Inclusive Reforms

The recommendation of the Veerapan Moily Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) is good news for the people. The reforms suggested needs to be seriously considered and implemented wherever it is of help towards good governance and in improving the delivery of services to the common man. It is clear that a systemic overhaul is required to improve the present administrative machinery. Therefore it becomes all the more important that the political leadership demonstrate the necessary will to make changes in tune with the report submitted by the ARC. In this regard, reforms must be all encompassing and not selective—to suit one particular interest/s. Past experience will show that many well meaning suggestions for administrative reforms have remained merely on paper. In fact, the senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily has rued that his reports were gathering dust. The Moily-headed Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has over the last one-and-a-half year submitted reports on terrorism, conflict resolution, police reforms and ethics in government. Therefore, it will be in the fitness of things if the Prime Minister can himself give a push to the recommendations made in the Moily Report. 

One should nevertheless be mindful that reforms merely of the bureaucracy will not be enough. This is because, in the system followed in India, the bureaucracy remains under the dominance of the political class. The media should not focus solely on administrative reforms alone. Over the last few days, newspaper reports have tended to overemphasis on scolding and whipping the conduct of babus i.e. the bureaucrat/s. But what about our politicians under whose diktat, the administration whether in the State or country is being run. Unless we bring our politicians within the ambit of say a code of conduct or specific electoral reforms, it will be asking for too much of the bureaucracy to come clean while leaving the political class outside the reform process. It is therefore of utmost importance to ensure a complete overhaul rather then being selective or targeting only the hapless babus. If our politicians do not learn to behave, any number of reforms in the administration will not be effective. Proper attention will be required to ensure that the system is itself freed from political meddling.

Besides administration reforms per-se, it will require outmost sincerity to de-politicize the bureaucracy itself. It is a widely accepted practice that a government servant gets a “plum posting” on sheer closeness to a politician. The recommendations relating to both the babus and politicians, on misuse of office, require proper attention. This is because, ensuring good governance is closely related to the executive. In other words the relationship between the IAS/NCS officer and the Minister/Parliamentary Secretary will to a great extent determine the quality or incompetence of the State machinery to deliver to the people. Corruption is no doubt the biggest problem. Discretionary powers enjoyed by the Minister and the collusion with the civil servant take away both transparency and accountability from the system. The suggestion to amend Section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act to provide for special offence of “collusive bribery” —an offence if the outcome of a transaction results in loss to the State or public interest—will be the right tonic to discourage the corrupting nexus between self serving politicians and bureaucrats. In the final analysis reform must not be exclusive of the bureaucracy alone but inclusive of the political class as well.