Cost cut: Pruning of central bureaucracy unlikely

Published: 20th February 2013 08:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2013 08:24 AM   |  A+A-

Despite the impression that the bureaucracy in the country is bloated and needs a massive allocation for wages and means, it is unlikely that the size of the bureaucracy will be further reduced.

In the past ten years, the number of employees in the Central government service has seen a significant decline and it is estimated that no further cut is required.

From a high of 38 lakh employees in 2001, the number of Central government employees has come down to 31.16 lakh. Of these, nearly 45 per cent are employed by the Railways. A senior official in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said it was the result of a conscious decision to replace regular employees with the contract workers.  And all the vacant positions at the Class III and Class IV level are now being filled by time-bound contracts.  A direct result is seen in all the ministerial buildings in Lutyen’s zone, where peons, drivers and computer operators and such are now employed on contract basis.

Meanwhile, the argument being put forward for not effecting anymore cuts in the bureaucratic ranks is that, when compared to other countries the number of government employees in India is dismally low. Thus the Central government has 257 employees per 100,000 people, while the US Federal Government has 840. There are an estimated 1.8 crore government employees in the country, including those in the state government service. The numbers add up to only 2 crore, when Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and varsities are included, a miniscule percentage of the country’s 125crore strong population. Nonetheless, the expenditure on the government  is still very high. It is neither the number of employees nor the wages that are as serious a problem as expenditure on keeping the machinery running.

The top executives of the government account for about 5 per cent (1.5 lakh) but the per capita expenditure is more than `2 lakh. And it comes down as the hierarchy goes down, but is way above the parallel positions in the private sector. 

In fact, the market price mechanism in the country is often dictated by what the government servant is able to pay. Although, the DOPT has forwarded its suggestion to the Union Ministry of Finance (MoF) for Budget allocation, it has categorically said that it was wary of “judicial activism”.  The general feeling is that the PILs, seeking  a reduction of government size,  miss the point that fewer number of public servants means fewer schemes can be serviced.

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