Citizens' Issues
Reforming India's bureaucracy: There is no easy solution
As someone with first-hand experience of how babudom (bureaucracy) functions in India, I am often amused, and at times distressed, by people's assessment of how to cure the many ills of our bureaucracy.
 
It is understandably difficult for the outside observer to pin down the crux of the problems - of corruption, lethargic decision-making and general inertia that are evidently keeping this institution from delivering. It is clearly frustrating for the average Indian to pay taxes to sustain this huge, apparently useless institution whose members seem to only abuse power and enjoy perks and do no good, or not enough, at any rate.
 
Various analysts have narrowed down the problem to low salaries, fear of the vigilance and audit machinery, lure of post-retirement jobs, general lack of ethics in society and the like. The difficulty is that there is no easy formula to tackle these problems.
 
I heartily agree with Anja Manuel that India needs "a comprehensive ethics and education campaign in schools and the news media would shift cultural norms away from seeing graft as an inevitable part of life." This brings me to the next oft-touted solution.
 
I agree, only partially, with those who blame the 3Cs (Comptroller and Auditor General, Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Vigilance Commission) for the resident inertia of the Indian bureaucracy. The truth is that we desperately need these institutions to do their job well. The trouble is that more often than not, the resources of these bodies are being misused to settle scores and wreak revenge.
 
Very often decisive bureaucrats, who are the epitome of diligence and honesty, are subject to malicious inquiries (initiated by unscrupulous and the dishonest) to teach them a lesson and to reign them in or even as convenient scapegoats. It is up to the government to rehaul these bodies and to severely punish those found to have abetted the harassment of upright bureaucrats, either deliberately, or because of their sheer indifference or carelessness.
 
A little digging would often reveal crooked fellow bureaucrats behind bogus complaints or audit paras and the complicity of the staff of these bodies lies at the root of the manipulation of the 3Cs. The careful selection of officers who man these bodies must be given utmost priority.
 
The need for a genuine understanding of policy and programme implementation rather than a pedantic, hyper-technical or policing mindset is of utmost importance if these bodies are to concentrate on curtailing dishonesty. Only when this happens will this country set free the bright, honest bureaucrat who truly wants to serve his/her country and is willing to work day and night to deliver.
 
One idea of giving bureaucrats the option of branching into the regulatory stream after the age of 55 is a good one. He has stated that "those interested in regulation should be allowed to continue till 65 years, while others follow the direct line operations till 60 or, in exceptional cases, 62 years".
 
However, how this will solve the "malleability" of regulators is not clear. In a liberalized market economy, the professionalism and autonomy of the regulator is critical and regulators who are at the end of the day political appointees may necessarily exhibit these traits.
 
What is needed is more transparency and accountability in regulation. The actions of a number of regulators are still cloaked behind an opaque or at least translucent wall that hides regulatory capture and worse. The public should have a right to know the rationale for all government and regulatory decisions.
 
One of the ways of achieving this is proper enforcement of the RTI, including the requirement of proactive/suo moto public disclosure which is only being given lip service so far. The public too needs to wake up and demand more from the government. Further, they must stop paying speed money and using political patronage to manipulate the system. In general, Indians need to practice what they preach as desirable conduct from their fellow Indians in the bureaucracy. Not easy? Blame the system? It is a chicken-and-egg dilemma, indeed!
 
Bringing in lateral entrants at higher levels of bureaucracy can instil fresh ideas and professionalism provided one can ensure the integrity and autonomy of these experts. This too leads right back to all of the above.
 
Finally, there is a need to pay well to attract talent. It has been rightly said that, "if you throw peanuts you will get monkeys" This country does not need a bunch of rapacious monkeys to manage its affairs. The paring down of the lower level bureaucracy and digitalization of government services must be coupled with a large enough higher level bureaucracy consisting of the country's best brains, who are rewarded well for work.
 
The Singapore model, where the government selects and trains the best students for bureaucratic positions on a renewable contract basis, is one worth emulating. They also punish severely for corruption, which acts as an effective deterrent.
 
All these issues are intricately interlinked and difficult, but not impossible, to tackle provided, that is what Indians really want.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

manoharlalsharma

10 months ago

Its' nice to read, but tough to implement because majority of Politicians r not that educated but Elected on MONEY & MUSICAL power with fewer intelligent Group of Politicians as we look at LOKSABHA or RAJYA SABHA on TV then what can expect from,Our youth have no time to fight repeatedly and no one understand like in Maharashtra only understand Marathi and no other language they reply also in Marathi the language HC/SC do not understand no chance of improving system we r suppress to PAY bribe and get our job done.

REPLY

MG Warrier

In Reply to manoharlalsharma 10 months ago

You meant MUSCLE POWER. When we depend on software to do spell-check, this happens...

Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

10 months ago

A collection of jurassic minds, refusing to shed it's predatory tendencies, waiting to be swept away, by the deluge of blockchain technology.

Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

10 months ago

Switch from fixed manning to fixed gross wage budget for each administrative head, then all evils of ever bloating bureaucracy, and ever irrational roundabout work procedures will shrink itself to elimination, like an ulcer starved of nutrients.

