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Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Who will bell the cat?
The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the enigma of Independent India.   Sixty odd years ago, a great Indian engineer of the 20th Century and a prime architect of modern India, Sir M. Viswesvarayya, had stated: “The theory of ICS men being good for all things has done us much harm”. The same sentiment was echoed recently by NR Narayanmurhy when he said "Bureaucrats are trapped in a colonial mindset. They feel they are the masters and there is no need to show fairness and transparency. Bureaucrats are completely out of touch with the dynamics of the current world. We should abolish the system of generalised administrators under the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) …….”.     Nothing has changed!
The competence of IAS cadre to formulate policies on matters of which they have no knowledge has always been a moot point. That things have come to this pass is directly attributable to the political leadership who ‘mid-wifed’ Independent India. In hindsight we can’t but wonder if there was any leader in the 1940s, with the capability to guide Nation building. Having said we know that Rome was not built in a day. Yet now, the urgency with which immediate action is required to streamline governance to save the Nation is unquestionable. Also in the recent years, several corrupt economies of Asia have faced setbacks, after the wave of economic upturn faded, this makes the urgency of corrective measures more than evident, and they make it an imperative.
Consider this. The global watch dog body, transparency International ranked India at a low 73 out of the 102 countries at the beginning of the century. In a later survey in 2008, India was ranked 85th out of 128 countries. A world economic forum survey, in 2009, of the leading economies of Asia, revealed  “Indian bureaucracy to be not just least efficient out of Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Philippines and Indonesia; further it was also found that working with the India's civil servants was a "slow and painful"”.
In all these years of degeneration and perpetual corrupt practices of Indian bureaucratic system has been attributed to various reasons, prominent among them being their nexus with political corruption, lack of accountability and low regulatory controls. The one main reason unfortunately missed out by many is their incompetence to handle complex matters of technology and management.  The prescribed entry levels for IAS do not define these as prerequisites; neither are they formally trained in these areas subsequently.  Unfortunately successive governments have found it difficult t o bring in changes in the ways of the babudom (IAS cadre).
Nitish and Modi seem to be delivering…we have yet to see whether the progress in these states is despite the babus…It would seem so, as both these CMs manage directly and seek advice from experts in the industry and involve them in the execution. Also the growth in Bihar is attributed to infrastructure construction work taking place at a feverish pace.  
"Should we not abolish the IAS? How long can we depend on them to frame the policy of the country; greedy people, always looking at what post to grab." Dr. Varghese Kurien of AMUL fame had once asked.
It is evident from the foregoing that we know the problem and as a Nation we have solutions. It is definitely a daunting task for us the common people to undo the intricate knot between the elected leaders and their comrades in deed – the bureaucrats

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