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Subservience over Efficiency: The Prime Minister & Civil Service 'Reforms'

UPSC Headquarters in New Delhi on August 16, 2014. File photo: R. V. Moorthy

One consistent undercurrent that directs the actions of the four-year old Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Union government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the systematic dismantling of institutions that have been vital components of India’s democratic and executive functions. Despite a compelling argument to recalibrate institutions to improve efficiency, the approach of the present government is to do away with functioning systems and replace them with ones that are either inconsistent with democratic governance or opaque in their processes, or both. These moves question the neutrality and credibility of such newly created institutions and procedures.

In this article, Jawhar Sircar, former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, analyses the manner in which India’s permanent executive, its civil services, is being undermined by either sidestepping or subverting established institutions and draws attention to how democracy will be endangered by the creation of pliable institutions and a ‘committed’ bureaucracy.

In 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office he could have—and should have—pushed through urgently required structural reforms to improve India’s conservative bureaucracy 1 . He had an unprecedented mandate and had charmed voters into believing that he would cleanse Indian governance as none before him ever had 2 .  In reality, however, he appeared quite comfortable with the creaky bureaucratic apparatus that he had inherited, for he had assumed that his first-hand experience in running it at the State level for over a dozen years would suffice. But the fact is that the two sets of administration in our federal set-up, the Union and the State, are actually as different as chalk is from cheese 3 . This is not only in terms of scale: what distinguishes the two bureaucracies are their totally different world-views and consequentially, their approaches to governance. In a State, a Chief Minister can operate through select bureaucrats who swear personal loyalty to him—or her—rather than to democracy, and may do wonders 4 —though many of these Gujarat myths 5 are now being busted on closer scrutiny 6 .

After four years of relative peace, the civil services are suddenly being targeted for overhauling.

But this personal fiefdom model clearly does not work in the national capital of 1.35 billion people. In a rather impersonal Delhi, systems matter more than rustic loyalties, and experience, not just genuflecting, counts. Prime Minister Modi is finally realising this, after his disastrous demonetisation botch-up, the several hit-wickets over the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and his failure to move the economy upwards even when blessed with the lowest-ever international petroleum prices. This partly explains why he has chosen the last of his very secure five-year term to tinker around with the bureaucracy. After four years of relative peace, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in particular, and the civil services in general, are suddenly being targeted for overhauling. Not a week passes without some bright idea being floated or an order being issued. A spate of recent announcements, however, call for a closer look and the moot point is: will these usher in revolutionary improvements in the functioning of either the bureaucracy or democracy or will the proposed measures help consolidate the iron grip of one person or a party?

But why did Modi decide to lean so heavily on the bureaucracy from the day he took over as Prime Minister? The reply is simple: he needed a set of people who could carry out his commands without question. The Secretaries to the Government of India were his points-persons, and Cabinet Ministers were told this quite unambiguously. For widely differing reasons, he behaved as if his Ministers, save a couple of lucky exceptions, were hardly worth relying upon.

This is not a sweeping generalisation: I can cite many instances to substantiate this observation, from my experience of running Prasar Bharati, a mammoth public institution, for two and half years in the Modi regime.  For example, the sudden, unwarranted and controversial decision in October 2014 to broadcast on Doordarshan the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s traditional Dussehra Day speech to his cadres was obviously taken by the Prime Minister himself 7 . No one was consulted in an 'autonomous organisation' and it was thrust upon all, including the protesting CEO of the public broadcaster. The Information and Broadcasting Minister appeared to have been left out of the loop, and incidentally, this is the same Minister who was ordered by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to return home to change from the jeans he was wearing to some more appropriate dress, before boarding his plane for his foreign tour.

It was made clear to everyone in Delhi that Modi's ministers were not his colleagues—they were his subordinates. He was much more than primus inter pares or first among equals. After all, it was he who had ensured that his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), almost single-handedly, had won an absolute majority in Parliament in 2014. In one sweeping order, he abolished the 68 Groups of Ministers (GoMs) though which the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government operated, deciding all inter-Ministerial issues and problems through consensus. It signalled that the Prime Minister would take the call after consulting the Secretary of the concerned Ministry and if required, the Minister—but the last was rare.

