ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unbalanced Governance

Democratic supervision of the bureaucracy cannot be at the cost of administrative autonomy and vice versa.

The Constitution, while retaining the structure of the colonial civil services, made the bureaucracy subordinate to the political power of the elected representatives. Unlike in the colonial times when the civil services were kept deliberately political, the post-Independence state consciously whittled down the political role of the bureaucracy to the bare minimum. However, following the liberal democratic framework, it provided functional autonomy to the civil service which was meant to remain politically neutral in implementing policy. Of course, as is well known, this political neutrality of the civil services has remained more of a democratic aspiration of the Indian polity rather than established practice. Many in these services have become complicit in the corruption and criminality of sections of the political class. They have also attached themselves to vested interests or have become obstacles to the implementation of progressive public policy. On the other hand, the formal neutrality of the services has provided the public-minded civil servant the space necessary to maintain a distance from political pressures and also check the excesses of many elected representatives.

For long, the power of those who would abuse their authority, whether elected representatives or bureaucrats, remained much stronger than those who attempted to keep power within the rule of law. While this power imbalance remains, it has perhaps been changing just a little bit in recent times. A part of this has been a result of a deepening democratisation of Indian society which is challenging vested interests through mass mobilisations, a part is due to the spread of communication, information technology and the media and some also due to the institution of legal weapons like the right to information and the public interest litigation. The manner in which public opinion has cornered the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav over the suspension of the young IAS officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, certainly suggests so.

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