Governance in India

Speaking to journalists in her office, the Republican Governor of South Carolina (USA), Nikki Harley,said on May, 2016 that a ‘powerful” official system and a need for foreign companies to know some one in the Government was making US Companies (wanting to do business in India)nervous.She added that “that is scary for the fact that government (in India) is much more powerful than it is here. Here we are servants. In India, governments are very strong and you have to know someone in the government to be successful….” Even though I am not in business, I am sure that this is a correct representation of the state of affairs in India and this is also corroborated by India’s ranking 130 (out of 189) in the “ease of doing business” index.

As an ordinary citizen of India, I am more concerned about how the “powerful official system” in this country deals with the grievances and complaints of the ordinary public in matters concerning their rights and day to day lives and how the officials in India relate to the common man as masters and dispensers of favours. The administrators are quite apathetic to the grievances and complaints of citizens and unless the complainant knows some one in authority or bribes the official concerned, most of the grievances or complaints remain unresolved.

The Government at the higher level no doubt is or makes a show of being concerned at the plight of the common citizen and sets up Public Grievance Redressal mechanisms. The mechanisms are also manned by officials who are no more enthusiastic about their work than the officials responsible for the grievances. These mechanisms refer the grievances to the officers to whom they relate, call for the facts of the case and pass appropriate orders. The speed of disposal of course remains leisurely. Even the Prime Minister’s office directly receives complaints and grievances, probably in hundreds of thousands over a year, and directs them to the concerned departments or ministries for quick resolution. These probably are dealt with with a little more urgency.

Receipt of hundreds of thousands of complaints at the Prime Minister’s level should normally be taken as an indicator of the non-functioning of the administration at the lower levels and should be a matter of shame for the higher authorities. However, this magnitude of complaints is more often flaunted as the productive output of the higher authorities and the lower formations remain unscathed.

The imperial masters of the country left about 70 years ago but the mindset of officials in free India has not changed much. Under the imperial rule, a petitioner to an official had to conclude his petition with “I beg to remain, sir, your most obedient servant”. The officials in free India still regard themselves as masters of the common man though the petitioners now only say “Yours faithfully”. The awesome working spaces and surroundings of the senior officers are so designed as to deter common people from approaching them and their assistants and helpers manage to keep people suitably awed.

A question arises as to why the attitude of the officials remains so apathetic to the common people even 70 years after independence even though they are now ruled or bossed over by elected politicians. One answer may be the lavish working environment and living styles (including huge government bungalows and plethora of facilities like official vehicles, attendants etc)specially of the senior govt officials vis-a-vis the common man. Another reason may be that apathetic officialdom probably suits the politicians in as much as they can claim to get the work, held up by officials for years, done in hours, if not minutes. Most officials in India, however high and mighty they may appear and behave before the common man, are more than willing to please their political bosses and do their bidding without loss of time. The problem, however, remains that only those who can pull strings can get their individual or group issues resolved.

No effort has been made during the last 70 years to reform the officialdom to make it really responsive and answerable to the common man. India, therefore, cannot yet be considered to be a real democracy (rule by and for the people).

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2 Responses to Governance in India

  1. cj says:

    I think part of the expectation from Modi Government and AAP at Delhi was to change. The collapse of crony capitalization, improved transparency and the technological changes such as Ministers being available through twitter is changing that. Railways and External Affairs being two such cases

    As regards mindset of officials it will be some more time but forces of change are inevitable

  2. junejasc says:

    I have already conceded that political figures do show some concern about public grievances though they are not serious about mending the officials’ attitude to commoners. The wide gulf in the working environments and life styles of the officials and the commoners and politicians’ lack of will in reforming administrative machinery are causing a lot of suffering to the common people.

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