As we get to celebrate 67 years as a Republic on January 26 and 70 years as an independent nation in a few months, it is time we reflect upon the quagmire that we have got ourselves into.
A Republic means “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated President rather than a monarch”.
This definition makes us wonder as to whether power in the country is with the people, or is it a façade of power to the people? I personally believe that, despite having elected leaders, the country is under absolute control and in the clutches of the bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes.
The present-day bureaucracy reflects the age-old analysis propounded by Socrates that the strong (bureaucrats) have the advantage. Here we need to ask the question: What is the job of a civil servant? Is it to enable or control?
What I see is that processes in the country have been built to perpetuate control at all possible levels, and the bureaucrats have have ended up being the de facto rulers of the land. The advantage that the bureaucracy has is accentuated by information asymmetry that gets perpetuated through masquerading control via processes that slow things down and thereby enhance corruption.
Bureaucrats are representatives of the state and not the state in themselves. They behave as if they are the state with their arrogance and know-all attitude. These are the people who I see as the biggest folly of our democracy that none of us have thought of setting right. They have been waging war against the people of this nation by enslaving their will, destroying and stalling the pace of change and setting the the country back.
We do see some examples of courage within the bureaucracy that tries to change the system, though these are too few and are subject to peer pressure that curtails their thinking and will. This, though, only reflects the shrillness and silence of moral corruption.
This shows that the country is still governed with an iron fist by the last remnants of the Raj. I believe we entered the age of bureaucratic authority and control somewhere within two or three decades of independence. We as a nation became free from the British only to be enslaved by the brown sahibs — as Mahatma Gandhi had predicted. I am sure if he were alive today he would be very worried and pained by the state we the people are in.
Why is it that we are perpetually asked to suffer a career bureaucrat in whose fear and perpetual brutality we live? The enslaving of the country by its babus cannot be explained or put across in words. The bureaucrat is a symptom of all the problems that we have or face — problems that reflect their failure to do their job sincerely. For them, destroying a life or an idea is ever so easy so as to protect their turf and playground.
By the time the realisation dawns, it would be so late to seek redemption and we shall live in the throes of an ever-painful existence.
Having given this abysmal picture, I see hope in the coming years. The idea is to overhaul the system and reduce the elected leaders’ dependence on a career bureaucracy. I see the beginning of a new era: some bureaucrats have been sacked for non-performance.
I am elated and delighted with this news. This is the best step Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken and he deserves an ovation for this. I do hope this is the beginning of the end of the last relic of the Raj and the incestuous structures bureaucrats have created around themselves.
Modi has the mandate to bring about change within the country that no other government at the Centre has had in the last three decades. What India has required for ages is change in its governance structure, and it is for the first time we are seeing a government taking the right step — dismantling a demonic relic of the Raj.
(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @kautiliya)