Though he wielded enormous, unprecedented power, the PM did not utilise it to re-invent the bureaucracy.

In a theatrical gesture, he had kissed the steps of Parliament for countless cameras to capture the moment when he entered its portals for the first time, but none of his subsequent actions revealed any fondness for parliamentary democracy. Not surprisingly, his cohorts took their cue from him and sang the virtues of the American presidential system. The otherwise communicative Prime Minister chose not to be present in Parliament most of the time and when he did attend, he very rarely participated in the debates. But more important is the fact that even though he wielded enormous, unprecedented power, Modi did not utilise it to abolish the feudal habits of the bureaucracy, and re-invent it for the 21st century.

After all, the same machinery had served avaricious post-Mughal rulers. More or less the same bureaucracy was taken over by Warren Hastings and Cornwallis in the latter half of the 18 th century, once they snatched the reins of power. The colonial duo did place a few white men on top but they also manipulated this feudal bureaucracy for their own purposes of extortion and repression and to facilitate their own unjust enrichment. The new 'nabobs', as the British overlords were called, set up hundreds of 'circuit houses' to hold peripatetic revenue courts (on their 'circuits') in the interior and built countless inspection bungalows to strengthen their control and bring rural India to heel. 

Over the next few months, it became increasingly clear that he was an unabashed centraliser.

As Prime Minister, Modi was given the opportunity to surgically cut through the ailing parts of this vast bureaucracy, this colossal pyramid. But he chose not to. Instead, he used technology to seek explanations directly from District Magistrates in this 'federal polity', bypassing the constitutionally approved layers. Over the next few months, it became increasingly clear that he was an unabashed centraliser who did not believe in 'cooperative federalism', one of the many catchy phrases he popularised, only for effect.

Indeed, his centralising 8 of all decisions, postings, and transfers was not only unprecedented, but it often resulted in deadlocks. Critical posts of heads of national-level institutions were kept vacant for several months and years—even as they went to seed—and all important boards and committees took even longer to fill up. Decisions had to await his personal attention but he was forever on tour—bestowing embarrassing bear-hugs on every foreign leader he met. He did introduce a new and subjective '360 degree assessment system', but this was to ensure that those he did not want were not promoted as Secretaries or Additional Secretaries. He also brandished a weapon called 'repatriation' that had been used very rarely in the past. In the last four years, more IAS, Indian Police Service (IPS), and Central service officers have been sent back to their States or cadres from the central government than in the preceding four decades put together. Cabinet reshuffles have been infrequent, but reshuffling of Secretaries, Additional Secretaries, and Joint Secretaries are so regular and unpredictable that it has started to demoralise the bureaucracy. But these tactics do not qualify as structural changes.

Total personal loyalty and unusual subordination could just not ensure efficiency and delivery.

On its part, the bureaucracy soon mastered the art of survival. Many bent backwards, in contorted yoga postures, to applaud every 'scheme' that the leader announced. Most of these schemes were just rehashes of earlier or existing schemes, renamed with much fanfare by the Prime Minister and his coterie. Total personal loyalty and unusual subordination could just not ensure efficiency and delivery. No advice was either sought from (or given by) 'professional administrators' who had spent a lifetime in drafting and implementing complex schemes and projects. Else, an administrative disaster like the demonetisation of currency notes could not have either been conceived or rammed through. It also explains why no senior official was held responsible for this Himalayan blunder. Modi and his protege from Gujarat, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, decided everything in total secrecy. The chatteratti of Delhi spoke of how the Finance Minister himself was not kept informed of its details and the Banking Secretary was never in the loop—which explains why the banks floundered for want of a determined line of command. More recently, Arvind Subramaniam, the government's senior most economist, submitted his resignation to go back to the U.S., just as Arvind Panagariya, the former vice chairman of Niti Aayog, did a while back. But then, these economists have already gathered enough material to write their best-sellers.

