Two Central level Administrative Reforms Commission (ARCs) over four decades and our own rule for more than seven decades couldn’t change our administrative culture. This is the system that defeats all the so called reforms. This is what is unconvincing the public about the changes on the ground.
Surely YES. In terms of technology sophistication we have been steadily going up. We can boast ourselves of being the champion of information technology that is changing the world into the ideal 21st century character. The technology is boosting efficiency, transparency and public comfort. Yet, the public at large is a lot dissatisfied in dealing with what is to rightfully come to them. One may not miss the ghost of the British legacy if he or she visits a Central or State government department. A stamp paper selling point, notary spot, post office registered mailing counter, office of various registrations, the Tahsilldar offices, office of industry commissioners and even the courts still bear the British legacy significantly. Hardly anyone visiting these places would be satisfied with the services they get from the so called public servants.
Four and half years ago, when the government changed, Mr Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister said he wanted to remove the obsolete and tormenting British era rules to ensure what may be called citizen centric administration. Not that nothing has changed since then. Something has changed, but many things have left unchanged, as if no God on earth can do that. In 2015, it was said, attestation and notary requirements had gone. Yet, these are required now in many cases.
In the history of India, since 1966 there were two Central level Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC). These were nothing but alternate political accommodation to accommodate some leaders in recognizable positions with pay and perks when the Cabinet is full. As far as citizen’s life is concerned these two ARCs over the last 40 years hadn’t brought much change. This gives the public a feeling that all are equal. They look for change at the public service delivery level also along with socio-economic growth. This is one area the government must look at, though it seems to be a tough task since the elephantine legacy will not easily fall without giving stern warning at lower-level cadre of public servants. While the top is mostly of good quality with a heart for listening the public request, the lethargic middle is getting rotten with junks acquired through their own sloth over flooding files. The lower is the worst in responding to the public needs.
In most government offices it is seen, when a person visits for anything the concerned clerk may not be seen on the seat at that time. Another person sitting adjacent may not open his mouth about the where-abouts of his colleague. No government office work can be done in a couple of visits ever. Two ARCs over four decades and our own rule for more than seven decades couldn’t change our administrative culture. This is the system that defeats all the so called reforms. This is what is unconvincing the public about the changes on the ground.
Our law makers need to have tough hand and focused approach to change this culture. When we have come a long way in economic reforms and succeeded in eliminating corruptions at some levels through the deployment of information technology, we let our administrative system become rancid. Every citizen is a sufferer of the putrefaction of administrative system. This is obviously a scar on the face of economically growing India with a heavy liability of public disappointment on her shoulder.
The only way out of this is to fix responsibility since the clerical level itself whereat the first public interaction takes place. Every government office must keep a record of visitor, purpose of his or her visit and name of the person in charge to be met in the office – not just for the sake of meeting the formality, but to verify the number of visits that the citizen has paid for any work, ultimately to fix the responsibility of the service delivery. There must be some mechanism to count how severely a citizen is sweating and getting harassed in his or her struggle for fetching the rightful service from a government office. With the luxury of technology, nothing is difficult. What we need is a heart, determination and a strong hand. The desirable changes will follow.