Weak public institutions behind India’s low state capacity

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  • As India’s challenges mount, the need for institutional reform is vital if the country is to build and sustain an Indian state for the 21st century.


  • Public institutions failed in fostering a spirit of inquiry, curiosity and tolerance and excellence
  • Institutions in India covers Parliament, the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the police, the Civil Service, and economic institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, the Finance Commission, the SEBI, the TRAI, universities and the Pay Commission.

Meaning of public institutions:

  • Public institutions are those that are established for the welfare of public and ensure justice.
  • The role of institutions is significant to ensure ideals like justice equality and to promote democracy, secularism, and peace in society.
  • These are specialized organizations controlled by public officials and supported by funds to serve public welfare. For example education, public health, social justice etc.

Role of public institutions:

  • Public institutions are institutions of national importance brought out with an aim to improve governance and to create a system of checks and balance.
  • Ensure public security
  • Promote social equality and liberty
  • Strengthen ideals of democracy like fraternity, separation of power, participation of common people.
  • Secularism and peace in society.

Evidences of low performance of public institutions in India:

  • With increase in population, limited resources, reduced capacity the public institutions are facing tough time in ensuring justice to people as evident from the following points:
  • Reduced debates in legislature and increasing resort to Guillotine and Subordinate legislations. For example Indian Parliament and State legislatures.
  • Constitution of small benches by courts for disposal of cases and delay in justice. For example SC in India for disposing constitutional and important civil services.
  • Lack of effective implementation of government programmes by Executive.
  • For example delays in subsidies, delivery of services etc by state and central government ministries.
  • Failure of institutions like Police in establishing law and order. For example Muzaffarnagar riots etc.
  • There are issues with role being played by Executive, legislature, judiciary etc in fulfilling constitutional values.
  • Increased services from governments being provided to increased population. For example Aadhar, Make in India, Skilling India, startup India.
  • A public institution suffers from problems like corruption, deliberate delay in parliamentary proceedings by parties etc.

Reasons of weak public institutions in India:

  • Shortage of quality manpower in public institutions.
  • The number of people living in India’s urban cities and township are rising at a rapid clip, so swiftly that even the government’s own agencies have difficulty in adequately measuring India’s changing demographics.
  • The Indian state is one of the smallest among major nations on a per capita basis.
  • While India’s population increased from 846 million to 1.2 billion between 1991 and 2011, total public sector employment actually decreased from 19.1 million to 17.9 million. Over this period, the absolute size of the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS) dropped by 10% by 2010, the total strength of the IAS and the Indian Police Service (IPS) was less than 11,000 while the vacancy rate stood at 28%.
  • In the foreign affairs, the strength of the Indian diplomatic corps is less than of Sweden’s.
  • India’s judicial system presently has a backlog of more than 31 million cases.  Government estimates suggest that as many as 10% of all cases have been pending for a decade or more.
  • India is struggling to perform even the most basic functions of a sovereign state.
  • High level of corruption and venality in public life.
  • Lack of competence, both at the policy design and formulation level.
  • Poor implementation of policies.
  • The expansion and growth of India’s private sector and vibrant civil society will substitute for some of the shortcomings of the public sector in the foreseeable future.
  • The vulnerable populations, unlike India’s middle and upper classes, do not have a viable “exit” option from the public sector and its myriad deficiencies.
  • Despite major new government social sector programs, the state’s ability to deliver basic goods is seriously lacking.

Solutions for proper functioning of public institutions:

  • Weak institutions in India are considered as best way to ensure social injustice in India. So following are some solutions to ensure proper functioning of public institutions in India.
  • For effective institutions to emerge there will have to be political consensus.
  • Improved functioning of individual ministries and departments at the central and state levels.
  • Better coordination across individuals ministries and between the centre and states
  • Reassignment of expenditure responsibilities across levels of government.
  • Reassignment of tax authorities to provide improved incentives for expenditure governance through electoral accountability.
  • There is need for industry-education linkage
  • Less political interference in police functioning
  • Establishment of fast track courts to reduce pending of cases
  • Code of ethics to Member of Parliament.
  • Better use of technology


  • The effective working of institutions is very important in ensuring legitimacy in state.
  • They have important role to play in a welfare state like India.
  • It is high time for structural reforms to fulfill goal of social justice.
  • India need to transform its current muddle to a high capacity state capable of addressing the challenges it faces in a pressing issue. While a growing private sector and a vibrant civil society can help compensate for the shortcoming of India’s public sector, the state will remain indispensable in delivering basic governance.
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