Subverting the UPSC's methods 

It is against this backdrop that the Prime Minister's proposal of May 20, addressed to all the Ministries, is alarming. It suggested that the Department of Personnel and Training, which Modi heads, should finally determine the fate of candidates who successfully clear the extremely difficult civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). He wants the allocation of the three All India Services, the IAS, the IPS, and the Indian Forest Service as well as the 17 to 20 Central Services to be done by the training institutes that successful civil service candidates report to for the first 100 days, rather than the UPSC.

Currently, the UPSC uses its time-tested 'rank cum option' system to allocate the service for successful candidates. But if the new system is enforced, a successful candidate who qualifies for the three All India Services, where a 'State cadre' has also to be determined, will have his—or her—fate determined by the training academies, not the UPSC alone. This, is even though the current system has worked well for seven decades.

All officer-trainees undergo their common training, known as the Foundation Course (F.C.) at the training academies, of which the 'mother' training institute is the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie. Unfortunately, as the LBSNAA can no longer accommodate all the successful candidates, who now number around 1,000 to 1,200, some officer-trainees do their F.C. at new training centres located in other cities. This is a pity because the F.C. period is the only time civil servants from different services stay together and acquire life-long friends, beyond their own service or cadre. 

Political jockeying will be the order of the day to help enterprising candidates jump from the middle of the list to the top.

Apart from the fact that it is not clear how these multiple training institutes will standardise their assessment grades in just three months, what is causing concern is that successful candidates may spend the entire F.C. period currying favour with their trainers to ensure they move upwards to more coveted services or careers. Or that open political jockeying will be the order of the day to help enterprising candidates jump from the middle of the list to the top—as Modi's department will then matter more than the UPSC. 

However, the Prime Minister's 'decision' may not pass the test of judicial scrutiny if it is carried out as Article 320 of the Indian Constitution empowers only the UPSC to recommend and decide the postings of officers to different services and State-cadres. But if this case goes to a 'considerate bench' in the Supreme Court, anything can happen. Indira Gandhi bullied the judiciary and encouraged some judges to crawl and be rewarded. The key point, however, is that Modi chose to impress upon all civil servants, once again, that he is the boss, and he will decide their fate and future, even if the first experiment is likely to be after the next general elections.

For the last 70 years, the UPSC has been following a very rigorous, transparent process, inviting applications from some hundreds of thousands of aspirants. In 2016, some 11,35,943 candidates applied for the UPSC's 'Preliminary' examination and 4,59,659 actually took the examination. Only 15,445 were selected to take the next very tough series of 'Final' examinations. After that, the UPSC constituted interview boards with highly qualified experts — vice chancellors, retired civil servants, top scientists, army generals and other specialists — to grill the cream of the candidates that emerged through these two stages. In 2016, only 2,961 were called for the interviews, and 1,209 were finally recommended by the UPSC for appointment to the civil services. Thus, only one out of every 940 aspirants made it to some service, with just one out of every 4,000 or so 'general category' aspirants qualifying for the IAS. It is important to note that there are four categories of 'posts' in each service, reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SC), the Scheduled Tribes (ST), the Other Backward Castes (OBC) and the residual 'General' lot. 

Even the UPSC does not claim that its system is perfect, but it has earned credibility and is the best we can get.

The UPSC also scrutinises the 'options' submitted by individual candidates for specific services of their choice, in terms of vacancies available for each service under these four categories. For those who opt for and also qualify for the three All India Services, there is the additional option for the State cadres they prefer, and these choices have to be done precisely in conjunction with the limited number of posts available under each category (SC,ST, OBC, General) for each of the 23 services. Even the UPSC does not claim that its system is perfect, but it has earned credibility and is the best we can get. The fact that the UPSC selected less than 200 for the IAS and the Indian Foreign Service out of the 4.6 lakh aspirants who appeared for the preliminary examination does not mean they are 'superior' — it just means that they scored better in a specific set of tests. 

Joint Secretaries as lateral entrants

The second 'bouncer' was lobbed on June 19: ten 'professionals' would be inducted from the open market at the 'cutting edge' level of Joint Secretaries in the Union government. By declaring these 10 posts to be contractual in nature and not on the permanent rolls, the government conveyed its intention to bypass the constitutionally laid down imperative of getting the selection done only by the UPSC. Earlier governments had brought in professionals from outside like Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Vijay Kelkar, and Jairam Ramesh, but without such fanfare. They were all highly qualified individuals with impressive educational and work experience, just as the post of Chief Economic Advisor is usually filled by foreign-based economists, even after 70 years of Independence.

