The “steel frame” of India

It's the time to drill a hole in it and make the system people-friendly

VIEWPOINT

ANIL ANAND

India is on the boil. The heart rending incident of gang rape of a young Delhi woman has blown the lid off the system which is rotten from top to bottom. Political mis-governance, yes, bureaucratic highhandedness and above all the abdication of social responsibilities at all levels, have all ganged to create a situation by which the young frustrated young men and women are forced to take to the streets.
The situation is serious. The unfortunate incident is only a trigger but the malady is huge and not only needs to be uncovered but uprooted altogether. Who will or can do it? This is a vital question crying for answers.
Is the political system alone to be blamed for poor governance and an irresponsive administration? I am afraid it is not entirely true. The politicians are a public face in any democracy and so are the Indian politicos who have to face the litmus test every five years or even earlier in the ongoing fragile coalition era. That does not absolve them of the wrongdoings and failures. In fact, their lack of efficacy is reflected in the manner in which the other wings of governance, namely bureaucracy, have not only overridden them and at times made them more vulnerable in the public eyes.
It was the foresightedness of the framers of Indian Constitution that they put in place a beautiful system of checks and balances at every step. Perhaps they were much ahead of their times and could visualise the likely problems that could occur decades after the attainment of Independence. Some may still say that the Indian democracy is at its infancy and that six decades is too small a period in the history of a nation. No denying the fact!
But at the same time there are other stark realities which are staring us in the eyes. Mis-governance, total failure of the law and order system, rampant corruption and the prevailing culture of mediocrity and influence getting precedence over merit and commitment of purpose are a few to mention. The list is long and unwinding gradually and the result is the outpouring public anger on the streets.
In a democracy the political class cannot escape public scrutiny. And they are being subjected to one after the deplorable gang rape case of Delhi. But it remains a fact that the politicians or elected representatives alone cannot be blamed for the mess though they have contributed to it a great deal due to lack of vision and honesty of purpose.
This brings one to a very pertinent question as to what really ails the system or the causes of mis-governance?  Politicos yes but no one is questioning the steel frame of India as the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru used to describe the bureaucracy.
The nexus of inefficient politicians and some wily and manipulative officials is the root cause of the problem. From first-hand experience one can vouch that the problem emanates with increasing number of unscrupulous, unintelligent and greedy politicians managing to get into the system of governance with not even an iota of commitment to become proficient or deliver honestly. In order to further their vested interests a band of equally unscrupulous officials prove handy. The nexus is flourishing by the day. How to break this unholy union? Does the proverbial steel frame of India need to be breached? These are vital question facing the nation today.
 More honest, qualified and well-meaning people should come into politics. But how! The onus lies on the political parties particularly those with national status and long track records. They should attract more such people to their fold and ensure that their dignity and prestige will be upheld at all costs and that their views will be dealt with due diligence.
The successive Governments at the Centre have either failed or looked the other way while dealing with the problems of bureaucracy. In the name of administrative reforms particularly focusing on the functioning of the bureaucracy, only lip service has been paid. The ruling class or the political system is either too scared to touch the steel frame or is too willing to become part of the nexus.
A recent study conducted by a Singapore based firm has revealed that the Indian bureaucracy is the worst in Asia with a 9.21 rating out of 10. So dismal is the situation that India was found to be worst  than Vietnam (rated at 8.54), Indonesia (8.37), Philippines (7.57) and China (7.11), said the report by  Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd.
It is an alarming scenario. Corruption in bureaucracy is as serious as in the political system. The world’s largest democracy boasts of having the world’s largest bureaucracy which amply explains the magnitude of the problem. Not that everyone in the bureaucracy is corrupt. But the latter category has eclipsed the well-meaning and honest into oblivion.
In the Constitutional frame of things, the steel frame of India is meant to help strengthen the national cause by assisting in its socioeconomic development and ensuring continuity of administration in the face of political change. But there are serious questions on whether this goal has been achieved.
The time has come to make the bureaucracy more accountable and responsive to the people. The bureaucratic set up cannot be treated like an island and be kept away from reformative process. It is ironic to find retired bureaucrats, as high as the Cabinet Secretaries and DGPs, haranguing on TV channels about corruption in governance and its root causes. They must answer the question as to how many times did they actually stand up or spoke for the cause during their service period.
The best in the political, bureaucratic and social fields should join hands to undertake and support the process of reforms at all levels. There is dire need for structural changes in the civil service system. These are happening all over the world but unfortunately missing in India. The civil services should be made absolutely accountable and answerable to the people.
It is high time the rust is removed from the steel frame and make the system more people friendly. Or else, the public anger can take a serious turn.

(The author is Delhi Bureau Chief of
Greater Kashmir and can be  contacted at a.anil.anand@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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