature.

2] Not a Panacea: It is also argued that it is a piecemeal effort to deal with a systemic problem. Bureaucracyneeds major overhauling.

3] Offers not lucrative enough: Most of the time, the terms of recruitment are not rewarding enough to attract the best oftalents. Even the recent lateral entry initiative would recruit professionals for only 3 yearswith remuneration not competitive with the private sector.

4] Open door to privatization: Some civil servants believe that it would open the floodgates to privatisation. And eventuallythe government would lose its socialist and welfare characteristics.

5] Transparency in recruitment: Government should ensure that the recruits remain independent of “fissiparous tendencies”.The sanctity of the selection procedure should remain for the services to stay insulated fromthe government of the day.

Way Forward:

1] 2nd ARC recommended an institutionalized, transparent process for lateral entry at both the Central and state levels.

2] Also the parliamentary standing committee has urged the government to facilitate the entry of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) into foreign service in order to expand the country’s diplomatic corps.

3] In addition to lateral entry, the method of civil service training also needs to be revamped.

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