By P.K.Balachandran/South Asian Monitor
Media reports based on research and official data on government employment in India suggest that with the burgeoning demand from citizens for social and economic services, and given the violent agitations for caste and community quotas in government jobs, there is a strong case for the expansion of the Indian bureaucracy.
But any move to expand the bureaucracy will be slammed by the elite and the media because these two consider such objectives as “unproductive and wasteful”.
It is true that overall governments in India grossly unde-perform. But one of the reasons for the inability of the Indian bureaucracy to perform is its small size. Though seen as being gargantuan by the media and the elites, the Indian bureaucracy is actually too small for the functions it is expected to perform.
It is small in comparison with bureaucracies elsewhere in the world, including advanced countries which swear by the virtues of the private sector.
According to the Hindustan Times (November 16, 2015), a study revealed that India has 1,622 government servants for every 100,000 residents, while the US has 7,681 per 100,000 residents.
The Indian central government with 3.1 million employees has 257 personnel serving every 100,000 in the population. But the US federal government, with 2.1 million employees, has 840 personnel serving every 100,000.
Keeping posts unfilled is another drawback in the Indian administrative system. According toBusiness Today, there are more than 2.9 million vacancies in the Indian central and state governments put together, which have not been filled for years.
Of the 2.9 million vacancies, 1.3 million vacancies are in the education sector. Of these 1.3 million, there are 900,000 unfilled posts of elementary teachers when elementary schools are the weakest link in the Indian education system. There are 417,000 unfilled positions under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, another education programme.
Over 400,000 jobs are yet to be filled in the police forces. There are 412,000 vacancies in various ministries and departments. The railways alone have 253,000 vacancies, according to the Business Today report.
The extent of popular demand for these jobs can be imagined from the fact that when the railways advertised 90,000 jobs recently, applications were received from 23 million Indians.
According to the Indian Law Commission, the country needs 60, 476 judges to clear the backlog of 30 million cases, but there are only 16,119 judges in India. Clearly, the judiciary needs an exponential increase in the number of courts and judges.
The expansion of the judiciary will reduce the cost and hassles of litigation for the common man. Hundreds of thousands of persons, mostly the poor, who languish in jail for years as remand prisoners pending trial, will get justice in a reasonable period of time. The over-crowded Indian jails will be less of the hell hole they are now.
Constitutional quotas not filled
Quotas for socially and educationally deprived castes enjoined by the constitution are not filled.Under the constitution, 27 percent of government jobs and places in government educational institutions are reserved for the other backward classes (OBCs) and 22.5 percent for dalits and tribals. But there is a cap on reservations. It cannot be above 60 percent of the posts now with 10 percent recently set aside for economically backward people upper castes.
According to TheTimes of India (December 26, 2015), data acquired by using the Right to Information Act showed that in 2015, only 12 percent of the employees in 40 central government ministries and departments were OBCs, when this category of castes should get 27 percent of the posts by law.
Creation of temporary posts
In 2013, as many as 27.8 million of the estimated 49.7 million workers in India’s organised or formal sector were in government employment. But of these, 12.3 million, or 44 percent, were in temporary jobs without pension and other security benefits, according to theIndian Staffing Federation which keeps track of employment and the nature of employment in the government and private sectors.
Many government functions are farmed out to private agencies whose service rules vary. At any rate, the private sector does not ensure job security and post-retirement benefits that are enjoined in the state sector.
Distortions affect performance
Glaring distortions are seen in the personnel structure of the Indian bureaucracy which adversely affect its efficiency or its ability to deliver the goods.Studies showed that in the central government, 59.69 percent of the personnel belonged to the lowest skilled categories such as Group C and Group D. Clearly, there is a severe shortage of skilled staff and higher-level administrators.
Need to spend more
Contrary to the popular notion that Indian governments spend too much on the bureaucracy and thus waste scarce resources, the central and state governments spend comparatively very little on the upkeep of their bureaucracies as compared elsewhere.
The Economic Times said in a report dated May 10, 2018, that data from 2008 to 2017 showed that expenditure on the bureaucracy was only 13.8 percent of its GDP. But in the US, it was 37.8 percent, 45.8 percent in the EU, 41.1 percent in the US, 32.3 percent in South Korea and 39 percent in Japan.
Even in America, where private enterprise is the hallmark, there is great recognition of the need to have an adequate number of government personnel.
Research has revealed that in to serve the people, especially in times of man-made or natural disasters and economic crises, governments have played a key role in meeting the challenge, restoring normalcy and bringing the economy and society back to health.
Most European states are welfare states. Therefore, governments in those countries need personnel to deliver the facilities associated with public welfare efficiently and quickly.
Indian governments claim that they are welfare-oriented and keep announcing welfare schemes year after year. But delivery has been uneven and generally very poor.
This is only partly because of a lack of will to serve the common man, once a politician is elected to office with the common man’s vote. This is so because the government machinery under the politician is understaffed and structurally weak.
According to India Today (January 11, 2019), it is estimated that if the central and state governments were to merely fill the existing 2.9 million vacancies, the budgetary allocation would go up by 76 percent and the fiscal deficit will increase by 21 percent.
But the expenditure will be worthwhile if the country gets a functioning government which delivers the services expected of it in a developing country.
Solving unemployment problem
Government expansion will help meet the clamour for jobs at least partially.
According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), there were about 31 million unemployed youth in India as of February 2018. And as per the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more than 30 percent of Indians in the 15 to 29 years age group are neither in employment nor in education or training.
This is why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared before the 2014 elections that he will generate 10 million jobs a year.In April 2018, the Modi government claimed that it had created 3.1 million jobs between September 2017 and February 2018 based on employee payroll data. But the CMIE said only 1.8 million were created in 2017.