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What ails civil services?

Union Public Service Commission Chairman Purna Chandra Hota’s observations on the crisis of identity in the civil services are timely. In a lecture at a function in New Delhi the other day, he deplored the politicians’ attitude towards the civil servants and said that the former expected the latter to be “meek” and carry out their orders as “submissive agents”. Going a step further, Mr Hota said that if a civil servant “dares to revolt”, he is transferred, denied promotion or recognition. While these observations are broadly true, the UPSC chief must surely be aware of how and why this has of late been more pronounced. Clearly, the steel frame (or what replaced it) did not bend and twist on its own volition: it was bent and twisted by those who saw the vulnerability of the bureaucracy as an instrument of achieving political aims. The distortion occasioned little comment until 1977 because many people subconsciously accepted the ruling party at the Centre at its own valuation as being synonymous with the government and the nation. Few among the bureaucrats then thought of protesting against this distortion. The situation did not change after the Janata Party came to power. The civil servants compounded their previous subservience with uncalled-for truculence. Not once did the bureaucracy assert that it was expected to discharge its duties objectively and that professional integrity demanded that it subjected even political orders to dispassionate scrutiny. Sadly, the malaise has struck deep roots at both the Centre and in the states. The civil servants seem to have created an impression that they are often only too ready to safeguard their careers by living up to the expectations of their political bosses. Surely, things can change only if upright officers, even at the cost of their career growth, inspire their colleagues with courage and confidence so that the bureaucracy can stand up to the political establishment at the Centre and in the states.

Mr Hota’s other observation on the growing regional imbalance in the merit list of successful candidates in the civil services examination is also noteworthy. He says that out of 304 universities, only seven — Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Panjab University, the University of Rajasthan, the University of Lucknow, Osmania University and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University — and the IITs are cornering 90-95 per cent of the top positions in the civil services. Admittedly, this is bound to create a sense of alienation among the regions unrepresented in the civil services. However, if this imbalance shows a disturbing trend, it is also a sad reflection on the image of over 290 universities which have so far produced few IAS or IPS officers. The malaise needs to be tackled with the attention it deserves. The main reason for the poor performance of students from most of the universities in the civil services examination stems from the falling standards in education. More than the poor calibre of these students, teachers themselves do not seem to be motivated and up-to-date in their knowledge, teaching skills and trends. Some universities have restructured their syllabi for graduation and postgraduation courses in tune with the syllabus of the civil services examination with a view to helping aspiring students. This too has failed. The less said the better about the IAS coaching institutes. Part of the problem lies with the faculty members. Merit has become the first casualty in the recruitment of lecturers. Mr Hota’s suggestion to expand the social base of the civil services seems to be well-thought out. It is surely not an impractical idea. But the moot point is: Who will take the responsibility for improving the work ethic in the universities which alone can contribute to students’ success? 

Taken from, from an editorial of The Tribune.

Copyright belongs to the author of the articles/views. Copyright DOES NOT belong to IAS Centre/Priyatu Mandal.



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