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Approach:

  1. Intro – Brief introduction about Indian bureaucratic work culture.
  2. Discuss both the pros and cons of downsizing government and privatizing some services.
  3. Conclusion

Owing to its large size and importance, bureaucracy has been regarded as an organised governance sub-system of the total societal system. Over time, it has developed its structures, processes, values, norms and process of behaviour. These are what form part of the bureaucratic work culture. The manner in which administration is carried out, the way state machinery interacts with other organs of the state, including other departments as well as citizens, the procedure of taking decisions, etc. all form part of the work culture of bureaucracy. As a result, the work culture that has developed in administration is that of red-tapism, inefficiency in providing services, inordinate delays in decision making and even lethargy.

Downsizing Government:

There is a need of restructuring, reorganizing and downsizing various ministries and departments which would bring greater efficiency and cut cost in the spirit of minimum government maximum governance. Second administrative reforms commission, has also recommended the winding up or merger of several government departments. Downsizing can be achieved through:

  • The ministerial staff divided in numerous categories such as UDC, LDC etc. to be replaced by a multi-skilled computer savvy position called Executive Assistant.
  • Along with digitalization of government services, the Singapore model, where the government selects best bureaucrats on a renewable contract basis is worth emulating.
  • Lateral entry from other services and from open market and a reward system for performance.

It also important that downsizing should not lead to manpower crunch at the field level. Therefore, government should focus on rightsizing rather than mindless public sector downsizing and retrenchment.

Privatise Services:

Post liberalization, the role of state has changed from being the major provider of services to being a facilitator for development. As such, there has been a trend towards privatisation, especially of loss making and peripheral businesses such as hotel, tourism, engineering etc. Resultant competition improves cost effectiveness and service quality. However, essential services of the state in a developing country with large poor population and huge inequality cannot be privatised. Bureaucracy being more people oriented than the markets ensures that responsibility of the state towards all citizens are carried out in a fair and just manner.

PPP models such as in infrastructure and other services like health are still evolving and complete withdrawal of state from them in an attempt to downsize government should be proceeded with caution, keeping in view the affordability of services for common citizens. It is expected to promote competition leading to cost cutting and greater customer satisfaction. However, private ownership alone may not translate into improved efficiency and public interest as profit-making strategies may make essential services unaffordable or unavailable to large segments of the population.

Thus, the concerns related to affordability of essential services, social equity, accountability, labour concerns like employment conditions, erosion of wages and decreased levels of union membership need to be addressed before outright downsizing of government machinery. In order to improve the work culture and increase productivity, following steps may be considered:

  • Address the political-bureaucracy relationship: Political pressure and instructions erode the decision-making culture of bureaucracy. Rather than being citizen centric and functioning as a unit, the administration becomes self-centred and works in a manner to meet individual interests.
  • Transparent and objective performance assessment system to keep the staff motivated.
  • Accountability towards decision making to be instilled in the organisation.
  • Measures such as biometric attendance, timely reporting in office and meetings, regular feedback and updates, etc. can help develop a health work culture and increase productivity.
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