[Yojana August Summary] Indian Bureaucracy – Explained, pointwise

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Bureaucracy is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country. Indian Bureaucracy forms the permanent executive branch of the government. They have played a crucial role in many national activities such as the conduct of free and fair elections, disaster response, construction and maintenance of critical infrastructures such as highways and railways.

Above all, the role of bureaucracy in the preservation of national unity and integrity is unimaginable. This is why our Indian Constitution through Articles 310, 311, and 312 confers the protection from political interference and unwarranted harassment.

What is the History of the Civil Services in India?
  1. From a reading of the historical literature, public administration in India can be traced back to the manuscripts of Arthashasthra written by Kautilya.
  2. In modern times, the original conception of the ‘civil service’ can be traced back to the Royal Charters which gave the East India Company the powers to raise a cadre of troops – for both civilian and military purposes. These officers gradually transformed from trade officers to administrative officers who signed ‘covenants’ thereby, being part of the ‘covenanted civil service’.
  3. Later it became ‘covenanted’ and ‘uncovenanted’ civil service. The major difference between them was,
    • Covenanted civil service: This is the category of officers who were recruited from England sent to India.
    • Uncovenanted or subordinate service: This includes the large category of Indian officers in subordinate positions.
  4. This uncovenanted service was later called the Indian Civil Service (ICS) established to handle the affairs on behalf of the Queen. The Civil services soon became the proverbial ‘steel frame’ to maintain control over the vast British Empire.
  5. The introduction of competitive exams in the mid-1800s was an important development. It gave primacy to merit-based appointments as opposed to privilege-based appointments through a referral system.
  6. The commissions that were set up in reforming the public services – from the Macaulay Committee to the Islington Committee to the Lee Commission, strongly suggested that the Statutory Public Service Commission be brought into force.
  7. During the Constituent Assembly Debates (CAD), there were detailed discussions and arguments about the continuity, role and loyalty of Indian civil servants. But the debates of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (almost single-handedly) made India to set up the Civil Services in Independent India. He supported the Civil Services, especially All India Services (AIS), on the following grounds:
    • He expressed his opinion on civil services as “In point of patriotism, in point of loyalty, in point of sincerity, and in point of ability, India cannot have a substitute”.
    • Further, he also mentioned, that without the “civil services there would be chaos” in the nation.
    • Above all, he mentioned that an efficient All India Service will have “to express their opinion without fear or favour” of the political class.
  8. Post-independence, India adopted the socialist-welfare model of development, which increased the scope of government’s interference in all key sectors of the economy. After the economic reforms of 1991, the role of government is getting shifted to facilitator of services.
Read more: Economic reforms in 1991 – Explained, pointwise
Early Indians in the Civil Service

Until 1922, post the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the exam was conducted only in London. This greatly restricted the access of Indians to clear the examination. However, there was a fair share of Indians who started clearing the exams.

  1. The first Indian to clear the ICS exam was Satyendra Nath Tagore in the year 1864.
  2. The other notable names being Bihari Lal Gupta and Romesh
    Chandra Dutt, etc.

    • Note: RC Dutt later became the President of the Indian National Congress in 1899 and wrote the pioneering book “The Economic History of India“.
  3. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose did not join the Indian Civil Service even after clearing the exam. This shows the strong ideological stance Bose took during the freedom struggle.
  4. Sir Benegal Narasinga Rau was another eminent personality among the ICS who was appointed as the Constitutional Advisor on 1st July 1946 over a year before India became independent. Later, he became the first judge of the International Court of Justice from India.
What are the fundamental tenets of Civil Services?

Some of the fundamental tenets of a good bureaucracy are political neutrality, objectivity in decision-making, empathy, equity, etc.

Further, Constitutionalism also matters because every civil servant must be guided by the letter and spirit of our Constitution.

Ethics in public administration are important because civil servants are often holding offices that give them a lot of power and authority. Therefore, an officer’s moral compass is key for good governance.

