Benefits and problems associated with the inclusion of ex-bureaucrats in the cabinet

It is often discussed whether India has not been completely successful in the efficient execution of its policies since independence or not. Despite the enormous progress made in areas such as space and information technology, India has always struggled in many basic, but extremely important social areas such as health care, education, sanitation, housing, and food security.

As the country celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence, it is fitting that the present government is relying on bureaucrats/professionals having training and experience in policy implementation at the grassroots level to improve the living standards of the people.

The induction of professionals as cabinet ministers in the Council of Ministers (COMs) has now become a new paradigm in India. This decision or approach has its advantages and disadvantages and hence this approach needs to be evaluated.


Benefits of induction of ex-bureaucrats in COMs

Performance-friendly Policies: The experience of bureaucrats helps them to shape a policy that is both viable and performance-friendly.

Low loyalty to ideology: Another advantage of their inclusion in the Council of Ministers is that they have relatively less allegiance to a political ideology, which means they have much less ‘political responsibility and accountability and thus public interest. It paves the way for long-term decisions.

Avoidance of Populist Measures: Elected representatives are inclined towards populist measures for short-term political gains, which in turn weighs heavily on the overall condition of the economy.

Such policies often become instruments of protection and corruption. The seasoned bureaucrat turned politician thinks practically and doesn’t make promises that are difficult to fulfill.

Internal-external knowledge of the system: The bureaucrats who are part of the system have internal-external knowledge of it; It is very easy for them to break the inter-and inter-departmental ‘silos’, which can significantly reduce red tape and thereby improve productivity.

Many economies testify to the fact that when policies were given an entirely new structure, it made dramatic progress. India’s liberalization of the economy in the early 1990s is one such example.

Quick and Seamless Implementation of Welfare Measures: The exercise of involving elected representatives as well as professionals will not only strengthen our parliamentary democracy but will also help in speedy and seamless implementation of welfare measures for the common man.

In crisis management and resource utilization, the skill certainly gives professionals an added edge over their elected counterparts in the cabinet.

Strategic intellectual and managerial skills: While they may initially struggle to gain the acceptance and trust of the workforce and the general public, their ability to encourage team effort soon works in their favor.

Furthermore, given their administrative experience, they can be of immense value to the government in dealing with conflicts, disputes, and protests.

Simultaneously, their strategic, intellectual, and managerial skills can be used to build consensus among conflicting stakeholders. Thus, their involvement in government can help in improving governance.

 

Challenges of inducting bureaucrats as ministers

Not Elected Representatives: Bureaucrats are not elected representatives and can sometimes ignore the will of the people in the performance of their duties.

Therefore, it is often said that populist politics supports the concept of democracy and listens to the voice of the people.

But seasoned politicians always have a better understanding of what people want. They understand people’s pulse better.

Given India’s diversity in terms of geography, demography, climate, economy, culture, and social structures, its problems at different places require special treatment.

The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not be the panacea for all its problems, especially in terms of policy execution.

Thus, there is a need for a wider representation of the communities in the cabinet. Furthermore, the inclusion of privately elected bureaucrats may lead to exclusion of participation rather than inclusion in the Council of Ministers.

way ahead

Strengthening the Institutions of Governance: Parliament is the highest representative body in India. The political representative represents the electorate.

Therefore, there is a need to develop better practices and procedures for parliamentary functioning and to make Parliament a dynamic institution in line with the changing times.

‘Open government’ is a key element of governance reform: The atmosphere of secrecy in the working of the government encourages misconduct. There is no system of pre-control, as decisions are taken behind closed doors.

Thus, it is necessary to strengthen the Right to Information (RTI) system in India.

Need for good governance, not governance: The aim of government and administration should be to achieve ‘good governance’.

Good governance is reflected by features such as participatory, consensus-oriented, accountability, transparency, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency, equivalence and inclusion, and adheres to the rule of law.

Capacity building of local self-government: Local self-government lacks human resources, knowledge (skill-based and practical knowledge), and basic resources to fulfill its functions.

Conclusion

Thus, given the ever-increasing global and domestic socio-economic challenges, a suitable balance between elected representatives and bureaucrats/professionals is the need of the hour for the Indian parliamentary system.

The participation of both will be important for the government to improve governance and to supply service to its people.

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