The civil services were not alarmed at their entry or even when these economists did not return to their universities in the U.S., like ex-Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu or former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan did. They hardly noticed the trickle of such contract-based employees who often bypassed the UPSC rules and took no note when their terms were extended under various provisions, or they moved from job to job, within government. It was only when some of these 'professionals' reached ministerial status and rose even higher, that the regular bureaucrats woke up. But then, these 'professionals' were well qualified and so very few in number. Moreover, they were not 'regular Joint Secretaries or Secretaries' who replaced officers from the IAS or other services — they were just 'special adjuncts'.

This time, however, hackles have been raised because the advertisement is for 'regular Joint Secretaries' and is quite vague about their qualifications. Indeed, it looks like a case of testing the waters before the real reason emerges. It is worth noting that many of the earlier crop of professionals subsequently joined politics, which is one of the several concerns expressed after the present advertisement was issued.

The ubiquitous Joint Secretaries, roughly 470 of them,  actually run each critical vertical in the Union government.

To appreciate better why 10 Joint Secretary-level market recruits have become the subject of so much discussion, let us try to understand what this is all about. The highest official in the Government of India is the Secretary in charge of a Ministry: there are usually around 70 to 80 such posts for a total of 50,000 civil servants. They, in turn, control some 60 lakh government employees of other grades. Eight or so of these Secretary-level posts are usually occupied by scientists and other specialists, such as the Secretaries in charge of Atomic Energy, Space, Science and Technology, and Statistics. The real cutting edge of the central government is, however, at a notch or two below, as the Secretary is usually busy with meetings, briefings, parliamentary demands, important policy decisions and ceaseless fire-fighting or attending to ministers. Thus, the ubiquitous Joint Secretaries — roughly 470 of them — actually run each critical vertical in the Union government.

Ten lateral level entry Joint Secretaries may be too small a number to worry about, but it is also too small a number to make a difference, if that is what Modi desires. Of course, it is not clear, how much power they will be given because Modi has an established record of showering disproportionate favours on those members of Delhi’s establishment who swore undying loyalty to him before he became Prime Minister. He, however, would certainly crush any civil servant or economist if he or she began to develop links with the Opposition now, in the manner in which certain high flying individuals had done.  The best known case perhaps is that of Bibek Debroy (now Chairman of the reconstituted Economic Advisory Council reporting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Niti Aayog Member) 9  who, as a member of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (1997-2005), had written what became a game-changing report for Modi: he had written a research paper, along with Laveesh Bhandari) that was published by the RGICS. That paper created a controversy as it rated Gujarat as the number one State in India in terms of providing economic freedom. The paper's findings were used by Modi,  who was then Chief Minister, to come out with a full-page advertisement extolling his government. Many people see it as the beginning of talk of the Gujarat model that helped Chief Minister Modi power his way to Delhi as Prime Minister Modi. There are also civil servants who were favourites with the previous regime, who have now shifted their "loyalties" to the Modi government. That is the fear: are we heading for a situation in which individuals who are willing to insinuate themselves into any administration will be recruited in one shot to carry out ‘special tasks’ that even the most ‘accommodative’ of most serving bureaucrats would baulk at?

The media is, however, not fully correct when it says that the IAS is threatened by the possibility of 10 external professionals coming in laterally at the Joint Secretary level. The IAS no longer dominates the Joint Secretary-level appointments, as the other services have secured their rightful positions. Moreover, most States (like Gujarat, when Modi was its Chief Minister) are unwilling to let their officers go on deputation to the 'Centre'.

An occasional breath of fresh air is surely desirable, if one is sure of the quality of ‘professionals’, not just their loyalty.