Read more: [Yojana August Summary] Probity in Governance – Explained, pointwise
What is the reason behind the success of Civil Services in India?
  1. One of the major reasons for the success of the Civil Service in India can be attributed to the traditions imparted and followed by career bureaucrats. Impartiality, incorruptibility, spirit of service are some of the virtues that are seen in civil servants even today.
  2. The esprit de corps (a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty) and the camaraderie (mutual trust and friendship) among the civil servants’ fraternity have been the biggest strength of our Civil Service.
  3. Traditions such as not letting down the subordinate officers will instil faith in them, and creating a sense of intimacy between batches have been of tremendous help for the civil servants in the face of dealing with adversity.
What are the Constitutional provisions that deal with the Civil Services?

Articles 310, 311, and 312 of the Indian Constitution pertain to services under the Union and State.

  1. Article 310: It enshrines that civil servants of the Union and All-India Services are appointed by the President of India and civil servants at the State level are appointed by the Governor of the State. They continue to hold office as per the pleasure of the President and Governor, respectively. Therefore, they have the security of tenure.
  2. Article 311: It mentions the procedures and conditions for removal, dismissal from service, and reduction in rank, thus, ensuring due process of law. This ensures that civil servants are protected from political interference and undue harassment.
  3. Article 312: This provision lays down the All-India Services of India.
  4. Further, The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the State Public Service Commissions are constitutional bodies.
Few examples of Civil Servants acting as role models for the Youth

Civil servants have played a crucial role in many national activities. Thus, they inspire large sections of the student population and people. Few prominent civil servants are,

  • SR Sankaran: He was accorded as ‘people’s IAS officer’ for his efforts in abolishing bonded labour and his pioneering work on welfare schemes to uplift the marginalised sections, especially with the Safai Karamchari Andolan. He is one of the very few civil servants in whose name a statue is erected and is a household name in Andhra Pradesh even today.
  • BN Yugandhar: He had a mass following for his contributions such as the ₹2 per kg rice scheme to the watershed development projects to mentoring young students at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration.
  • IPS Madhukar Shetty and IAS Harsh Gupta: Rich planters had
    encroached on the land of poor villagers of Chikkamagaluru. Both these officers successfully reallocated the encroached land to the villagers. As a
    mark of gratitude, the residents named the entire village as Gupta-Shetty halli.
What are the reforms brought by the government to improve transparency and accountability in civil services?

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (headed by Veerappa Moily) discussed the shortcomings and suggests improvements regarding recruitment, performance, and result-oriented bureaucracy.

Similarly, various committees over the years have suggested changes and improvements to the civil services regarding recruitment, mid-career training, capacity-building, the impetus for specialisation, efficiency, accountability, etc. The government from time to time implemented few reforms. Such as,

  1. Legislations such as the Right to Information Act, 2005 lays down rules and procedures for a citizen’s right to information, thus creating more transparency and accountability in governance.
  2. Citizen’s Charters: The Department of Administrative Reforms and
    Public Grievances in Government of India (DARPG) has initiated Citizen’s charter in India. By including the Vision and Mission Statements, it ensures that the needs and grievances of the user, that is, citizens, are met.
  3. In the last decade, several reforms have been undertaken. These include,
    • The introduction of lateral entry to have expert consultants at the Joint Secretary level,
    • Implementation of Mission Karmayogi: It is a National Programme for Civil Services Capacity Building (NPCSCB). It will lay the foundation for the capacity building of civil servants so that they remain entrenched in Indian Culture while they learn the best practices across the world.
Must read: Major Administrative Reforms by the govt

At present, the debate is about ‘generalists’ versus ‘specialists’. But many fresh graduates from IITs, IIMs, NLUs and other professionals like doctors, chartered accountants, etc. appear for the UPSC Civil Services every year. This has brought fresh energy and ideas into the bureaucracy. They bring with them their professional expertise, adding richly to public administration. Thus, they are slowly transforming the landscape of public administration in our nation.

Terms to know:

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