- Introduction of new reforms:
- National Recruitment Agency
- Compulsory retirement to remove the unfit
- Rationalisation of autonomous bodies
- Taxpayers charter and faceless assessment
Transforming public administration
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Since the independence, every government in India has expressed frustration at the inefficiency of India’s vast bureaucracy and the maze of red-tape. Hundreds of committees have provided recommendations but the basic structure of public administration has remained unaltered. Therefore, it is no small matter that the government has embarked on an ambitious effort in recent time to reform the administration from its roots.
- In India, the first Administrative Reform Commission was set up in 1966 under Morarji Desai but it became a victim of bureaucratic sloth. Its report and recommendations would be placed in Parliament in 1977, but unable to implement.
- The reforms of 1991 freed many parts of the economy from direct government control. But the functioning of the bureaucracy went through few changes.
- A second Administrative Reform Commission was set up in 2005 under Veerappa Moily. It recommended that the authority and legitimacy is derived not from the mandate of the people but from an immutable corpus of rules that it has prescribed for itself, without any correspondence to the needs and aspirations of the people. But yet there is no major changes took place.
Introduction of new reforms:
National Recruitment Agency:
- The central government has announced the establishment of a National Recruitment Agency that will conduct a Common Eligibility Test across the country.
- For now, it will be a standardised first-level filter that will enable candidates to take things forward for final selection.
- The scores will be shared, so state governments, public sector and even private sector can use them as they deem fit.
Compulsory retirement to remove the unfit:
- The government has issued the guidelines which includes provisions that allow for civil servants to be compulsorily retired after he/she has completed 30 years of service and crossed the age of 50 (or 55 even if less than 30 years in service).
- Around 320 senior officers have already been retired through this route since 2014.
- It provided basic criteria and procedures for using these provisions to remove officials whose integrity is doubtful or found to be ineffective.
Rationalisation of autonomous bodies:
- The central government alone has hundreds of autonomous bodies — think-tanks, industry bodies, advisory boards and so on. These entities have a role in the delivery of public services but, inevitably, there is also a large amount of duplication and redundancy.
- For the first time, the central government is carrying out a comprehensive initiative to review the functioning of these institutions.
- Recently, the ministry of textiles abolished the All India Handicrafts Board, Cotton Advisory Board, etc. Their duties have been transferred to other existing bodies for better delivery.
Taxpayers charter and faceless assessment:
- The GOI has announced a Taxpayers Charter that clearly lays out 14 rights for the taxpayer.
- The announcement of the Charter accompanied a shift to a system of faceless assessment where cases are to be assigned by an automated system.
- The measures will significantly reduce persistent complaints of harassment and rent-seeking.
The overall direction of the reform effort should be clear — to improve the inflow/outflow of personnel, rationalise processes, weed out redundant bodies and upgrade the interface with the citizen. The public sector reform efforts in India need to embrace these changes selectively and draw on a range of public management models that are appropriate to different contexts while putting the needs and interests of citizens.