Is Indian Administrative Service a Parasite on Society?

Dr. Sankarshan Acharya

February 4, 2006

Here is a good article from Pioneer, "Stains of the Steel Frame," where a remarkably honest IAS officer says how his service has become a parasite on society.

I have met many IAS officers, who are very honest, efficient and frank.  Our system of governance generally relegates them.  One senior IAS officer once told me to write to his political boss to eliminate most of these posts starting with his own!  I was shocked to hear that.  His statement was a remarkable contrast with that of another IAS officer, who happened to be the MD of a PSU in which I had sought a job as a rookie, who told me bluntly that he had only Chaprashi's job for IIT graduates.  This PSU has over time become sick and defunct. 

Officers who are allied firmly with politicians generally develop contempt for everyone else in society.  They are protected by the boss and political mafia and so there is no one else to worry about; it is then a matter of looting as much of public wealth as possible. 

Quite frankly, though, it is not a problem of IAS.  Any other cadre replacing IAS will perpetuate the same injustice to public.  It is the system of governance, stupid that should be reformed

Irrespective of the talent joining the current system of governance, those who emerge as leading decision makers have generally become parasites on society.  They have conceived and adopted only self-aggrandizing and self-entrenching policies by presuming that the public is stupid.  Their policies have stifled the export potential of a nation to weaken the currency beyond repair.  They are completely callous about the fact that the voters have rejected their incumbent political bosses continually.  They do not care that their policies have resulted in trade imbalance, despite heavy exports of raw talents and minerals, which has resulted in shameful bouncing of India's foreign currency checks in 1991.  They may be extremely good in ripping off their fellow Indians.  But facts amply exhibit that they are collectively stupid due to collective irrationality.

For example, the principal adviser to NDA PM was an extremely articulate and able individual who served his boss remarkably.  On foreign policy of India, he played an astute role in unlocking the country's international isolation.  All of the CFD's proposals were presented to the PM verbatim and steps were immediately initiated which produced good results eventually.  The proposals obviously served national interests and matched with the perspective of a great prime minister.  But CFD's proposals on reforming the government were not presented to the same PM.  My lingering belief is that the NDA government would not have been defeated if they had implemented the CFD's proposals on reforming the government, avoided early election and desisted from "India Shining" advertisements.  For the then principal adviser, protecting the interests of his cadre seemed to matter more than serving the national interest or the PM.  There was an obvious fear that the way the cadre  operates in India would be dismantled because Mr. Vajpayee would definitely implement CFD's proposals (that matched his own desire and belief) to serve the best national interests.  When the NDA did not respond to any of CFD's proposals on reforming the government for a long time, we had to approach the President with a request to talk to the PM.  Within a few days after that Mr. Vajpayee appointed a committee (through of bureaucrats) to have the best system of decision making in India.  It was too late.  By then, the state-level NDA machinery has gotten accustomed to rampant looting of public wealth and development funds, like the way the Congress Party apparatus has done since independence.

The current PMO seems to be presenting our missives to the PM.  CFD has also taken a precaution to communicate with all movers and shakers of India so that some critical people in some entity will see why we have been foundering.  India needs competition among political parties to adopt policies to make the nation stronger.  The only credible measures of national strength are higher exports than vitally needed imports and strengthening of rupee (or rising foreign exchange reserves).         

CFD has given a proposal to the current PM to reform the curricula for training IAS officers with non-bureaucratic and apolitical faculty.  This has been echoed in Mr. K.P.S. Gill's column in Pioneer.  CFD is not sure that this PM (who is now talking about another pay commission) has got the message loud and clear on the necessity of adopting the first principle of administration on accountability and authority to make our administrative service first rated. 

If 90% of the current revenues are locked up in salaries and pension of staff and if the union and all states are broke with heavy debt burdens, how can the government promise more pays and pensions without printing rupees or cutting staff?  The government has also promised employment guarantees for all and to develop rural India at a cost of Rs.175000 crores and refurbish cities at a cost of Rs.100000 crores.  From where will all this money come?  Borrow from WB, IMF, DFID and ADB or send more NRIs to serve abroad for greater remittance?  If money is printed/created, then 85% of it will gravitate back to the same machinery that is in charge of distributing the doles, as per the estimate of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi.  This will only fuel inflation to seethe the vast majority of Indians (the 92% that is not in organized sectors) who cannot get most of the created rupees.  These grandiose schemes will only weaken the nation.  They are myopic self-entrenchment motivated policies. 

The only way out for India is to reform the system of governance, reform the governance of schools, found governance on truth, etc.  Our leaders have no option other than nurturing an ideology among people (especially their grass-root political workers and bureaucratic cohorts) to work hard to earn their living in the same way as the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Americans, or Europeans are doing. 

If people are encouraged to smash public properties (like they are doing now at the airports) or to loot public wealth and development funds (like most politicians and bureaucrats in decision making positions have done since independence) or to adopt policies to transfer public's mineral wealth (like iron ore valued at least $45 per tonne given away for $0.075 accruing to public exchequers) to private "industrialists" for sharing the loot, then we will remain doomed as a nation with unpleasant existence even for the movers and shakers (as indicated by the necessity to deploy Z-security for their day-to-day survival).        

With best regards,

Sankarshan Acharya

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