Comments received on the TOI article of 30 July 2007 (re: reforming bureaucracy)


1. P.Sunder Published in TOI 7 August 2007
The article Reform the bureaucracy (July 30) made interesting reading, not least it was written by a former I.A.S officer. A comparison between the working of private and public sectors with special reference to I.A.S is certainly in order. Sanjeev Sabhlok should be congratulated for well argued analysis that he puts forth. The training of I.A.S officers does not appear to inculcate the skill set required to deliver the targeted performance.
     As a layman I feel there is no accountability of the I.A.S cadre. So the civil services are more of a status symbol than a viable service to bring about a change. Corruption continues to be a major problem and who can deny the sustained and growing interference of politicians? The government of the day will have to think hard and to take concrete steps to reduce the size of bureaucracy, devolve responsibility and bring about a greater competitiveness.

2. Shantanu Ghosh Published in TOI 7 August 2007

     With reference to Reform the bureaucracy the writer having been part of the I.A.S for several years must know the kind of ministers we have. Does he expect the ministers to have a technical capabilities or even an inclination to appoint a person as secretary on the basis of their qualifications? Regarding the I.A.S most of them have big egos but know nothing about their departments. No body is expected to know every thing about all subjects. But officers belonging to service should at least know their work, which they dont. Most of the time they do not go to office and those who do work can not delegate.

3. S.R. Wadhwa, Former Chairman, income Tax Settlement Commission

     I am of the view that one single input to improve efficiency in Government is to make most of the top posts selective by competition with private sector and tenure based, say for 5years. Let the competent bureaucrats also compete and get selected if they have not already risen to their levels of incompetence.Weberian model does not work in situations where promotion is based essentially on seniority and/or contacts, what ever lip service you pay to merit.


The system is working very well in USA and in European countries where this has been introduced.


4. Mr. V.S JAFA I.D.A.S (Retd) former Secretay Defence (Finance)

    I am not sure if a minister is given a choice of a secretary he will choose a right person - knowing how they want their candidates to be appointed even as under secretary. But if the PMO takes up this responsibility then perhaps the system can work. Another point - remuneration is important but we will never be able to match the MNCs. Singapore is perhaps the only country in the world where the public servants get high salaries comparable to private sector. In all other countries the public sector does not as much. But there is an attraction in the public service which will surely draw good people from private sector. In fact I know of some very senior private sector people who will surely welcome an opportunity of this kind.

[Sanjeev’s note: I'd like to refer Mr. Jafa to a recent Victorian report: "Public Sector Reforms and Public-Private Executive Labour Markets: Public Service for Private Reward?" available at (click here). In particular, please note (on page 1): "while the fixed remuneration of lower level executives is generally comparable to private sector rates of pay, middle level and senior executive positions are remunerated at about 50 to 60 percent of their private sector counterparts." While this market survey report notes that a Secretary gets 50-60% of the private sector counterpart -- getting about half  a million dollars is very good salary, and attractive enough for top quality talent]


5. Ramgopal. Former Central Sect Service Officer who served many ICS officers before and after partition.

    Politicl bosses have spoiled the civil services. Corruption of politicians has gradually percolated in all services and even the public too. The preliminary need is to reform India’s multiparty political system and election process which has brought us to a point where we face not one but several partitions, a greater bloodshed than in 1947. Our politicians have already sown the seeds of further partition.


6.  H.P.Agrawal

     Problem is who will implement and Why? We are talking of Police Reforms based on 160 Act for decades, why nothing is being done? Today honesty has become the great disqualification.


7. Mr. P.R Chari I.A.S (Retd)

     Thanks for starting this debate on the bureaucracy, and I trust you will receive several diagnoses and suggested solutions. Here is mine.  Observe the qualities that imbue the bureaucrats who have scrambled successfully up the slippery pole of promotion to Secretary, but also those who later get re-employed long after their retirement. That quality is complete obsequiousness and total amorality. A corrupt political and administrative system is not exactly looking for Macaulays.

      I am afraid the Great Indian Middle Class is part of the problem. While corruption is decried in drawing room chatter, members of the Great Indian Middle  Class--the backbone of any country-- are only too willing to be corrupt to " get their  job done."  How many  people  do we know who have stood up and exposed corruption and wrongdoing?

     And, now to remedies. I think it  new entrants into the civil services should be informed that they can only expect to rise up to the level of Joint Secretaries and equivalent on the merit-cum-seniority principle. All higher posts will be advertised and filled from the open market. Civil servants are, of course, welcome to apply. And, who will do the selection? A revamped UPSC with members from academia and the private sector appointed therein.

     Apart from the selection process, much greater thought needs being given to nurturing  the bureaucracy and protecting it from the venal politician-bureaucratic nexus.Transfers, for instance, are generally used to break the will of the honest bureaucrat. Civil Service Commissions could help here, as also much greater use of the Right to Information Act.


