Answered: The government has recently decided to compulsorily retire two Indian Police Service (IPS) officers and one Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer over ‘non-performance’ issue. In this context, discuss the obstacles to civil services reforms.

India’s bureaucracy was ranked the worst in Asia according to Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy in 2012. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst, Indian bureaucracy scored 9.21.
Recently, the government compulsorily retired 2 IPS and 1 IAS officer under Rule 16(3) of the All India Service Rules 1958, after undertaking a performance review.

Civil Service needs several reforms in light of these issues. Several committees have identified obstacles to bringing about these reforms. According to 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission, these obstacles are:

  1. Constitutional protection under Article 311, which shields senior bureaucrats from punishments for corrupt actions. It calls for repealing A. 311. Section 19 of Prevention of Corruption Act also provides similar protection.
    2. Absence of a fitness board and intense reviews mid-service, to weed out unproductive bureaucrats. At present, the rules only allow for performance reviews after 25 years in service or 50 years of age.
    3. Lack of proper legislation governing civil servants, despite Article 309 providing for the same.
    Civil Services Bill 2009 was not made into an act.
    4. Automatic promotions and lack of merit-based promotions, which disincentivize proactive work.
    5. Lack of private sector competition due to lack of lateral entry.

Other obstacles are:
1. Presence of a strong civil servant lobby that resists change. Politician-bureaucrat nexus plays an important role in furtherance of status quo, to the detriment of administration.
2. Lack of security of tenure (as identified by Hota committee), which often leads to frequent transfers owing to political patronage (patronage postings).
3. Lack of political will to implement most of the reforms as identified by several committees from time to time.
4. Wilful inaction due to absence of punishment. For example, PRakash Singh committee found that civil servants did not perform their duties during Jat agitations recently.

Civil service was envisaged as the steel frame of the country, charged with smoothly running the administration. The presence of rust, therefore, should be a warning to the policymakers as well as the citizens, lest the country’s administration crumble into a mess of corruption, inefficiency, and personal fiefdoms instead of rising to become a vibrant democracy and a global superpower.

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