The highly venerated status of the bureaucrats of our land

Khelsoril Wanbe *

Undeniably, people hold bureaucrats or civil servants in high esteem. Obviously, it is by virtue of the fact that these people are of special breed that possess certain distinctive traits different from that of most others. The civil service exams are generally regarded as one of the toughest exams that test the resolve, willpower, diligence, perseverance etc of the aspirants.

Once they overcome the tough hurdles of going through monotonous and mundane daily reading of hours together and succeed in the three round mental and psychological tests, what await them are long years of administrative authority and challenges making them highly envied and coveted personalities in the society.

As we all know, they enjoy the privilege of being in the corridors of power for about thirty years, on the average, rising from the lower to the higher rungs of administrative hierarchy. They are directly involved in the formulation of developmental plans, policies and programs that are directly concerned with the well being and existence of the people, so to say.

However, there also seems to be some kind of general mental tendency of associating them with the prevailing culture of rampant corruption, perhaps owing to the fact that bureaucracy is an integral feature, or in other words, the backbone of our democracy. The brain, expertise and efficiency of administration emanate from our highflying bureaucrats.

And ironically, there are criticisms galore suggesting our bureaucracy as being sluggish, inefficient and subjected to legislative control. Some even accuse it of being an agent of inefficiency, red tape and corruption, rather than facilitator of democratic administration.

We have also heard and read allegations and accusations of bureaucrats being entangled or actively participating in our popular culture of corruption, but how far these are true is only in the realms of limitless speculations. Some expert answers at suggest that if the bureaucrats really wish to immerse themselves in the muddy water, they can make crores of rupees in a short time.

However, it is also said that taking a dive into corruption can incur high risks, fears and sleeplessness in the hearts and minds of those that have been infected by it. The dangers of being uncovered and penalised will perennially loom large before the mind of the guilty. One expert even hints that the percentage of bureaucrats indulging in corruption is quite high.

And, of course, it would definitely be wrong to stereotype them all as corrupt. Even if they donít indulge in corruption and make themselves worth hundreds of crores of rupees, they are already enviable lot with the high respectability, the handsome salary, the attractive perks and the administrative clout they wield right from the moment they start climbing the rungs of power ladder.

The strict training they undergo just after clearing the three-phased exam and just before they join the service seems to preclude the possibility of ever indulging in corrupt activities, but what is commonly heard is that some of them are actually hooked to the devilish ploy/bait.

Notwithstanding everything, as mentioned earlier the bureaucratic officers are entitled to very handsome salary, and it is up to them to utilise as capital for launching some personal supplementary business without having to siphon crores of public money. On the other hand, assuming they decide to dip their fingers into public money, the possibility of them becoming crorepatis is almost certain.

If all our bureaucrats choose to distance themselves from the culture of corruption, many astounding changes could happen in our highly complex and trouble-ridden society. As they are directly involved in the making/taking of crucial decisions, framing and execution of plans, policies, programs and strategies of developments and social changes, there will be sea difference if a system is formulated which will make it less difficult for them to shun corrupt practices and activities.

In the present system and culture, it may sometimes become difficult for them to disentangle and disengaged from corrupt pressures coming from different directions. What we sometimes hear is disturbing; diligent, sincere, studious, industrious civil servants are said to sometimes fall prey to corrupt circumstances and pressures gradually leading them astray from the right path. Corrupt pressures and influences, I feel, must be sometimes hard to resist or withstand.

In the democratic system that we are living, we hear, see, do a lot of things that are wrong whose cumulative effects and consequences are socially horrifying and terrifying. Our tiny state has today become an integral part of a mighty nation, which actually is not free from corruption and malpractices that tarnish its overall image.

In such a huge nation, we have thousands of bureaucrats in the midst of hundreds of millions of people of which a large majority are afflicted by the problems of poverty, unemployment, injustice, discrimination, underdevelopment, oppression, suppression etc. The people directly elect our legislators and people have direct connection with the political representatives but the bureaucrats/civil servants play a big and direct role in the execution and implementation of the numerous plans, programs, schemes, policies, visions, dreams and so on and so forth.

We also do hear a lot about political interference, intervention and pressure, which the highly knowledgeable bureaucrats are to tackle and handle tactfully which may sometimes actually bring about results that adversely affect people of different sections in different, some positively, some unfavourably. The difficulty in the administration of a complicated, composite and heterogeneous society like ours seems to be in the effort or endeavour to maintain equilibrium of development and progress.

The bureaucrats have a big role to play in devising ways and means to resolve a number of complicated social issues. One thing is already a proven fact that even before they began to discharge their civil service they are already a special breed of people with vast, wide and comprehensive knowledge on varied subjects. Their theoretical knowledge of diverse matters and issues, I should say, is mindboggling; if one looks at the syllabus of civil service exams, one will realise how tough they are.

So, my point is that these are people with sharp, intelligent and comprehensive mind and knowledge which if utilised correctly or as intended can wrought wonders in the society and nation. We have actually seen and heard about many of our bureaucrats who have made astounding contributions in our society.

However, it might also not be wrong to say that there are also many among them who are vulnerable to being swayed and bent by corrupt winds and circumstances, whose willpower and fortitude have been tested and sagged by pressures coming from different directions.

It seems a pertinent question as to how these academic as well as practical public administrators can be made to work responsibly and accountably in an atmosphere free from interferences and pressures that can derail their normal functioning. How they can discharge their administrative duties more efficiently, effectively and satisfactorily seems to be a question recurring in the minds of many who sometimes find themselves entangled in the so-called bureaucratic red tape and rigmarole.

This also seems debatable as to whether the bureaucrats should, through legislation or any other means, be made to enjoy freedom from interferences and pressures and be enable to take their own decisions and execute programs according to what they know is the best.

We have heard of complaints of bureaucrats not being able to work efficiently due to pressures and interferences. Due to one or the other reasons, we often encounter that our bureaucrats are not executing their duties efficiently. It could be combined effect of personal, social, political factors or pressures; but what we want is an administration free from corruption, favouritism, nepotism and sluggishness.

We want to see our bureaucrats free from the common maladies that have infected the common ordinary citizens, which might be actually possible if serious attempts, efforts, and endeavours are made with cooperation among all.

* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 25 , 2018.

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