8. Indrajit Barua, Assam

    The reason why the IAS (and the IPS) don't delver is SECURITY. They have absolute security of service; their employment, and therefore their salary and perks, are guaranteed, whether or not they deliver results. Ergo, they do not have to deliver results. Introduce the private sector insecurity into their lives and see the fallout. It will wreak miracles for India.

Consider Laloo Prasad Yadav. In Bihar, he was a miserable failure; in the Railways, he is a roaring success. The reason: in the Railways, he doesn't have the IAS and the IPS to help him.

    It is the “Security” of service which is the main reason why I.A.S, I.P.S etc do not deliver excellent results for the country. Sh. Laloo Prasad was a miserable failure in Bihar and a roaring success in Railways as no I.A.S/I.P.S was to help him.


9. Dev Chopra

     We as you know are a nation of talkers -- that comment applies more to the young and the retirees, less even to the house wives!  

    The young, even those touching mid-careers, do their tasks of some responsibility, talk-away their blues, and get smothered by the day-to-day tasks, "saving" their bounty of safe jobs or risky ones -- as long as, the future stays secure.   

    The accomplished and those approaching retirement (last say FIVE years) are so engrossed in "toeing the line"--whatever it may be, since superannuation or a better set of pensionable plus other goodies remain in focus -- N o t h i n g  else.    

    So who must lead the pack among the politicians or the bureaucrats or the private sector, Sir?    

    One sees hardly any one -- except those like you, sanjeev and i (the thought gets me full of oxygen in my lungs) or those you have quoted in the TOI article from here or overseas, that provide some excellent answers--but these remain all academic and intellectual thoughts--NO ONE comes forward to "lead the pack". The Doers...   

    That Sir is the truth...though i agree that the debate ought not to go under!    

    To conclude, a passing thought, Sir: Vallabh bhai Patel ji did us a yeomen service in integrating the States and "royal-India" into the Union and then the Republic. He moved on, as       All of us must at our appointed times--may be he went too soon where India's future is concerned.    

    We, starting with Nehru ji, himself, created quietly, unknowingly and sub-consciously a new Royalty of the corrupt cum powerful Politician plus the clever, far-sighted & wise Bureaucrat (with the tribe in the private industry/trade & commerce) have NOW a new royalty in place. That and more is what it is!    

    This polity Sir, runs us, today. See what the HT of Aug. 3 says on its front page headline:     

"CAPITAL COLLAPSE" and so on. But that has been happening all over our land now for the past 6 decades--except that it has come nearer home in Urban India, which rules the land with NO concern with what the next Ten, nay even Five years have in store, for the weaker sections or the middle class of shining India.    

    We in parts of our Phase II of DLF were without any electricity for 14 hours -- so what? Look for a generator because the first back up of the Invertor has to give up. What a f t e r the generator? The high rise to keep away from the house breaker? (I have had two in the winters of 1999 and 2000!)    

    Sir, the human back up of the Politician (any hue-any kind) + the Bureaucrat (including the POLICE & the Defense Arm) and the Honest or not so honest capital related businessman, are ALL hand-in-glove to give us the governance that the rajahs and nawabss "failed" in providing us, BUT now provide us with a vengeance!    

    As long as it does not shake-up their and only their, collective or not-so-collective interests.

     Who will be able to change the strangle-hold of that human back-up to governance that has come into our fold?    

    Having rationalised the above, I cannot sit back & hence continue to walk behind you, of course.   

     To lead, no, there are many more among us who deserve that position and that role!  


10. Mr. Suresh Anand (retired from Hong Kong government Service)

     Sanjeev shows a clear and implementable way forward on reforming our bureaucracy. I do hope the PMO and others who can help to implement are getting such advice and taking action to rid the Indian bureaucracy of incompetence, lethargy and blatant corruption


11. Amit Kumar Malhotra NRI (A senior Executive in I.T Company in U.S.A)

     The self rule (Swaraj) is not the same thing as Independence. To achieve Swaraj (which is our birth right) our bureaucrats should strongly advise their political bosses to delegate civic and social functions relating to rural and urban areas to the citizens of India. This would also require change of mindset of the people of India.

12. Other views (summarised; these being
views of Dr. G.S Kainth former Professor in IIT Kanpur, Major General Satbir Singh (Retd))  and P.K.Sabhlok, former acting Controllor General of Defence Accounts)

      Bureaucrats should be faithful to the Constitution of India and not to their political bosses when some thing against the Constitution is asked/ordered.

      Our Constitution no where encourages corruption, sectarianism based on caste, creed and religion etc.

       Some major areas of large scale corruption be analysed and studied whether these areas can be delegated to citizens as part of Swaraj (self rule), grass root democratic concept i.e. G-2-C (governance to citizens) as part of Bottom Up functions against existing Top Down functions.

      Constitution of India as amended in 1992 (amendments 73, 74), Society’s Registration Act 1860 as amended/modified till date, RTI, Consumer Protection Act, Bhagidari system and many government orders/letters allow delegation to citizens bodies like Municipal Councils, RWAs, Panchayats etc

      BUT the main issue is “Are the citizens of India willing to take this responsibility as part of Swaraj (self rule)?”