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"With bad laws and good civil servants, it's still possible to govern, but with bad civil servants, even the best laws can't help." - Otto Von Bismarck

When Bismarck, one of the significant diplomats of all time, spoke about the emerging civil services in an autocratic monarchy, entire Europe was surprised. But, soon, civil services became a bedrock of effective government machinery not only in Germany, its birthplace, but the whole world. In an egalitarian democracy, civil services act as the necessary counterbalance of elected politicians. It is a subdivision of government accountable to the ministers and the public. They form the permanent staff of government departments and administer the enforcement of laws. These services are popular career choices for zealous youth aiming to carve their position and augment the country's power. In the largest democracy of India, the bureaucracy is enduring regardless of the party in power. While in the second-largest democracy of the US, the higher-level bureaucracy is reappointed with the new President. One way or the other civil services are an indispensable part of democracy even though they are nationally appointed in nature. At times civil services are accused of being a waste of public funds with criticism of the prevalent culture of corruption and charges of inability. These allegations are not unfounded but despite this these services remain a crucial part of the government in any democracy and with genuine reasoning.

Colonial Residue or Indigenous Legacy:

Civil services as we see today were introduced by the British in India. Warren Hastings is credited with its beginning but Cornwallis made significant reforms in it and hence is known as the Father of Indian Civil Services. Critics of civil services consider it a De-westernization attempt to reduce the authority of national exam-based officials. This argument is based on the misinterpreted thoughts of some British officers. Lord Curzon's statement that "The British Raj in India will fade away and disappear unless you have a sound civil service to support it." and consequently Lord Olivier's theory of Civil services and Nationalism being mutually exclusive. This rationale fails in the modern context where the motive of government services is to facilitate the people and work in the best interest of the nation. At Curzon's time, it was the British ruling India so he highlighted the need for civil servants in sustaining the British Raj but now India governs itself, and its officers are administrators for better organisation. This was the reason Sardar Patel advocated the continuity of civil services. In the Constituent Assembly, he stated, "You will not have a united India if you do not have a good all India service which has the independence to speak out its mind." even while Chief Ministers voted for state-based selection. Civil Services are an integral part of the Union of India and a classic example of its harmonious functioning in a federal way. If all the authority rested on political candidates, anarchy would be inevitable. Political parties are synonymous with democracy and with their benefit comes the darker side of greed for power. Civil servants check this tendency of elected people to get carried away doing things useful in the short run for selected people but harmful to the country as a whole, by sanctioning actions based on rules and overseeing their proper implementation. They can be compared to a circuit breaker in a house, in the case of the questionable strategy of the state the block its way to prevent loss. Contrary to popular belief the concept of civil services is found in Kautilya's Arthashastra written about 2300 years ago. 'Amatyas' acted as the bureaucracy and were recruited on their merit gauged by a series of exams. Corruption was dealt with a blood and iron policy to ensure that the officers were fair in their dealings. There existed posts for officers in departments such as customs, revenue, finance, and management back in the Mauryan time and they continued in the next dynasty. Even after the arrival of the Mughals, the system of similar appointments continued with departments like Diwan-i-Arz for the army, Diwan-i-Insha for communications, and Diwan-i-wizarat for revenue and economy. It would not be wrong to suggest that civil services are an indigenous concept almost as old as the government itself; it has only become more challenging with the increasing requirements of democracy and the changing nature It entails.

Need of the Babus Other Than Satire:

The civil services have a binding character in a democracy like India where state offices run simultaneously. These services secure coordination between different Institutions of governance, their departments, and bodies as their authority stems directly from the union. It is the base of government administration encompassing every area of civic life, road and railway construction with maintenance, tax realization, and town management Et Cetera. They are responsible for carrying out legislation, along with the task of advising ministers in this regard. The civil services also handle additional issues such as settling disputes between states and citizens by tribunals. These duties are formally associated with civil services and are demarcated by respective departments, but there is a larger and more quintessential area rarely discussed by people. Civil servants are also instruments of social change and the economic development of the country. The services are intertwined with developmental functions like promoting modern techniques of agriculture, trade, and industry. Some civil servants have performed tasks that were previously deemed impossible. When IAS officer A Sridevasena took charge of district Peddapalli, it was a high-risk dengue area and open defecation existed there. She began a practice 'Swachh Shukrawar' where she constructed about one lakh soak pits and convinced families to construct toilets in their houses. Now Peddapalli is the cleanest district of India and also the only district to have won three national awards for the best Panchayats and Mandals in the sanitation sector. Indira Gandhi said that "The civil servant is primarily the master of the short-term solution." This holds in several instances when officers have devised undemanding ways of tackling glaring problems. An IAS officer Awanish Sharan posted in Kabirdham, Chhattisgarh noticed the absence of ambulances in the area. The region was populated by Baiga and Gond tribal communities and due to the undulating geography of the region ambulances could not reach the village in the golden hour. Tribals could not afford expensive transport and failed to access healthcare when it was required. Awanish Sharan launched The Sangai Express, a series of bike ambulances cutting the expenses by 90% and impacting more than 4868 lives. The initiative also employed the locals as they were preferred given their acquaintance with the topography. To develop the trust of the villagers the officer himself took test rides on different terrains. The service received a positive response and demands for replication in nearby areas. Such a practice could not have been envisaged by national policymakers as they lack field knowledge. The elected politicians' route for a drastic change to attract vote banks, unlike civil servants intent on taking small but utility-based steps for a big change. Such steps are a big thrust towards encouraging the youth to think differently and empowering them to give their contribution. Another such example is IAS officer Sandeep Nanduri who launched a cafe run only by differently-abled staff in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. He was motivated by the numerous petitions his office received from the specially-abled requesting employment. This support led to the staff gaining confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit that gave the message of the differently-abled being as competent as the able-bodied population. Politicians might lecture on the issue and influence some people to get elected in a democracy but it is the civil servants whose actions speak louder than words.