The Opposition, instinctively, has smelt a rat, seeing in this move (of lateral entry into the service) yet another attempt to 'saffronise' the administration with these 10 lateral entrants, with more to follow.The CEO of Niti Aayog, Amitabh Kant, who has emerged as a spokesperson for this government on administrative issues, has pronounced that we need to be “flexible” and "transparent" in selection, without elaborating on either of the words 10 . The Secretary of the concerned department and authorised officials of the PMO, however, have maintained silence on the subject, which has fuelled more concerns. The Niti Aayog's CEO also announced that more lateral recruits would be taken in, at the level of Deputy Secretary or Director in the central ministries. An occasional breath of fresh air is surely desirable, if one is sure of the quality of 'professionals', not just their loyalty. But what is critical is that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that a 'lateral entry' Joint Secretary is not a stooge of a business house who will be adequately rewarded by the house for extending favours to it, once this low-paid term is over.

Senior civil servants — even of the regular variety — have been known to alter government policies to suit certain business interests, even if this causes losses to the exchequer. A disturbing piece of news that one hopes is not true is of a just-retired Secretary of the Human Resources Development ministry, who drafted the controversial rules to accord the 'centre of excellence' tag to even unborn universities. It is reported that he is currently employed by the same business leviathan that stands to benefit from this rather illogical rule. The media says that the government has been unduly kind in granting special permission to this favoured bureaucrat to serve his new employer before the quarantine period was over 11 . Orwell's dictum comes to mind, that "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". After all, the business house is so close to the centre of power.

These 'breaches' of conduct are rare among regular civil servants who get a pension. But what of those who come from the private sector and will return to it after three years? There are many other areas that need clarity and the pronouncement made about more such recruitments to follow, needs to be spelt out in greater detail and placed in the public domain or before Parliament

Transparency is critical as the salary of some $3,000 is unlikely to excite the interest of professionals settled abroad.

It is almost certain that the UPSC is out of the selection, as these 10 are supposed to come in for three-year contracts, in which case it is not mandatory. Even so, entrusting the UPSC with the selection may be less controversial, and it could conduct special but transparent examinations, as it has done earlier. Transparency in selection is critical, because the maximum salary of some $3,000 a month and the usual "car and a flat" (even in south Delhi) is unlikely to excite the interest of professionals settled abroad. Incidentally, only three of the 70 to 80 Secretaries in the Government of India occupy the much-envied bungalows in Lutyens' Delhi and Joint Secretaries are allotted modest flats, compared with what private sector honchos are accustomed to. We are not even discussing the utter humiliation that many public servants have to go through at the hands of elected politicians and their acolytes — in the name of democracy.

In addition, given that thousands of senior posts are lying unfilled because of the constitutional compulsion to reserve almost half the number only for eligible SC, ST, and OBC candidates, the present regime must clarify whether the recruitment of these 10 lateral entrants will follow reservation norms. Or else, 'contract employment' may well be misused to defeat the reserved quotas, as the Dalits have pointed out.

Modi could have made the historic difference: he could have encouraged specialisation among the existing officers

No one says that the government does not require lateral entrants at each level to bring in special skills: we already have two Secretaries selected from the open market. At the same time, IAS and other officers — many of whom are toppers from the IITs and IIMs or qualified doctors, lawyers, or economists — also need to be encouraged to specialise, after their district phase is over. But professional specialisation of IAS officers has not been encouraged by Modi’s own tightly-controlled personnel department or by State governments. As a result, these highly-qualified professionals and university toppers are usually made to move from atomic energy to gobar gas — without being allowed to acquire the desired degree of 'specialisation'. This is where Modi could have made the historic difference: he could have encouraged specialisation and professionalisation among the highly-qualified existing officers who, additionally, have 20 or more years of 'hands on' experience in administration from the village level upwards, before being selected as Joint Secretaries — through a tough process of weeding out.

Repeating an old order

And, most recently, the Union government wrote to the States asking them to ensure that IAS officers at the level of Secretary and Additional Secretary are henceforth assessed on their attitude towards the weaker sections of society. This is quite superfluous as this provision was  embedded in the All India Services Conduct Rules a long time ago, and has since been one of the major criteria on which 'performance' is judged.

