Saturday, August 7, 2010
Civil services reforms - what should be done really!
India, the largest democracy and the "even largest" corruptocracy in the world, is faced by many many many problems, many of them with easy solutions, some of them really vexed. Let's just forget about the vexed part - let's concentrate on what we can solve. One of it is the civil services reforms in our country.
Nowadays, we are seeing this phrase every now and then in newspapers and TV channels - various commissions formed so far, the latest one being the Administrative Reforms Commission formed under Veerappa Moily aimed at a complete makeover of our civil services and much more. We can also hear and read fancy terms like "administrative reforms", "service accountability", "capacity building", etc. etc. But one thing is very common in these terms - these have been repeated ever since we got independence - oft repeated never implemented - what is the meaning of such kind of gimmick for a common man on the street?
Now enough of the criticism - let's look at some solutions. We at "The Real Indian" believe that all problems can be solved by using logic and creativity in proper and required proportions. What we have described above is the logical part - freeing bureaucrats from political interference, making them more answerable and efficient, giving performance-based incentives, etc. etc. But have we ever thought out something creative to find a solution? May be not, because creativity is a sin in many institutions (especially educational) in our country and we are supposed to follow the book and not question it (more on that later!).
So, we provide a creative aspect of solution to this problem. Again, we would like to emphasize that just being creative is not enough, we need to be logical also and use our judgment well. Now, logically speaking, we are democracy, i.e. people are the king and the king makers. Then why the heck are they only allowed to elect ONLY the politicians...I mean, why not civil servants? Ok..ok...that may sound neurotic because then every Tom, Dick, and Harry will get into the rat race because there is a huge cheesecake at the end of the race!! What we propose is this: Select civil servants on the basis of a competitive exam (CSE is fine but needs some minor changes - again more on that, later!!). Once they are selected and finally trained well, post them to states as usual. Let them work at the basic level, give them one or two time bound promotions. But when the time comes to select a candidate for a sensitive and powerful post like that of DM or SP or Commissioner of IT, etc. LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE. Let there be an open election between the probable candidates who are due for promotion and let the people decide who they want as their DM or SP on the basis of their performance in the past 5 years or so.
Now there are two prerequisites to this - First, the person should not be transferred out of the district or city without completing 5 years of service - this will give the people of that district a chance to fully evaluate his services and take an informed decision. Second, the people should be given free access to the officer's service records, his training records, and other qualitative and quantitative parameters - again to help them make an informed decision. If this is followed, then we would have much better people sitting at the helm of the affairs, not just simply those who belong to a particular caste or creed. Ah...yes.. the caste factor. It should be mandatory that the officer working in the district should not be of the same state or dominant caste of that district so that people's choices are not biased by caste considerations as they happen in case of general and legislative elections.
This is not an all-encompassing solution to all the civil services reforms problems - but being a democracy, the people have as much right to choose their administrators as they have of choosing their leaders. We also foresee various problems associated with this solution like the officers colluding with the dominant political parties for gathering votes and taking popular decisions rather than following the law of the land (imagine what would happen if even the DM of the district supports a khap panchayat's decision to execute lovers!!). This can be counterproductive to the basic solution of creating more efficiency and transparency and we in India are notorious for finding loopholes in the system and exploiting them to the hilt.
What we have proposed is only a food for thought and a solution that, if implemented with proper checks and balances, can give good results. We would like to conclude with a well-known saying , power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.