NEW DELHI: While the top bureaucracy is feeling empowered under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in the last one year made it a point to interact directly with top bureaucrats, the lower bureaucracy is still awaiting the promised change.
Express spoke to several Central bureaucrats of Under Secretary and Section Officer ranks on whether the government had delivered “achhe din” for them.
An officer said that in a department, a Secretary and a Joint Secretary must have a monthly interaction with the lower bureaucracy to re-energise the system. “We are repealing archaic laws but not demolishing archaic bureaucratic structures -- the dos and don’ts. The lower bureaucracy is known as ‘delivering hands’, but there is hardly any one-to-one interaction with the heavyweights. Projects and grievances must be discussed to make the system more inclusive. At present it is more about secrecy rather than transparency which, in fact, is very disappointing,” he said.
The message from another ministry was rather strong. Requesting anonymity, an Under Secretary said, “You cannot run a citizen-centric government with a feudal-structured bureaucracy.”
“All sections and hierarchies in the system need to be integrated for higher goals. The bureaucracy was anaemic in the last one decade and was really excited when the new government came to power, but the change within the system is yet to create that environment,” he said.
The government may have tried to fill up the vacancies of Secretaries and Joint Secretaries and transferred several officers to build a core team at the top, but it is yet to take an initiative to strengthen the lower bureaucracy which is severely understaffed, said a Section Officer in another ministry.
“In 2001 we had a strength of 38.76 lakh employees, which came down to 31.16 lakh in 2011. So while our population is going up and the demand to deliver is increasing, the ‘dealing hands’ in the ministries and departments are now fewer. It suffered more under the UPA rule, when a survey had shown that there were just 30.99 lakh employees in 2009. How would you run welfare schemes with fast-depleting staff,” he asked.
“The Centre must re-examine the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission which called for the empowerment of the lower-level bureaucracy,” he added.
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