Problems and Criticisms
Problems facing the IAS are many. A senior member of the IAS holds that the IAS today has become a part of the problem, not of the solution. Officers are more interested in private welfare at the cost of the society. The noble image that the IAS projected in the earlier days has taken a severe beating over the years. The IAS used to be considered a saviour of the people from the rapacious clutches of the lower bureaucracy. Now they are perceived as a parasitical force, as corrupt as anyone else. They are alienated from the public. The standard of their performance is declining. They have become inaccessible, hostile and insensitive. They oppress the poor, are no longer accountable to the people and do not exhibit an attitude of service. One of the main criticisms against the service is that he has started grading jobs, preferring jobs with business connections and not jobs involving the poor. He is no longer comfortable working for the poor in remote areas.
Other reasons for deteriorating standards are not far to seek. Secrecy, cumbersome procedures and unnecessary controls are some of the maladies that have removed the service further away from the people.
The internal bureaucratic culture is also changing fast, hastening the downward roll. Posts have proliferated tremendously and that has demoralized the service. Powers have reduced. Many posts have been marginalized. All this has resulted in cutthroat competition and loss of camaraderie. Politicians have not lost any time in exploiting the situation, playing one against the other. These have also resulted in lack of professionalism. The civil service is now reluctant to tender unwelcome advice for fear of transfer. Major problems are handled ineptly. There is no effort to even update knowledge and skills facilitating proper policy formulation and implementation. Innovativeness is lacking. There is reluctance to take decisions and dilatory tactics are being adopted in taking decisions. On the other hand, there is a sense of belonging to an exclusive club, which motivates the civil servant to take too much from the system, contributing very little to it.
The external political environment is also not conducive as the structure of rewards and punishment has undergone a sea change. Earlier, there was a clear concept of desired behaviour. The civil service itself used to decide rewards and punishments. Now, no one is sure anymore about the desired behaviour and decisions regarding rewards and punishments are usually taken by the politicians. As a result, traditional civil service values of neutrality and integrity are sacrificed. In the emerging new political environment, the entire control over the civil service has shifted to the politicians. And since politicians gradually over the years have become divorced from general welfare and are now more concerned with sectarian interests, the civil service too has followed suit, to please the political master. The consequent low expectation of the people therefore has become a fait accompli. The politician uses executive power for personal gain. So does the civil servant. The civil servant has no market value or employability since he does not acquire any professional or technical competence and remains a mere generalist. If anyone is given any alternative employment ever in the private sector, it is more for his high connections than his professional competence. Consequently, he knows that he has to survive and cannot afford to challenge the politician in the new ambience. In a model where the politician is casteist, corrupt and harbours criminals, can the civil service be efficient, responsive and change-oriented? In addition to all this, the inefficient delivery system of the civil service has led to the growth of political populism and sectarianism to win votes.
Fortunately, winds of change have started blowing. Hopefully it will pick up momentum and not die down. Judicial activism has started in a big way. Some information channels are being opened up to the people as in the case of Andhra Pradesh. But much more needs to be done. At least some of the basic things must be done immediately; there must be stability of tenure for a minimum period so that the bureaucrat gets a fair chance of being able to do something useful. There should be openness in administration also in matters like transfers, cadre allotment, etc. The tax returns also should be available for public scrutiny in case of any doubt about the integrity of the executive. Size of the civil service should be reduced to make every post count. A minimum standard of performance must be prescribed at organizational and individual level to ensure a minimum standard of efficiency of the civil servant.
Implications of Civil Service
There is no doubt about the quality of the people who enter the service in terms of education, mental readiness and ability. The mental readiness grows out of the education he receives before he enters the civil service ' 'the Elite' who become equipped mentally to an extent to handle the responsibility and power that go with the position as an administrator. The training that is imparted to the civil servants equips them with the techniques of administration. But does it, at any stage, impart to them the right kind of value system that makes him socially conscious and responsible? Perhaps it is at this point that the basic problem lies, - lack of a definite value system for the civil service.
What does the civil service imply?
The nomenclature, civil service, has the word, 'service' in it. That is a pointer. The definition 'public servant' too has no ambiguity. Then why should there be a desire to have autocratic privileges? The concept of service does not normally enter a Civil Servants' scheme of things. Therefore, this concept of service has to be internalized even as he enters the service. One of the reasons of the downward slide in the attitude and performance of the civil service must be, therefore, internal. The civil servant must look inwards to see if there is any scope for improvement. May be then he will find solutions to his external problems also because a strong and reinforced personality normally can exercise control over the external factors too.
