Reforming bureaucracy

Reforming bureaucracy: Lateral movement from other services and inducting professionals can make governance more robust...

"Attracting lateral movement from other services to fill vacancies in the bureaucracy is far easier than attracting talent from the private sector. This is not just because the remuneration is not competitive, but also because of the vast difference in working conditions. Skilled professionals expect a certain degree of operational freedom, which the current bureaucratic style of functioning of government, as well as political interference, militates against.
The move to seek lateral movement is aimed at filling vacancies caused by a shortfall of eligible IAS officers. But India needs to move beyond such short-term fixes and adopt a policy that actively seeks the best talent for various positions, whether such talent is to be found within or outside the current bureaucratic system. To start with, the Government could define either a certain number or certain specified positions in the administrative structure to be filled by lateral hires, and appointments to such positions should be widely advertised to attract the best. The Government must also put in place a system to review and suitably reward outstanding performance of such appointees to attract more such talent. A wider pool, and diversity of experiences and domain expertise, together can ensure that policies have a better connect with ground realities, and get implemented more efficiently. Above all, both the bureaucracy and the political class need to recognise that the time for old style governance — where policymaking is mostly in the domain of the administrative structure that was created by the British to govern India — is no longer either effective or efficient. It might be time to revisit the concept of a unified civil service — a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy, recruited through a dated competitive examination system. New courses demand new horses."

Create a talent pool

This refers to your editorial “Reforming bureaucracy” (Business Line, March 29). The urgency for a revamp of Human Resources Management across public and private sectors has been brought out with convincing rationale here. For historic reasons, which include ‘family focus’ in management of business and politics, the overdependence on bureaucracy for conduct of the business of governance (a British legacy which our political leadership found expedient to continue) and an unemployment situation which resulted in delaying the process of integrating skill-needs into the education system, skill development continues to be a neglected area from top to bottom in India.
The divide between government/public sector and private sector need to be demolished for the purpose of infusing efficiency and professionalism. An overhaul across the sectors, factoring in the leadership needs of governance will involve changes in educational system, recruitment/training/placement policies and remuneration practices. Inter-mobility at all levels, fresh induction at higher levels by drawing from the ‘talent pool’ outside and restrictions on tenures will have to become flexible without giving cause for panic from job security angle.
To reduce the present overdependence on bureaucracy, political leadership may have to increase intake of professionals to their cadres and make party work an acceptable and dignified career option.
M G WarrierMumbai


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