Bureaucrats may indulge in self petting on Civil Services Day every year during last week of April which may be unknown and irrelevant to common people in the country, though none can deny the bitter truth they do play an important role in the centre and states, a reality existing since its inception in the 19th century when it was known as Indian Civil Service (ICS). This elite civil service of the British Empire assumed pre-eminence starting from 1858 to1947 and its members ruled over more than 300 million people of our country.
Lord Cornwallis is called the father of modern Indian Civil Service. The Britishers used to call ICS as the steel frame of Indian Administration. When British government took over India from East India Company and a common service became essential for seamless administration, then rulers appointed these officials to enforce British rule and laws in India. For this Lord Cornwallis wanted to catch educated (graduate), intelligent and energetic youth, hence he proposed the Indian Civil Service. For recruitment in this prestigious service the exam was held in London. UPSC was founded and given this task in 1924. Looking at the contribution and nature of ICS in administration, India moved on with this service after Independence. After many changes from time to time, it is still with us and deemed to be most prestigious service of India.
HOW DID IAS COME INTO EXISTENCE?
At the time of the partition of India and departure of the British in 1947, the Indian Civil Service was divided between the Dominions of India and Pakistan. The part which went to India was named Indian Civil Services (IAS) and that went to Pakistan was named Civil Services of Pakistan(CPS). In1947, as per official data, there were 980 ICS officers. 468 were Europeans, 352 Hindus, 101 Muslims, two depressed classes/Scheduled Castes, five domiciled Europeans and Anglo-Indians, 25 Indian Christians, 13 Parsis, 10 Sikhs and four other communities. Most European officers left India at Partition, while many Hindus and Muslims went to India and Pakistan respectively. This sudden loss of officer cadre caused major challenges in administering the nascent states.
WHY CIVIL SERVICES DAY?
The Government of India and bureaucrats did not celebrate ‘Civil Services day’ this year owing to Corona virus crisis, a day which is normally meant to rededicate themselves to the cause of the citizens and renew their commitments to public service and excellence in work. This date is chosen to commemorate the day when first Home Minister of Independent India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, addressed the probationers of Administrative Services Officers in 1947 at Metcalf House, Delhi. He referred to civil servants as the ‘steel frame of India’. The first such function was held in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on April 6,2006.
DO BUREAUCRATS RULE THE COUNTRY?
Even India’s prime minister, Narender Modi has a track record of heavily depending upon the civil servants which was witnessed when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and a similar trend continues as PM also. Chief Ministers and ministers at centre and state levels go one step further and rely on bureaucrats for most decision making and insights.
In Britain, the bureaucrats also rule the roost and "YES MINISTER” (later YES PRIME MINISTER), written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, is a political satire depicting Jim Hacker as minister and Sir Humphrey Appleby as the civil servant. "Some Governments are in office but not in power. The Civil Service is always in office.” At one point Humphrey tells Jim Hacker (Minister), "..you may be a minister but I am the government.”
It may amount to being blinded, if someone believes that bureaucracy does not rule the centre or states, a sight witnessed on a daily basis. Success of any regime depends upon the handling of the members of this elite service, an impression which has been inherited from British Raj and remains unabated and unchallenged even today. It is a fact that majority of politicians who become part of governance may not have experience, decision making capabilities, knowledge of file work, technicalities, rules and regulations etc hence bureaucrats become their guiding stars, which leads to their dependence on them. Experts feel that any regime will become successful if it gets committed, dedicated and honest IAS officers but if it is otherwise, then failure is imminent.
CORRUPTION IN BUREACRACY
Like other corrupt pillars of our democracy, bureaucracy has also become inherently corrupt. Though there are many honest officials, however several scams have come to light which prove the involvement of IAS officials, after conniving with their political Bosses. It has been witnessed that there is a gap between bureaucrats and the common people especially, which leads to resentment in society. There are innumerable instances of unlimited powers exercised by bureaucrats. Documents show that one of the ex top bureaucrats, who headed Himachal bureaucracy misguided six time chief minister because he was working with personal agendas. The records exhibit that whenever there is a tussle between senior IAS officers and ministers then former tends to prevail.
NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN LOYALTY AND MERIT
One dangerous trend that has crept in Indian bureaucracy pertains to a clear division between pro and anti-regime officials, specifically for the purpose of postings. This can generally be attributed to low quality politicians who give higher weightage to the ‘Loyalty’ factor than merit and competence. One set of talented officials get side-lined, which factors on the important posts held by them during the previous regime, hence Merit becomes the causality.
SUPERIORITY AS COMPARED TO OTHER SERVICES
A concerning trend is the supposed superiority assumed by IAS officers over other central services. This has created an imbalance, thereby hampering the executing potential of administration at centre and states. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur’s Principal Secretary, Sanjay Kundu, is an IPS officer who has been appointed by CM, deviating from the normal practice of having an IAS officer on this post. As per some senior officials, the IAS lobby is unhappy with this appointment and attempts are being made to ensure Kundu’s failure.
Political analysts opine that bureaucracy has got an important role to play in the progress of any nation and it will be the responsibility of politicians in power to choose honest bureaucrats and extend full support to take judicious and pro people decisions, which will shape future of the country.
(The writer, a senior political analyst, is a former Editor and Incharge of Rajasthan edition of Hindustan Times besides having four decades experience in journalism)
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