By definition, the Civil Servant carries two burdens: the self and the others who depend on him. He must train himself so that his native talent is developed, intellect, will and competence are reinforced and the required professional skills are sharpened. He must develop a democratic personality, which persuades him to have a healthy concern for others, not as a slave or a master, but as an empathetic co-traveller who has the power to help others. It has freedom of action that is tempered by a sense of responsibility. This is possible if he has a dynamic personality as against static one. A static personality is characterized by inaction or action that only serves the self. A static person is only interested in his salary, career, family and personal convenience. A dynamic person does not bother very much about these but is interested in work, serving others and generally growing up by keeping his eyes and ears open.
P.S. Appu (IAS Bihar 1951) classified the IAS officers roughly into three categories. In the first category, he places people who are able and confident, ever willing to share responsibility and take decisions. In his opinion, 35% of the Civil Service in the early '50s consisted of such officers. In the late '90s this 35% sadly became 10%. We have the examples of Sardar Patel and VP Menon on the question of the merger of the states and later, of C Subramanium and B Sivaraman on the question of IADP. In the second category, Appu places people who work according to the book, postpone decisions and would prefer to take no decisions to avoid committing mistakes. This group comprised 60% of the service in the '50s and has come down to 40% in the nineties. And finally, he places such people in the third category who are unscrupulous, use power arbitrarily and abuse their power for personal gains. He further says that only 5% of the civil service consisted of such people in the '50s but in the nineties the percentage increased to 50%. A dismal picture indeed! One may question the veracity of the statistics (some participants did raise a point of doubt during some courses) but generally, the classification and the trend cannot be questioned. We need more people in the first category, which is the category of men with dynamic and democratic personality.
Secondly, the bureaucrat must have joy in his work. He must have a sense of pride in whatever he is doing, and enjoy doing it. This joy cannot come from selfish motivation. Selfish motivation gives one only frustration and ennui, which finally results in a nervous breakdown. Joy comes from satisfaction of a job well done and a target achieved. One has to develop work-interest in others.
Thirdly, one has to have vision, Drishti. People have problems. A civil servant cannot be everywhere to personally see the problems. But he must have the ability to visualise those problems and only a person with empathy is able to see a projection of those problems. Futuristic planning can only be done by being able to envision the problems of the multitudes.
Our training gives us the technique. But how much of social awareness and vision does it give, or the ability and mindset to realize these and sustain the visions? Hence, our training, along with professional competence should also be able to give us social responsibility.
This takes us to the second responsibility of the civil servant' the responsibility to others. Bureaucracy has been vested with many powers both formal and informal. Use of those powers depends upon the philosophy of the state. In a democratic state, the philosophy must direct the civil servant to have a concern for the people because this power comes from the people of the country, through the constitution. So, the power must be used to bring welfare and fulfillment of the aspirations of the people.
The concept has a parallel in Indian mythology in the legend of Vaivasvat Manu. Having become tired of an anarchic situation in the country, people approached Vaivasvat Manu to administer the country. They vested him with all the powers required and provided him with the resources with which he could maintain the administrative machinery. He did it to the satisfaction of the people and the concept of kingship was born ' a King who is created to protect the people and look after the well being of the people. In Raghuvamsham (1/18) Kalidasa states, 'The State took taxes from the people only to ensure their own prosperity in return, like the Sun takes moisture from the earth only to give it back in thousand fold measure.' Therefore, the civil servant who gets all his powers from the people must use those, not for self-aggrandisement but for the welfare of the people.
This concept of power leads us to the concept of service.
The principal job of the public servant is to serve the public with dignity, freedom and responsibility. In their approach to the job, the mood and spirit of service must exist. To a civil servant, a member of the public who comes to him with a problem must not be seen as an intruder but as a fellow citizen who has come to him for help because he has the power of help him. The power does not make him a demi-god but merely one who is returning a favor done to him. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case ' people who come for help are not helped and are considered as intruders. NC Saxena (UP 1963), Union Rural Development Secretary and Planning Commission Secretary, was forced to comment, 'There was a time when people looked up to the IAS Officers as their savior. Slowly they have become part of the problem, not the solution.' He goes on to say that they must have genuine concern for people. Interestingly he observes that IAS officers consider those jobs as good ones, which are business and power-oriented. The poor-oriented or development-oriented jobs are considered bad jobs. This attitude can change only when the concern for people, and not self, becomes the principal concern for the civil servant. In a democracy, the bureaucrat is paid to help people. And that help has to be given with Shraddha, not as a favor; help with a sense of duty and responsibility, help with respect. It is not alms that are being given. It is a right, a claim that is merely being restored. If giving with Shraddha is the aim, then it must be given speedily. Delay means neglect and neglect can never signify Shraddha.
