Bureaucracy, which is regarded as the permanent government, forms the foundation of apparatus to run the daily business of the nation. Government leadership may change with the new election or shift in power equation but there is the permanent mechanism of the civil service, educational and vocational institutions, security agencies and public service enterprises that keep working to fill any void. In this sense, the efficiency of the bureaucracy counts a lot. It is more so in our national context where political instability and frequently changing power equations is a rule than an exception. It is important to develop a system that keeps bureaucracy functioning efficiently during odd and normal times. However, despite the high expectations from the public, the performance standard of this crucial state machinery in our country has remained far from satisfactory. It has often been felt that we lack an effective system of reward and punishment to manage bureaucracy that runs on the tax payers’ money. Political meddling and highhandedness of trade unions are among the factors that are responsible behind bureaucratic laxity and underperformance. Many government offices are turned into recruitment centres to employ the near and dear ones of those in influential places. In such a bid, actual official requirements and performance capabilities of the candidates are disregarded. This happens in absence of specifically defined terms of reference and the role of a neutral authority on human resource recruitment and training. While some departments are overstaffed, others that need well qualified hands are understaffed. That affects the general service delivery.
The bold and down-to-earth Minister for General Administration Lalbabu Pandit is trying to make changes that are vital to upgrade bureaucratic competency. He has rejected the idea of the previous government to give voluntary retirement to those civil servants who may not be willing to serve in the places deputed by the government. The voluntary retirement scheme would not only spend billions from the coffers but also create a need to recruit fresh hands. We will have to spend a long time before the process of new recruitment and training completes. The state has invested huge amounts of money and time on the existing civil servants who have not yet reached the legal retirement age. Valuable experience and expertise they have earned need to be utilised instead of sending them home on early retirement. If they are not up to date with latest technology involving their job, they should be imparted necessary training, refresher courses and orientation. When positions fall vacant after the untimely retirement of these civil servants, political parties in power seize the opportunity to admit their cadres on daily wage and contract basis. This process does not require the test of minimum working efficiency. This is where the performance downgrading of civil servants starts. To end these anomalies, premature retirement choice should be discouraged and new recruitments should be made with the full involvement of the Public Service Commission. Minister Pandit has rightly said that only those who are not mentally fit to serve can be given untimely retirement on performance ground.