Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Should Be Done To Improve Governance In India ? Some Suggestions !

Some Aspects of Complex Governance of Modern India!

How do you consider a man having a big head, large eyes, small hands, bent legs, long tongue, closed ears and a big belly? Perhaps he has a big brain and he is very intelligent. He can see well with his large eyes. He can talk well and taste well with his long tongue. But he cannot do any thing properly as he has small hands. With his bent legs he cannot run or walk properly. He cannot hear what others say because his ears are closed. Of course he eats well. 

No doubt no one would like to have such an individual in their home. The man is ugly and imperfect from our viewpoint. 

In a similar way, a government having various ministries and departments which are disproportionate to their normal functions, would obviously be a monstrous organization which would not do its functions in a balanced manner. Obviously, the people of the country with such a monster governing it could not expect anything good from it. In such governments some ministries would be placed at higher prominence than really required marring the other ministries to practical negligence and insignificance. It is like giving importance to one's mouth only always because it is the one which speaks!

In a family too, the parents often neglect their wise children who are more mature and harmless and give undue importance to the kids who are noisy and quarrelsome making the family ruin later. This is because of the human weakness of fear. Humans fear noisy fellows!

In politics too, such a situation prevail. The more noisy and illogical a leader is, the more he or she is likely to garner support and benefits. The wise advises of the less noisy ones often go unconsidered. This happens everywhere. 

If a country needs to progress, it needs to develop in all fronts in an equitable basis. The practice of pleasing the talking big mouth always need to be moderated. All parts of the administration should get equal importance and all should get the care and support they actually need to function. So if the defense ministry getting pampered more at the cost of the home ministry would make the country fail in some aspects of its security. If telecom ministry is pampered more than the postal ministry, the country would again fail to achieve progress in some areas. 

Unfortunately, this kind of a situation arises from the improper selection, training and placement of the officers who are supposed to man these departments. Though many wise people have pointed out to the flaws in the system of recruitment and placement of officers of the governmental systems of India, nothing has changed much from the pre-independence era. The system continues without much change.

The government officers in India are selected by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) at the central, all India level , by the various Public Service Commissions (PSC) of the states and the Staff Selection Boards (SSB). The UPSC selects fresh candidates for various all India services by a highly competitive examination. The top ranking candidates are normally absorbed in the so called elite services of India called the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). Members of these three services are conventionally given higher prominence in the Indian governmental system and the IAS now has established their indisputable place as compared to all other services. This is because the manner in which the IAS officers are selected and placed to head any type of organization in India without any consideration to their expertise or knowledge in that field. It has now become an established practice in India that an IAS officer could be the chief executive or head of any field regardless of it being a ministry, an public sector industry, a government university, a training institute, a government department, a government sponsored society or any autonomous institution. 

Though the IPS officers are trained for law and order and policing, they too could be placed in a similar fashion in any non policing department or organization. However, they get such opportunities to head 'offices of profit' less than their IAS brothers and sisters. 

There are other services which the Indian public are less acquainted with. But that does not mean that they are unimportant. They too could be placed to head any organization at the will of their political and senior bureaucratic patrons even while they know pretty nothing about the functions of such organizations. Such services are called the Indian Forest Service, the Indian Audit and Accounts Service, the Indian Railway Service, the Indian Postal Service, the Indian Engineering Service, the Indian Telecom Service, etc. etc. It is not necessary that the UPSC conduct all India examinations for all these services always. The UPSC also inducts other specialists like geologists, doctors, etc to be posted as specialist government service officers in various departments and ministries. However, such officers often do not get opportunities to head top posts even while some of them might be much more suitable with respect to their knowledge and competency. They are often made subordinate to those from the elite cadres.

The military officers are selected by an entirely different procedure. Though the military officers are better trained, disciplined and with required managerial and functional skills, the services of their experienced senior levels are not very much used in the governmental organizations just as their counterparts from the elite administrative services. 

Often experienced experts in various governmental departments like doctors, engineers, etc find some not so trained generalist having much lower length of service from the so-called elite services becoming their bosses who are less capable of understanding certain aspects of their jobs. Consequently, such bosses would be miserable failures in making effective decisions for the good of the country in the long run or getting any long term policy decisions which are justified and correct. Since political bosses are not experienced experts, the inexperienced bureaucrats immediately below the levels of the political bosses would make up a system which is not competent to handle complex issues of governance in a knowledge driven manner.

It is also important to consider the educational qualifications of the candidates who are selected to the elite services. The direct recruits need only a bachelor's degree in any discipline to appear in the all India civil service examinations. Graduates , post graduates or even PhD holders in medicine, engineering , arts, science, etc are all treated at par. While writing their examinations, they are at liberty to chose options of subjects at their choice regardless of the formal educational qualifications. This makes the civil service examination a kind of screening test and not some thing to evaluate the specific field of knowledge of the candidate for a specific job. These candidates are selected for various cadres based on their choices based on the ranks they obtained in the civil service examination. Such choices essentially do not give much credence to the aptitude of a candidate for the job. For example, a person could become a senior police officer of the country, even if he or she does not possess some of the essential physical and mental attributes that are needed for such a job. Even the selected candidates have any common educational backgrounds in common! 

The freshers may get a few months' training for induction in to the elite cadre of officers of the government. But once the cadre is allotted they remain in that cadre till retirement. They cannot escape the brand once they are branded. 

In addition to the fresh candidates selected this manner, an equivalent numbers are promoted from the staff cadres. In short, the government officials of the class one government services of India do not have any commonality among them except their branding. This often creates interpersonal rivalries and envies. Superiority and inferiority complexes are generated among these people. While they are trained to treat themselves as superior to the common citizens, within their own class, they are either inferior or superior. The god-dog syndrome is highest among the government officers of India.