In a democratic society where people are important, the Civil Servant is required to take up social leadership. On occasions, to establish transparency of administration and sympathy for the oppressed class, the civil servant has to act as a social activist. People have a right to information. They are entitled to know how the administration is being run and the fashion in which their fate is being decided. People must be empowered with information for that administration must be open and there should be transparency. If not, then other agencies, like the NGOs, will grow up to fight for the right and become popular with people. Aruna Roy and her Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan fought for transparency in Land Records administration for information of the people. She won the struggle and now has a lot of creditability with the people. But was the fight necessary? Why should there be secrecy in administration? Is it because knowledge is power and sharing that power with the people would dilute the importance of the civil services? It seems to be so; otherwise why should everything in Government be Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, Restricted etc? The entire gamut of rules enforcing secrecy should be reviewed. The Chief Vigilance Commissioner's ordinance against secrecy, the Law Commission's recommendation for repealing at least 1400 laws enforcing secrecy, underline the need for removing secrecy and making administration open. If administration becomes open, then it will be easy to handle, cumbersomeness will be removed, creditability of the civil service will rise, imaginative sympathy at all levels will make the government empathetic and responsive. And the young civil servant can take on the role of a social activist who will be credible, approachable, responsive and popular. People have aspirations but they cannot express. The civil servant would help people in expressing their aspirations. Public opinion is the bedrock of democratic polity. The Civil Service can help forming, developing and channeling that public opinion thereby having a different kind of power, a power rising out of openness and supported by popular will. Free expression of thought is also essential for building up pressure for radical reforms. The civil servant can be a very effective change agent in that process by using his powers effectively, instead of being an indifferent bystander.
The Civil Servant also must be a change agent. He can be the medium through whom desirable changes (as desired by people) can be brought about. These could be physical changes, spiritual changes, attitudinal changes or intellectual changes. Swami Vivekananda said, 'They have come to think that they are born to be trodden under the feet of the wealthy. They have to be given back their individuality.' It is the civil servant, by being a good change-agent who is near to the people, can bring about the vital change in attitude, by giving them back their individuality. He should be able to educate the people, Conscientise them, as Paulo Freire would like to say and turn them into responsible dynamic citizens. It is not only the rights that they should be made conscious of; they should be made aware of their duties too. A balance between the rights and duties must be struck. For far too long we have underlined the fundamental rights which, no doubt, are necessary for human growth and a healthy socio-political order. But these cannot become strong and positive without a consciousness about duties. Someone said that for a long time now, we have only looked at the statue of liberty. Someone should now make a statue of responsibility!
Then there is the concept of collective will. It is the collective will of the people that creates the State. It also activates the State. There is no doubt that the collective will of the people is a tremendous power. The collective will of forty million British ruled 300 million Indians. The British had the collective will. The Indians did not. The civil servant must recognize this and build this collective will by reaching out, developing it and giving it a direction. NC Saxena said, 'The Indian political system is highly resilient to public opinion. Full expression of thought will lead to building up of pressure of informed opinion so necessary for radical reforms.' The civil service is a powerful agency for energizing the rest of the human resources.
This then is the implication of being a civil servant. He has a responsibility towards his own self, of developing and strengthening his civil service personality, which consists of professional competence and social consciousness. And secondly, he has a responsibility towards others who depend on him for their well being, by being empathetic, by being able to help with Shraddha and by being a dynamic centre of social change and by energizing public will.
An Alternative ' Focusing on Self
For all this, there is a need for a darshan, a vision, (which can loosely be called philosophy though darshan is much more than philosophy), which would give a sense of direction. Darshan is seeing life steadily and as a whole. That is why Mandukya Upanishad calls it Sarva Vidya Pratishtha. Darshan of the administrator however depends on the philosophy of the state. If the state is feudal or colonial then the civil service also adopts a darshan, which suits the rulers. In that situation, only intelligence and will are required. In a democracy, it has to be people-centred in addition to intelligence and will. There has to be an additional ingredient, social consciousness.
