Indian bureaucracy worst in Asia

The Times of India reports in June 2009


Indian bureaucracy worst in Asia

 Singapore: Singapore’s civil servants are the most efficient among their Asian peers, a business survey on 12 economies released on Wednesday showed, but they tend to clam up unhelpfully when things go wrong.

India’s “suffocating bureaucracy” was ranked the least-efficient by the survey, which said working with the country’s civil servants was a “slow and painful” process. “They are a power centre in their own right at both the national and state levels, and are extremely resistant to reform that affects them or the way they go about their duties,” the report said.


I have had some opportunities  to ‘train’ Indian bureaucrats.

I addressed nearly 50 of them on ‘Leadership’ at the HCM-Rajasthan Institute of Public Administration at Jaipur. I am a trainer, not without credentials and can hold my audience. From the word ‘Go’, however, without so much as having heard me or let me start, I had them telling me why private sector models would not work in the government.

After hearing them go on for a few minutes, I quietly started packing my materials. When I was asked what I was doing, I told my ‘learners’ that since they had made up their minds that what I was yet to say would not work for them, I would not waste my time. That quietened them down and they let me go on and finish what I had come to say.

In that batch was the incredible Bhaskar Ghose with whom I had an enthralling conversation. He wore his greatness with an uncharacteristic humility. He went on to become Secretary – Information and Broadcasting and Director of Doordarshan.


Many of our bureaucrats have absolutely no role clarity or accountability whatsoever. They have ready and glib excuses for everything that goes wrong. They are power hungry, resistant to change and more interested in the size of their bungalows and offices. Their families and they monopolize the use of the government’s incredible resources, including, but not limited to, scholarships for education at the best institutions in the world. I am not even beginning to talk about corruption.

There is the occasional maverick that wants to deliver. The collective weight of the powers that be comes down heavily and punishes any such pretenses.

They claim to be poorly compensated but considering that they deliver so little, they are certainly over paid. There is an unholy nexus between them and their political masters and together, they have been milking India dry since independence. They live in an isolated world of their own and have completely insulated themselves from the man who pays the taxes and their salaries – the common man. Most public ‘servants’ subconsciously believe that they are the masters and act accordingly.

It is not that they lack talent. But the talent is not used for the purpose for which they are employed.

Contributing to their lack of results is the government’s policy of transferring them every couple of years. No one is allowed to develop roots or bonds. This breeds indifference and causes them to develop a very short-term mentality.

There is also the laughable, self-serving and self-propagated belief that they can lead any department of the government and worse still, any public sector industry. They can not run a government well but are credited omniscient management skils. It is believed that they can make and market anything for a profit. And that is why public sector industries that do not have a monopoly are doing as badly as the government. Many that have a monopoly are doing badly too. Those of the rest of us that study long hours to learn management are wasting our time and money learning something that one can pick up just by passing the UPSC IAS exam.

There are too many layers in the hierarchy making decision making almost impossible. Nobody can make a decision but anybody can stall it! And  decision does not mean execution. That is another story altogether!

There is a definite pecking order within the IAS and the year in which they pass out (1999 batch, for example) pretty much determines who is to be respected and who will be ordered around. 

The government needs to curtail recruitment for the next few years and create a system of accountability.

There needs to be far more business in government and far less government in business.

Their rating as the worst bureaucracy in Asia is well deserved. Barring a few completely backward countries, they could vie for the post of the worst in the world.

Thank God for the occasional Bhaskar Ghose. Men and women of his ilk keep the country going, inspite of it all.


~ by parimalgandhi on 28/06/2009.

One Response to “Indian bureaucracy worst in Asia”

  1. I think several Private companies are no different. Especially older ones who still carry a “Raj” hangover…

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