Thursday, August 28, 2008

Changing face of the Indian bureaucracy

I must thank Abi of Nanopolitan blog for pointing me to this article by S Narayan, former finance secretary, on how better representation for the backward castes is turning out to be a force for good in the Indian bureaucracy. I get a chance to meet several bureaucrats and I keep asking them: is there any truth to the contention that the bureaucracy is going to the dogs, thanks to reservations?

Generally, what I hear is that there is nothing wrong with the candidates selected- they may not speak immaculate English and you may fault their accents but they have competence and motivation, alright. The problem is that political interference has increased. This will happen regardless of who gets into the services.

I have every hope that reservations at IITs and IIMs will achieve the same thing that Narayan suggests it has acheived in the bureaucracy: making the corporate world more representative of and responsive to the large mass of Indian people, instead of being elitist in character. The price that critics say we pay- dilution of standards - is, even if it is true (I have never bought this), small compared to the benefits in terms of social harmony and equity.

Here is an excerpt from Narayan's article:

The character of the All India Services has changed in my lifetime, and in my view, the new entrants are far more representative of the aspirations of the “inclusive growth” view. Bright and hard-working, yet from families that know the meaning of hardship, these are the youngsters most likely to be able to administer from the heart, not just from the book. I have also seen a complete social transformation in the composition of the services, a transformation, though painful, which has brought up people much more representative of the diversities in our society. In the South, especially in Tamil Nadu, it has taken almost 70 years to get here, and I do believe that the rest of India must follow, and it may perhaps take far less time. Though one had to compete all the harder to succeed, I am a strong votary of affirmative action to provide preferential opportunities, especially education, to those who don’t have them.

I can hear sceptical readers wondering: Will the new dispensation be ethical and fair? I cannot say. When I teach these students, I see the core of goodness and fairness—what the real world of politics and bureaucracy will do to their hopes and aspirations is yet to be seen. I like the fact that the collector’s office is not a mysterious, forbidding place for citizens — that they can see their own kind sitting there. Will he be fair? As in economics, the laws of supply and demand will operate. Let’s hope the citizenry wants fair deals — I am sure that the new class will deliver.


Rahul said...

This is too optimistic. I don't say that caste based reservations dilute the standards. But I do say that caste based reservations 'discriminate' among people.

If a guy is as bright and talented as the general category, then he doesn't need to apply through reservation system. If s/he does, then it proves what the reservation system is driving us towards - a genre of mediocre people with limited thoughts.

If we want to force equal representation of all in all places, then we would better name ourselves as China V2.

Our caste based reservation is the thing that is making and promoting caste divide in our country, which is a social malaise.

flexiadamant said...

I am compeletely agree with u sir on this topic!!

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