Paper Palace Coloured in Corruption Sealed With the Red Tape:

Various problems are plaguing the civil service system today, ranging from corruption to partisanship which is overshadowing its Prestige. First and foremost is the growth of materialistic tendencies in all professions, civil servants being in closer proximity to wealth at times fall for corruption. At every stage, some of the other officers may demand a bribe referred to by some as the 'transaction fee', or instead of choosing tenders based on their suitability some bureaucrats settle for a low-quality project giving them a good commission. This has led to severe consequences like collapsing structures built of substandard quality and more appallingly diminishing public faith in the services. Another issue is the strong nexus between politicians and civil servants, who collaborate to earn illegal money, sidelining the honest officers. This political and peer pressure can force the officials to concede to immoral demands. Civil servants are supposed to be politically neutral but it is almost impossible when politicians hold the reins of their transfer. The transfer choice of officials is usually a function of the liking of political bosses, one may either concede to their wishes or bear the ramifications like IAS officer Mr. Ashok Khemka did. He was transferred 47 times in 25 years and is considered to be the record holder of maximum transfers, though it is hardly comforting to be in such a situation. Red tapism remains a factor too, in most democracies civil servants function strictly to the rulebook, deviation from the prescribed procedure has to be preceded by cumbersome and time-consuming paperwork. So immediate action is rarely possible even when the officer realizes the plight of the people. This rigidity has backfired both ways, making reforms difficult and contributing to the dusty stack of files characteristic of government offices. At times advocacy groups and RTI activists apply undue pressure on civil servants in their vested interests thus misusing judicial activism. Another major factor challenging civil services is the lack of incentives for its employees. Since most positions are permanent, the desire to excel and prove professional mettle fizzles out. So the very purpose of employing youth at the top of the department fails. The department is unable to harness its energy for the country's development because of this lack of interest. Removing an officer from service for inactivity is also easier said than done because of the complex legal system involved, as a famous American saying goes "Government workers are like headless nails, you can get them in but you can't get them out." Promotion is also generally lined according to seniority rather than performance further demoralising the officers. Once these challenges are reviewed and conditions modified civil services will become the paragon of the executive in democracy.

Hope Springs Eternal - James Bond:

The government is making efforts to ameliorate lagging civil service departments like the 'Mission Karmayogi', a task force to suggest measures for a transformational shift from rule-based to role-based training. This mission is to build a future-ready civil service with skills aligned to the vision of New India. Some more changes can be done in the existing frame like safeguards must be placed to prevent political abuse of civil servants. Politicians' say in the transfer or dismissal of government officials should not be overemphasised. The parameters of selection in civil services should also be reconsidered, only mental aptitude and an impressive interview cannot be a guarantee of a good employee. Civil services are not only about administrative paperwork but also social welfare so the co-curricular activities of the applicants should be given weightage. For instance, a candidate with an interest in the field of entrepreneurship and business or sustainable development with relevant training should be preferred as that person might help in setting up employment-generating projects or environment-friendly ventures. The training of selected people should also be done in an action-oriented way. When officers will be encouraged to think creatively and to experiment, many local problems will be solved. Along with that a certain amount of discretionary powers must be granted to them so that valuable time is not lost in the communication of unanimous situations. The departments must set realistic goals for the officers while taking into account the needs of the population assigned to them. This fact is the basis of democracy and would lead to the steady although slow development of a country. A common disparagement to civil services is the opinion that nationally recruited officers are suitable only for a communist government. In a communist country like China unfeasible GDP growth targets were set up for civil servants to complete which they went on a real estate building hysteria. Thousands of buildings were built to show growth on paper in the industrial sector last year. This resulted in the famous ghost cities of China as the officers did not recognize the inability of the public to buy these expensive apartments. So China gained the label of the richest country overtaking the US for a while but an economic crash is looming on the horizon. If a democratic country sets pragmatic goals then the country will prosper. Lateral entry should also be given more gravity as specialised skills are required in the government. People with expertise in specific domains are capable of navigating through the complexities of civil administration more easily. Department Heads should also be given a level of autonomy in the selection of officers. A big reason for America's Global economic success is that its managers have negligible interference in the hiring and firing of employees. When experienced officers will be a part of the hiring process of their departments, they will recognize passionate and job-oriented interviewees. So more dedicated staff will be employed who will not consider the task a 9 to 5 job but a personal objective. Last but not least due recognition and credit must be given to hard-working people with tangible benefits like a bonus in emoluments or preference for promotion. These measures will act as incentives for officers to give their best for public service. One thing common in civil service in any democracy is that the selected candidates are theoretically the crème de la crème of administration. It depends on the system to utilise this knowledge for national growth. Serving the nation with civil services requires prowess with the power of position. The civil services are an anchor for the ship of democracy, securing it so that it does not drift with currents of lawlessness. When Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, he referred to the three pillars of democracy - Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. Civil services act as the cornerstone of each of these; although their maximum involvement is in the executive. Civil servants advise law framers to address the requirements of the people to aid the interpretation of the law by the Judiciary. Adequate measures must be taken to galvanise the 'Steel frame' of democracy for a robust economy.

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