If the Prime Minister needed to send placatory signals to the weaker sections of society — that are quite disappointed with him and his government — he could very well do so on his weekly radio broadcast, Mann Ki Baat . It is doubtful whether former Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani's scandalously insensitive handling of Rohith Vemula's suicide or the repression let loose on Dalits after the clash at their Bhima Koregaon anniversary or even the attacks and murder of carcass flayers will be forgotten, because such a legal provision is being reiterated. But the high-handed manner in which State partners in our federal set-up were literally ordered to agree immediately to this order or face political humiliation is characteristic of Modi’s regime. The shots were, sadly, fired from the shoulders of the IAS.

The vexatious procedures for convicting any government official, not only in the IAS, IPS or IFS, are self-defeating.

Equally important is the mention that Secretaries and Additional Secretaries would be assessed on both "financial integrity" and "moral integrity". But this is not only not a new provision, a small but viscous number have always managed to prosper under corrupt political masters. There are exactly 5,004 IAS officers in India, of whom some 65 to 70 make it as Secretaries in the Union government — and Modi has certainly failed "to improve their efficiency". Even though civil servants are constantly under multiple surveillance, the vexatious existing procedures for convicting any government official (not only those in the IAS, IPS or IFS) are self-defeating. Thoroughly upright seniors cannot punish their corrupt juniors at present, because of processes that take decades and exonerates most. The 'dreaded 3 Cs', the CBI, the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) and the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), can hardly function effectively as they are hamstrung by the same dilatory procedures. Yet, the 'the 3 Cs’ are either a reason for serving officers refusing to take risks or for really injecting terror — without, in fact, being able to check corruption so rampant in the bureaucracy. 

Modi would have been better served if he took a break from his 'loyalists' and consulted the very few 'reformist Secretaries' who are beyond fear or favour. The creaking bureaucratic system, a product of our 'Soviet' period that preceded economic liberalisation, is screaming out for reforms. For instance, a simple 'out of the box' solution is to hold secret ballots periodically in every government office, to create a reliable database of 'marked officials' — those whose financial or moral integrity is in question. Everyone in the office knows who they are, but the honest majority suffer in silence as these nefarious elements are favoured by every regime. Many of them are also the most litigant ones and some also lead employees' unions. They can make life miserable for their colleagues or superiors by manufacturing spurious complaints against them.

Once such a database is created through a series of 'secret ballots', the government would have evidence that even the courts would accept and would not have to wait for the bribe to be taken or a woman to be actually molested. It could direct the attention of the investigating agencies to the leads provided by this data and go hammer and tongs after the 'marked officials' — and not plod on as at present only after formal complaints are lodged. Instead, in Modi's regime, an officer like former Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta was convicted and awarded a jail sentence, even though all his colleagues swear that he was an honest officer who may just have slipped up.

Every government, including this most hyped one, is equally guilty of permitting the political class to bully civil servants.

If we agree that the UPSC's highly competitive examinations still select the best candidates possible, we need to examine what happens thereafter. Young officers are thrown into a system where they are brutalised by the political class and unscrupulous seniors, resulting in many among them becoming corrupt, callous, inefficient or simply lazy. Every government since Independence — including this most hyped one — is equally guilty of permitting the political class to bully civil servants and traumatised them into inactivity, connivance or even cash partnerships. The vast majority has simply been numbed into compliance. Modi really did not need to curry favour with the dirtiest layer of the political class, as he could make or break anyone. He missed his tryst with destiny by mesmerising himself with his unreal oratory 12 and in dressing up unapologetic narcissism as state policy 13 . Modi could have used his electoral mandate to institute permanent civil service reforms. Instead, he allowed himself to be distracted by other preoccupations and then scrambled in his last year, to tighten a screw here and a nut there — only to ensure that his personal power and glory increased, at any cost.

Consequentially, the corrupt tax officer extorts even more and the slothful sleep during office hours. He has bludgeoned the top layer of the bureaucracy but has failed to elicit their confidence in rebuilding India, shoulder to shoulder. His crudely communal approach to governance may not have elicited horror from serving officers, most of whom are terrified of 'Big Brother' watching them all the time, but retired officials rose up against a Prime Minister and his regime's impropriety as never before in India's history. His government will surely go down in history as one which spread fear amongst insecure civil servants for no productive reason, but one where sycophants achieved dizzying heights, while upright, imaginative and innovative officials went unconsulted, unwanted and unrewarded.