It is very fortunate that civil service in India does not have to look for a darshan elsewhere. It is available in our own ancient literature. Gita provides us with a direction. As Lt Col G.L. Bhattacharya has very perceptively observed, Gita contains instructions for men of responsibility. It distinguishes between a small darshan and a large darshan. Small darshan is for small people who have only himself and his family to look after. His sphere is limited. But for men of responsibility it has to be a large darshan, because he has to look after the interests of a large number of people, sometimes, the entire nation. His own self and family are insignificant. It is the difference between a small lamp and a large lamp. A small lamp lights a very small area but a large lamp lights up a very large area. The civil servant is like a large lamp. His area of responsibility is very large. Therefore, his darshan also has to be large as it covers an entire population. This darshan then helps him in the transformation from a static to a dynamic person ' the transformation of a man with a small limited sphere of activity involving only self and family to a man with a much larger sphere of activity involving the people of the nation. Like in Arjun's case, the darshan enables him to get rid of the fear factor from his mind. Arjun was afraid, afraid of sin of killing his own kin, of the ultimate destruction of the warrior class and the resultant evils that would visit the society. All this fear caused his inaction. The administrator too has fears, the fear of transfer, fear of retribution and all the small fears concerning his self and family. All these result in depression as in the case of Arjun and finally, inaction. A person with a large darshan, with dynamism, is not daunted by these small fears, because he puts priority on the welfare of people above the welfare of self.
This Darshan can come about only when Buddhi is used
Buddhi is another concept in Gita, which implies enlightened intelligence and knowledge. At the level of ego, self, (small darshan), knowledge and intelligence are self-centred and limited, being at the mercy of instincts and impulses. But at the level of Buddhi, knowledge becomes wisdom. It makes one creative, resourceful, humane, and sympathetic. With the application of Buddhi, we increase wisdom as much as knowledge. Bertrand Russell said in Impact of Science on Society, 'Unless men increase in wisdom as much as knowledge, increase of knowledge will be increase of sorrow.' But it does not happen this way in reality. Our civil servant is very well read. His knowledge is immense. But this corpus of knowledge never has an opportunity of becoming wisdom as he never internalizes this knowledge and puts the knowledge to practice. He operates from his static self and consequently the knowledge he has, becomes impotent and useless. TS Eliot wrote,
'Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of speech but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first reason,
And money, and power and
What they call life, or Race, or
an age which advances
We have failed to convert knowledge into wisdom. To convert knowledge into wisdom, so essential for obtaining a dynamic personality, it is essential to rise to the level of Buddhi. At this level, it is possible to combine executive efficiency with social efficiency and transform brute efficiency into humanized efficiency. This requirement of the two-fold efficiency persuaded the founding fathers of the Indian Administrative Service to adopt another powerful concept of Gita, Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam, as the motto of the service. It means that yoga should be the technique of doing work.
What is Yoga?
Yoga literally means Yukta (united) with self. To understand the implication of the motto, we have to see the full verse along with the two preceding verses:
Yogastha kuru karmani sangang tyaktva Dhananjaya l
Sidhyasidhyoh samo bhutva samatvang yoga uchyate ll 2/48
Be steady in yoga, Arjun, do whatever you must do; give up attachment, be indifferent to failure and success. This stability (samatva-buddhi) is yoga. (P. Lal's translation)
Durena hyabarang karma buddhiyogat Dhananjaya l
Buddhau saranamanviccha kripana phalahetaba ll 2/49
Selfish work is inferior to the work of a balanced uncoveting mind; shelter yourself in this mental stability (samatva-buddhi), Arjuna. Harassed are the seekers of the fruits of action. (P. Lal)
Buddhiyukto jahatiha ubhe sukritadushkrite l
Tasmadyogaya yujyaswa yogah karmasu kaushalam ll 2/50
With this mental poise, you will free your self from good deeds and ill deeds. Devote yourself to this yoga; it is the secret of success in work.
This mental poise is buddhi. This buddhi or 'intelligent will' as Sri Aurobindo calls it, is not affected by good work or bad work or with their result. Buddhi is indifferent to results. Here, there is no desire of fruits or desire for power. Buddhi is samabuddhi - looking at everyone and everything with the same eye. That is Yoga and that is the technique that is to be adopted for doing work. Buddhi guides one to be united with the higher self. And therefore this buddhi is yoga and yoga is the skill of performing, remaining united with yoga. Meaning of yoga is made clear by Krishna in verse 48. The samatva-buddhi or stability is yoga.
Swami Ranganathananda describes yoga as 'the path to achieve a fullness of personality development. That, when transferred to work, helps one to achieve all-round excellence in performance.' Elsewhere he says, 'Yoga is the philosophy of life and action capable of ensuring individual and collective welfare. It makes one work without discrimination and with equality achieving samatva (Justice). Yoga gives one the power of concentration, single-minded devotion, full control of mind and body and increases insight and understanding.'