REPLY

MG Warrier

In Reply to Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan 10 months ago

We are almost there...Via outsourcing and so on.

Simple Indian

10 months ago

I have always wondered how officials (from top levels to the beat constables or those who directly interact with the public) in certain countries, like Singapore or Scandinavian ones, are upright and committed to their official duties and largely non-corrupt, while those in India are corrupt by default. There are different reasons for top bureaucrats being corrupt or dishonest and those at low levels. Yet, this malaise has spread so deeply in our bureaucracy over the years that it's impossible for one to be honest, sincere, and not be corrupt in any govt office, while most colleagues are corrupt. This is more so in certain departments like the police, octroi, licensing, etc. where the general public interacts with the officials directly, and there is hence a scope to demand bribes for even doing what these officials are paid hefty salaries (even before 7th Pay Commission scales). One reason is definitely general erosion of public morality and corruption no longer seen as a 'bad' thing. The Govt can't bring about social changes to reverse this and it's responsible citizens in civil society who have to take the lead to usher in changes in public morality to ensure everyone does their job sincerely and without seeking bribes or favors in cash / kind.

REPLY

Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

In Reply to Simple Indian 10 months ago

In reply to Simple Indian
Aravind Kejriwal, one among the ordinary public, is doing it. Let's not search for the spectacles, that is right on our nose.

MG Warrier

In Reply to Simple Indian 10 months ago

“The Govt can't bring about social changes to reverse this and it's responsible citizens in civil society who have to take the lead to usher in changes in public morality to ensure everyone does their job sincerely and without seeking bribes or favours in cash / kind.”
Very true. But, unfortunately, corruption is not about ‘bribes’ alone. Corrupt behaviour includes immoral acts, cheating, not paying a ‘living wage’ to employees, misbehaving, ill-treating others, not paying taxes when due or tax-avoidance, wilful default of loans and other dues and a host of other things. We see corruption in a very narrow sense, most of the time relating it to lower level government employees!

Pradeep Kumar M Sreedharan

In Reply to MG Warrier 10 months ago

and not eschewing subsidies too

Guntupalli Rameswaram

10 months ago

The bureaucracy is a continuation of British system and there is nothing Indian in it. The issue is to totally dismantle the system and find lean system which is accountable. It is very complex as got entrenched so deep in our set up. A thorough overhaul is required well thought out, and it is not easy.

MG Warrier

10 months ago

The issues raised here are much wider to cover in this short piece. HR management, corruption, governance issues arising from political interference, inadequacy in skill development, irrational career progression, a host of wage and compensation issues, retirement age…many things contributed to the sad state of affairs. It is easy to blame political system, bureaucracy or for that matter judiciary or audit or financial regulators. But rarely we see people taking forward ideas which can better the situation.

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COMMENTS

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10 months ago

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Asset quality pains for M&M Financial Services to persist for the next few quarters: Report
Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services Ltd (MMFS) would continue to feel the pains on asset quality for next few quarters as its non-performing assets (NPAs), especially from states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) has increased, says a research note.
 
In the report, Religare Capital Markets Ltd says, "During the fourth quarter, MMFS' gross NPAs (GNPAs) and net NPAs (NNPAs), on a 120 days past due (dpd) basis, increased to 10.7% and 5.4% from 8.0% and 3.2%, respectively. Management stated that on 90 dpd basis, NPAs would have been 15% with interest reversal of Rs300 crore."
 
"GNPAs and NNPAs of MMFS are unlikely to improve materially from current level in the next three to six months," the report says. "However, with reasonable improvement, management expects GNPA to improve by 1-2% (on 120 dpd) by FY17 end under base case scenario (asset growth of 15%). Management stated that the bucket movement is not happening which is a positive sign. The company is carrying Rs700 crore of excess provisions and may review (drawback from excess provision) as and when they transit to 90 dpd norms," the report added.
 
 
Up to March 2016, MMFS used to fully write-off all loans outstanding for more than 24 months. From the first quarter of FY2017 onwards, the company will provide only up to the unrealised value of loans (resale value of underlying vehicle will be considered). Therefore the company has reversed provision of Rs200 crore. The company has taken substantial discount to realisable value (as per the recent auctions) for arriving at provision write-back.
 
The company has about Rs1,000 crore worth of loans outstanding for 24 months. Collateral value of vehicles is around Rs400 crore and the company has applied about 50% haircut to collateral value. 
 
According to Religare, the Mahindra & Mahindra group company is seeing a sign of pick up in tractor segment, which is a high margin business for them. Disbursements in the tractor segment grew by 9% on quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) while total disbursement grew by 2.5% QoQ.
 
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which account for about 25% of NPAs for MMFS, suffered from below average monsoon since last two years. These two states are large markets for utility vehicles (UVs) and tractor segments and the company management expects 10-15% NPAs can reverse over the next one to two quarters on the back of good monsoon, the report says.
 
Religare says, "We believe MMFS is the best play on a monsoon recovery. Above normal rainfall expected this year will boost rural incomes and thus result in better asset quality, lower credit costs, higher disbursements and stronger margins."

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