Unfortunately, the same class of people would not allow the system to be drastically changed. Democracy or no democracy, the government officials have a common mindset all over the world from time immemorial. It is too difficult to change it. Politicians, the so called people's representatives, are also scared of the officials because without the latter the former have no existence or no power!

I know that I am nobody to comment over the present system or to give any suggestions for improvements. Yet, I think there is a common logic that the present system of selection of government officers needs to be changed. The system of arbitrary postings of the all India service officers in any ministry or any department without the requisite understanding of the functions should stop. The background educational qualifications and experience also should be given equal importance while a person is posted to head an organization or department. 

It would be a good idea to have many all India services to serve various functional ministries and the persons for such services should be selected based on the specific knowledge that is needed for such ministries or departments. 

Some three and a half decades ago, the late Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi mooted such an idea. But she failed miserably, even though she was much more powerful politically than her later day political successors. This was because of the clever manner in which some of those elite class administrative service officers played against the idea.

The public sector is a big governmental function. Yet the government does not have any all India industrial management service. Even in such services, the functions of various disciplines vary widely and there is a need to look in to this aspect too. The practice of politicians occupying executive posts also needs reconsideration.

It is indeed a complex situation. A situation where power and service considerations go hand in hand with favoritism and performance requirements. A situation where priorities are difficult to be ascertained. Is it the country or is it the individual that is important? 

It is easy to declare the country as important in public, but it is too difficult to practice that in private.

Independent republic of India has survived more than a century now. It has become old. The old generation of people of India themselves are those born after independence. They are no more likely to be with the ideals of their parents. The youngsters of India are no more taught about civic responsibilities in the schools. No more they are taught about the importance of being honest and compassionate. The modern public schools of India set up by societies formed by clever elites with skills and tactics of garnering power and money have turned out to become factories that produce export oriented, stereotyped, human robots with much knowledge and least wisdom to work for multinational corporations (MNC) rather than improving their own nation! And the elitist administrators of modern India have helped out much to accomplish this.

There are millions of middle class people who think that they have benefited from such a progress that India has made. From their viewpoint they could be right. 

But in reality, the rich in India are getting richer and the poor are becoming poorer. The numbers of the latter are increasing. The affluence of the rich are not proportionately getting transmitted to the less affluent in a natural manner. And some ill conceived administrators think that they have done a big thing by subsidizing a few starchy food to the poor to maintain their lives to do all those menial jobs, the works which could be branded as essential services in the event they ever think of stopping their work!

Every officer belonging to the various governmental organizations is part of the executive branch of the government and they are all professional leaders who are responsible for assisting and guiding their elected political heads of the government in accordance with the constitutional framework of the country. The elected leaders in a democratic system as defined in its present constitution need not be any one who has the majority support of the people. The elected leaders are also not required to be with any well defined educational or other such competency qualifications to become the heads of the various governmental functions. But that is not the case with the professional leaders of the government. They have to have some competency qualifications.

It is very obvious that the Constitution of India  requires the professional leaders of the governmental systems (the officers of the government or the public servants) to be with proven competency. Had these officers with the right mix of the 4C's I wrote some time ago (Competency, Character, Courage and Compassion) there is absolutely nothing that could have prevented India from achieving the best administered and governed country in the world by now. But India is not such a country now. Transparency International and others in the world consider India as one of the poorly administered and badly governed country marred in corruption of all kinds.

I am not telling that all officers of the government are without the 4C's. I am also not telling that the Indian system of governance is bad every where. What I want to stress is about the importance that should be given in screening and selection of the professional leaders of the government so that they are all with the right kind of the 4C's. If some have the 4C's while others do not, then we get a system similar to a bullock cart that is pulled by one able bodied oxen and one one lame and lazy one. The cart is likely to move in a circle rather than moving forward. An administration manned by a mix of able officers and incompetent ones would most likely make it in a vicious circle!

Incompetent officers would allow their non-professional political leaders to assume and take over their functions. They would be too willing to oblige their non-professional political masters. That would cause the country to move towards collapse. It would be similar to the situation where the professional pilot of an aircraft allowing his employer and owner of the plane with no pilot licence to pilot the plane! A competent professional pilot would not allow his owner employer for such an experiment even when his employer commands him for compliance in abusive language! That is because the professional has enough courage and competence to face such situations. 

Regrettably such situations are happening in India for quite some time. That is causing the government machinery to under perform. Fortunately, the government machinery is not like an aircraft. Its failure to catastrophe may not happen in a few minutes. It would take some years!

The constitutional architects of India, while ensuring selection of people with higher Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and cleverness as a measure of their competencies did not place equal importance for the other three C's, character, courage and compassion.

The effect is a gradual slip and degradation of professionalism in the elite class officers of Indian government. Soon some of those kinds would find their positions in the selection boards to make things slip from bad to worse!

India is now a country of favoritism. True professionals are no more preferred to occupy the top professional posts of governance. 

Incompetent professionals due to their incompetence are afraid of competent juniors. Only competent ones can be mentors of competent subordinates. Hence, incompetent professionals who head top hierarchies would knowingly or unknowingly cause incompetency to perpetuate in the governmental organizations.

As time passes, the whole system would saturate with incompetent people.

And that would be the time when the system collapse totally.

A new republic with a new constitution would likely emerge! Else there could be emergence of many republics!

I am not telling this. That is what history teaches us. 

If that is not to happen, what is required to be done is not so difficult to understand.

Hope you could get what I meant.

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