The Administrative Reforms Commission was set up in the year of 1966 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Morarji Desai, interalia (a) to give consideration to the need for ensuring the highest standards of efficiency and integrity in the public service (b) for making public administration a fit instrument for carrying out the social and economic policies of the Government and (c) for considering the machinery of the Government and its procedures of work, the machinery for planning at all levels—centre State relationship, financial and economic administration and administration at the State and district levels and agricultural administration.
Authorities have begun to concede that, unless the mounting infructuous and superfluous expenditure in the civil administration is slashed, there is little hope of averting inflationary pressures.
Whether or not it is specially admitted, the fact remains that this unproductive expenditure is to be traced mainly to the swollen control machinery, and partly to the public sector projects which suffer from the double pitfall of heavy capital investment and yet do not yield early returns. Our annual non-plan expenditure at the Centre and the States, both on capital and revenue accounts, has been soaring from year-to-year. Thus while the total Government spending has annually inflated itself, on an average by 30 per cent, the national income has edged forward by just 8 per cent. All this underlines the vital need to live within our means.
If there has been a shortfall in the Plan targets and a widening gap between expectations and fulfillment, it is not entirely due to shortages or exchange crisis and other unforeseen circumstances. There have been inordinate administrative delays in the entire process of decision-making. The administrative set-up is inhabited not only by the reluctance of officials at the higher levels to take decision of their own; and this reluctance has stemmed partly out of fear of consequences and partly from indifference or inefficiency. As Mr. Bernard Bell has candidly observed,” There appears to be an excessive tendency in the Indian concept and scheme of administration to deny authority to those who nominally have responsibility, to circumscribe freedom of action, to inhabit initiative and to seek a degree of perfection in detail and procedure which often endangers large objectives.”
Red-tapism has received immense impetus from the numerous legislative enactments and rules framed there under year-after-year. Lack of administrative personnel has made matters worse. The IAS cadre was created with, intention of meeting the administrative requirements of a vast, developing country. Unfortunately, recruitments were made without much regard for quality and this has had its adverse reaction on administrative efficiency. To mask this in efficiency, it is natural and incompetent officials to create and increase procedural rules and thereby open out avenues for more people to flow in. It has been pointed out that discretionary powers with civil officers have contributed not a little to the growth of the red-tape. This has encouraged the propensity to pass on the files to others.
Within the secretariat the dominance of even the lower rung officials over technical and scientific specialists and experts, has created an anomalous situation. An expert or a specialist makes his schemes or projects by virtue of his knowledge but his schemes and judgment on a particular project can be similarly turned down by a bureaucrat sitting in the ivory tower, without necessarily adducing any reason. The present administration is topsy-turvy in that an expert’s treatise is dealt with by a generalist—administrator who is almost a Jack of all trade.
Today the Planning Commission runs a parallel Government. It wants to dictate to the Centre and the States. It wants to pry into the secrets of the cabinet. The Administrative Reforms Commission should place the Planning Commission in its proper place and tell the members where exactly they stand. The Planning Commission was originally intended to be an advisory body and it should, remain as such its members should be practical minded, devoid of ideological predilections. They must have an administrative background. Arm-chain pundits and academic economists should have no place in the Planning Commission. Unless these reforms are effected, development planning will continue to suffer.
Mr. Morarji Desai has reportedly been favorably disposed towards the idea behind the institution of Ombudsman as a defender of the citizen. This Scandinavian office is a device for controlling the bureaucracy for safeguarding the public against arbitrary. Ombudsman is an officer of Parliament who investigates complaints from citizens that they have been unfairly treated by Government departments and who, if he finds that a complaint is justified, seeks a remedy.
The system originated in Sweden in 1908 and Finland adopted it in 1919. Denmark introduced it in 1935 and Norway and New Zealand in 1962. In India too, with the need for cleansing the administration of corruption and cutting the red-tape being increasingly felt this subject has naturally aroused lively public interest.