In a modern democratic polity, there is a concept of the political executive and permanent executive elected people’s representatives forms the political executive and bureaucracy form the permanent executive. Ministers frame policy decisions and bureaucrats execute these. In the initial decades after independence, the relationship between the permanent executives and the political executives were characterized by mutual understanding, respect, and cooperation, without encroaching upon each other’s domain. However, in subsequent decades, the situation has changed. There are instances of the political executive insisting upon the permanent executives to follow its agenda. Respect for an appreciation of upright bureaucrats has declined. There is an increasing tendency among the political executive to get involved in routine administrative matters such as transfers, posting etc. Under this scenario, there is a definitive trend towards ‘politicization of bureaucracy’. The rising materialism and acquisitiveness in social life has also adversely impacted upon the ethical values of both the permanent executive and the political executive. What are the consequences of this ‘politicization of bureaucracy? Discuss. (250 words)
The politicization of bureaucracy refers to a situation where bureaucrats are appointed or promoted based on political considerations, rather than merit or seniority. This trend has adverse consequences for both the bureaucracy and the political executive, as discussed below:
- Decline in the quality of governance: When appointments and promotions are made based on political considerations, rather than merit or seniority, the quality of governance declines. Incompetent and inefficient bureaucrats are appointed, who are unable to perform their duties effectively.
- Loss of autonomy of bureaucracy: Bureaucrats are supposed to be impartial and neutral, and take decisions based on merit and the rule of law. However, when they are appointed or promoted based on political considerations, their autonomy is compromised. They become beholden to their political masters, and are unable to take decisions independently.
- Erosion of ethical values: The politicization of bureaucracy has eroded ethical values such as honesty, integrity, and impartiality. Bureaucrats are expected to implement policies and programs in an impartial and non-partisan manner, but when they are appointed based on political considerations, they become partisan and biased.
- Rise of corruption: The politicization of bureaucracy has also led to a rise in corruption. Bureaucrats are often pressured to toe the political line, and in order to do so, they may engage in corrupt practices.
- Damage to democratic institutions: When the bureaucracy is politicized, it damages democratic institutions. The bureaucracy is supposed to be a neutral arbiter, implementing policies and programs in an impartial manner. However, when it becomes politicized, it becomes a tool in the hands of the political executive, compromising the democratic process.
To prevent the politicization of bureaucracy, it is essential to ensure that appointments and promotions are made based on merit and seniority, rather than political considerations. The civil service should be insulated from political interference, and bureaucrats should be free to take decisions independently, based on merit and the rule of law. This can be achieved through measures such as fixed tenures for civil servants, safeguards against arbitrary transfers and postings, and an independent civil service commission to oversee appointments and promotions.