Role of civil services in a democracy

The greatness associated with “performing a public service utilizing public fund” reflects power, aspirations of achieving this power, and a consistent hope or ambition of achieving through this power!

The civil servants by virtue of their knowledge, experience, and understanding of public affairs assist the ministers in formulating policy and are responsible for implementing these policies wherein ministers are accountable to parliament and civil servants are accountable to ministers. Though we are a democracy and power is vested in the people, neither politicians nor civil servants are directly and meaningfully accountable to the public.

This lack of accountability has mirrored political and administrative passivity, non-intervention, and negligence. We call this image ‘the system’. This system prevents the poor from accessing basic necessities and resources, and a place giving permanent protection. This system characterizes many discreditable practices, habitual decisions for which accountability is not necessary, work culture where people sometimes habitually look uninterested and unorganized, overlapping of tasks and half-baked results, since the concept of ‘optimization’ has not found its place in this work culture yet.

Any system is a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network. In a democracy, the core things of a system are connected through legislation. A civil servant can change the official or accepted way of doing something, but he can’t change legislation-related input present in it. There are multiple parts in the system even if you better or replace one part, it distorts the working of other parts. In a country as diverse as India, these parts at different levels are uncountable, unless a major reformative decision at a parliamentary level is made, the current system will continue to work in a presentable manner. In this situation, a civil servant can control the work flow, but he can’t set that work to its optimization if it is a part of the interconnecting network.

We have seen various poverty alleviation programs, but some underperformed and their successes looked irregular and unpredictable. Some of them lacked economic rationale or another practical purpose. Had these programs been successful, we would have freed ourselves from poverty long back. Our bureaucratic mechanisms need to comprise holistic approaches and solutions. They monitored and moved to achieve short-term arbitrary outcomes whose consequences could be terrible and had long-term counter-productive effects.

One such consequence was that poverty in India was normalized through its credentials in various statistical projects. Normalizing here means we start taking something a standard condition or state. As we normalized poverty, it became a characteristic of the population, consequently, serious hardships from poverty were no longer seen as violations of law, justice, ethics, or the constitution, so it doesn’t matter if it continues to exist.

Now the legislators whom we call politicians to see their success in terms of improved public relations. A public relations exercise eats up a lot of time. Policymaking is the ultimate responsibility of a minister, but they hardly get time to study something in-depth. They don’t have real field work experience in device policies. In this case, a civil servant renders policy advice to the minister. Usually, politicians work on those combinations which are more beneficial to them than the public. But these policies do carry the inputs of civil servants despite this, these policies have failed to eradicate poverty.

A person becomes a civil servant after passing one of the toughest exams in the world. It is said so. But there is hardly any examination that can check a person’s commitment to work and his work potential. A person becomes a decision-maker after becoming a civil servant. This level of poverty can’t be eradicated through decision-making processes rather ‘individual’s originality related to work’ is a prerequisite that no exam can ensure. Is it possible or has it ever been thought of – that a bureaucrat himself/herself has earned at the grassroots level through inventing his/her original model, and under this model, he/she has devised schemes and implemented them, so that grassroots level people can practice them to earn their livelihoods and also get the scope to upgrade their skill levels? If schemes get formulated in this manner, they will definitely be successful and sustainable. We are heaven away from this kind of system. There is nothing great about “performing a public service utilizing public funds”, since earning according to what is morally right or fair is many times more difficult than spending.

The real work which can generate revenues, consequently employment and vice versa, has yet to see its dawn, the real commitment is unobserved, the real change looks near but it is more like a horizon. What should we do to experience real work, commitment, and change? One possible course of action can be the appointment of ‘village administrators’ through an entrance examination. There are more or less 638,000 villages in India. Every year the government could recruit 25,000 village administrators. A village administrator, after understanding the requirements of the village, will conceive a consolidated plan to address the problems related to livelihoods, education, society, infrastructure, drainage system, and so on.

The present system showcases conspicuous limitations. The limitations limit the scope of real development. In fact, a person who is working to bring real change at the grassroots level without being part of the government service is serving people in a better and sustainable manner. There is no need to become a civil servant to serve people. They can be served better by those who are not part of this system. People are not served through power, they are served through prowess, not that of decision making, but of the original exertions which have undeclared true potential for ‘the mass eradication and mass extinction of poverty’.

The world has failed to realize that poverty has become a species that adjusted long ago to survive on prosperity and by itself.