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan says, ' He is rid of selfishness and therefore is incapable of evil' yoga is evenness of mind in success or failure, possessed by one who is engaged in the performance of his proper duties, while his mind rests in God.' Work is also explained in verse 49. Any work is not work. Selfish work is inferior to the work of a balanced and uncoveting mind (buddhiyoga or buddhiyukta mind). Therefore, one must take shelter in this mental stability. Work therefore is not as important as the buddhi of the worker. If the worker is endowed with buddhi then whatever he does is bound to be relevant. Buddhi is intellect, which is capable of making a choice between, relevant and irrelevant and chooses self-realization as the only guiding factor determining action. It makes a person wise enabling him to shed both sukrita (good deeds) and duskrita (ill deeds), leaving only one alternative with man, i.e., self-realization. Therefore the buddhiyukta, hopefully, our civil servant, will have the capacity to shed choices, adopt yoga which will make him incapable of taking evil action and enable him to strive for self-realization by doing his duties successfully through yoga.
It becomes obvious why these few words were chosen as the motto of the service. The founding fathers dreamt that they were laying the foundation of a public service for independent India, which would be able to combine work efficiency with insight and social awareness by working through yoga. That would ensure justice for all and maximum concern for people. And it was perhaps also expected that these Yogastha people, the civil servants, would also not hanker for possessions and power!
What finally is aimed at is the concept of Rajarshi, enshrined in Chapter 4 of Gita. A public servant should be like Gita's Rajarshi. A Rajarshi is a combination of the qualities of a Raja, a King and a Rishi, a sage. Raja is one who shines in responsibility, Ranjate Virajate. He also pleases, ranjate. Mahabharata (Shantiparva) describes the king thus: Ranjitascha prajah sarvastena rajeti shabdayate (one who pleases his subjects is called a Raja). His qualities are power and efficiency. On the other hand, the principal quality of a sage is his wisdom. A Rajarshi therefore has the power and efficiency of a king and the wisdom of a Rishi. His efficiency and energy enables him to perform and his wisdom, his darshan, guides him in that performance of duties. The civil servant must be able to become a Rajarshi ' a combination of power, efficiency, professionalism and wisdom to achieve welfare of people. If the administrator has a small darshan, he becomes static, a burden. With a large darshan, he is Rajarshi, a dynamic force with wisdom and the sense and capability of taking responsibility of the masses. Obviously extraordinary effort is required to achieve this extraordinary energy and this synthesis of power with responsibility, strength of character, clear thinking, dedication and practical efficiency.
And the secret of secrets, the essence, is in the last verse of Gita:
Yatra yogeshwara Krishno yatra Partho dhanurdharah l
Jatra srirvijayo bhutirdhruba nitirmatirmama ll 18/78
'Where Krishna, lord of yoga, is,
Where Arjun, wielder of the bow, is,
Are victory, success, prosperity and law,
I am convinced of this.' (the P. Lal transcreation)
We too are convinced of this: if the civil servant can transform himself into a Rajarshi, then doubtless he will have the qualities of both Krishna, the master of yoga, with the energy of vision and calm spirituality and Arjun, wielder of the bow, with the energy of intense action and efficiency. This will also ensure the achievement of lokasangraha of which Gita says in chapter III
Sakta karmayavidyanso yatha kurvanti Bharata l
Kuryatvidvangstathasaktaschikirshulokasangraham ll 3/25
The wise man must act even as the work-obsessed fool does
But shedding selfishness and pursuing knowledge ll (P. Lal)
Lokaraksha implies that people without wisdom work for self. Wise people work for others. Lokasamgraha is holding together of people in the way of dharma. How does one do that? Just before this verse Krishna speaks about setting an example ' 'I do not need to work but still I do just to set an example for other people to follow, because people will always imitate a superior, following the example set by his action.' (21-23/3). Therefore, the civil servant must set an example for people that increases his credibility and while doing work uses state-power for the fulfillment of the desires of the people thereby pleasing them. All this will work towards the achievement of the ideal of lokasamgraha, which is in any case one of the responsibilities of the civil servant.
The civil servant therefore has an onerous task before him. He has to prepare himself for a very difficult but a very significant role in society. He has the politician to handle. He has various lobbies and vested interests to face. Above all, he has his own shortcomings, weaknesses and inhibitions to handle. Who will prepare him for all this? Who will bell the cat?
Buddha, while lying on his deathbed, was asked by Ananda, his disciple,
'Lord, after your departure who should we go to clear our doubts?'
Buddha said, 'Atmano Deepo Bhava' (Be like a lamp; be a light unto thyself).
Thus, the responsibility of training the civil servant lies with the civil servant himself. He has to strengthen himself and empower himself with such energy of the inner self that he can rise above all adversities and crisis of conscience and be of great ability and help to society.