( The author is a former Culture Secretary, Government of India, Ex. Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati. In addition to his research on Religion and Popular Cults and Social History, he specialises on Culture, Media, Education and Contemporary Affairs. He is currently Chairman, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. ) Email:[email protected]


[All URLs last accessed on July 19, 2018.]

1. Veerappa Moily, Union Minister and author was entrusted in 2005 to head the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and after four years, he has produced 15 volumes of report and recommendations — that were not acted upon by either the UPA or the NDA governments. Return to text .

2. India Today . 2014 . Full text of Narendra Modi's speech in Delhi on Jan 5, 2014 , January 5. [].

Excerpts from Mr. Narendra Modi's speech at Baba Ramdev's rally in Delhi, reported in IndiaToday online on 5 Jan 2014. (1) "Bureaucracy's hold is getting strong and the BJP is working hard on this". (2) "We were not born for posts but to do something in life." (3) "Most governments come and work day and night on how to win the next elections. But with Gujarat's example, I say everything is possible." Return to Text .

3. Maheswari, S. 1992 . Problems and Issues in Administrative Federalism , Allied Publishers. Return to Text .

4. Shah, G. 2013 . Politics of Governance: A Study of Gujarat . Studies in Indian Politics . June 1. Vol. 1, Issue. 1, pp. 65–77. []. Return to Text .

5. Leading the Modi fan brigade are Bibek Debroy's Gujarat; Governance for Growth & Development (2012, Rediff Books) and Uday Mahurkar's Centrestage: Inside Narendra Modi Model of Governance (2014, Random House). While the first hagiography earned the economist a permanent seat on Modi's high table, the latter was a calculated primer for Modi's style of governance, meant for Delhi analysts, media persons, middle men and bureaucrats. Return to Text .

6. Ghatak, M, and Roy, S. 2014 . Did Gujarat's Growth Rate Accelerate under Modi? , Economic and Political Weekly . April 12, Vol. 49 (15): pp. 12–15. The Economist of London has exposed several other claims. []. Return to Text .

7. Anuja. 2014 . RSS chief’s speech shown on Doordarshan, stirring controversy , Live Mint , October 3. []. Return to Text .

8. The Indian Express . 2014 . Full Text: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on 68th Independence Day ,  August 16. [].

Mr. Modi justifies his centralisation in his first Independence Day speech from Delhi’s historic Red Fort in August 2014 thus "I have started making efforts at making the government, not an assembled entity, but an organic unity, an organic entity, a harmonious whole - with one aim, one mind, one direction, one energy." The Indian Express, August 16, 2014. Full text of PM’s speech. Return to Text .

9. Bibek Debroy had earlier been Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, and given a glowing report on Gujarat. Return to Text .

10. Razdan, N. 2018 . Lateral Entry Will Be For Finest People In The World: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant , NDTV , June 11. []. Return to Text .

11. The Times of India . 2018. Ex-secretary not in conflict over Jio institute, says HRD ministry , July 12. []. Return to Text .

12. It is painful to compare his negligible achievements  in administrative reforms with what he promised, say at Varanasi on December 22, 2013 : “we want to bring development, it can happen - brothers-sisters, the biggest problem before the country is good governance - we got 'Swarajya' but we didn't get 'Surajya'; didn't get 'Susashan' - from this very land of Maharashtra, Lokmanya Tilak had given a Mantra, "Swarajya Mera Janmasiddh Adhikar Hai" - brothers-sisters, the nation fought with "Swarajya Mera Janmasiddh Adhikar Hai" - and we got 'Swarajya' - today, the need of the time is - that we all demand that 'Surajya Mera Janmasiddh Adhikar Hai' - before Independence, 'Swarajya' was our birthright, after Independence, 'Surajya' is our birthright” India Today , December 23, 2013. Return to Text .

13. Gupta, A. 2012 . Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India , Duke University Press. July. []. An excellent example of corruption and the bureaucracy may be seen in Gupta’s Red Tape , especially in chapter 3 on ‘Corruption, Politics and the Imagined State’ pp. 75-110. Return to Text .

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