My book on RTI – Chapter : Inherited Bureaucracy


British Bureaucracy’s Golden age:

Indian civil Services and Indian Administrative Services:

In August 1858 the Act Queen Victoria signed transferring the administration of India from East India Company to the British government, and in November of the same year a royal proclamation was made to the people and princes of India. By the India Council Act of 1861 a despotic system – albeit enlightened – was set up in India. At the top was the Governor General or Viceroy assisted by a small-nominated Executive council .For lawmaking, from 6 to 12 “additional members” could be added and from the beginning some of these members were naïve Indians of the upper classes. There was central government and number of provincial governments headed by Governor and council. The basic administrative unit in British India was the District headed by District Collector cum Magistrate having wide variety of duties such as collecting the revenue, supervising the building of roads and bridges, enforcing law and order. The District Officers belonged to the justly famous I.C.S (Indian Civil Service) whose members were recruited in Great Britain by rigid examination. They were paid high salaries and could look forward to liberal pension allotments. Representing an elite from the best families of England, who had a record of devotion to duty, honesty, and general all-around efficiency that has seldom been found in any administration. The number of officials in I.C.S was remarkably small. In 1892, for example, there were 939 members, 21 of whom were Indians.

The British built up the administrative set up with hierarchy of the ICS officers and subordinate service. The entire bureaucracy was made up of such trained people who felt and enjoyed privileges by secrecy at every stage as the foundation of power. Even after the gradual power sharing to Indian citizens in the 19th and earlier part of 20th century the laws were made in similar circumstances of secrecy.  ICS officers in different names and designations dominated the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. A few Indians were rising to fill higher posts in the Indian Civil Service.

Unfortunately after independence the same genetic habits were carried forward even though the Indian Civil Services were re designated as Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1946.  The strength of the cadre as on date is 5159 (66.67% recruited directly and promoted from various states to the tune of 33.33%). Legislature, Executive and Judiciary were separated as per the mandate of the Constitution of India (1950). Legislature was elected by adult franchise as per the provisions of Constitution of India; the laws were made after deliberation of People’s Representatives inside the Legislature. Parliamentary proceeding are transparent in the presence of people and Press media (print and electronic) and exclusive channel making live telecast the debates in both houses of Parliament. Ruling Parties propagate the policy and programmes through public meetings and public functions.  During elections certain laws were debated. In certain matters agitations and opposition to such laws were made by political parties, NGO’S, civil society through groups and individuals. But for such process the laws are binding on the people and ignorance is not an excuse. Executive and Judiciary work on the presumption that people know every law, rules, regulations and direction by delegated legislations simply keeping the copy as record of the department. Similarly the Judgments, orders and directions   were classified as Judgment in ‘rem’ and persona. The Judgment in ‘rem’ is treated as binding all citizens whether they are party to the case or ignorant of such decisions of the court.


Three images of the Indian state that have dominated the last 200 years of Indian politics. They are ‘the state as a protector’ of society from oppressors and outsiders,’ thee state as a modernizer or liberator’ of society from tradition to the modern world, and ‘the state as an arbiter’ where social relationships can be renegotiated. The state as protector and liberator takes the prerogative in the ‘pursuit of social justice, human rights and cultural survival’, which would in fact be better facilitated by open politics of social participation. The actual realization of such values has become more difficult for the state in present condition. Moreover, the breakdown of the images of ‘state-as-an-arbiter’ has led to a situation in which the state neither protects nor liberates. Access for the citizen to the state and its major institutions, including bureaucracy, technocracy, security establishment, and community development. The contemporary volatile process of redefinition of entitlements and representation of diverse groups and communities is taking place as a necessary reconstitution of socio- political relationships since the process of democratization involves increasingly more agents in the arena of political participation. The form of the state, which the widening democracy of India will decide, would probably be different from what western political philosophers have prescribed.

The redistribution of resources and allotment of entitlements were managed in a system of patrimonial rights at the social level in medieval India and the state functioned to assist in maintaining its order. The contemporary Indian state, on the contrary, has largely monopolized the function of redistribution of resources. This is the one of the reasons why the state is the target of political demands by so many groups and Para–communities. The concentration of power of redistribution in the hands of the state has also brought about corruption. Social demands for access to state resources have led to over-politicization of socio religious relations. It seems mandatory then that the state recovers its ability to arbitrate socio-political relationships so that production and distribution of resources can be managed in a manner acceptable to the emerging Indian democratic values.


One of the important characteristics of the traditional Indian state is that  the sovereignty of the state was never monolithic but rather ’layered  and shared’ Multiple layers of polities are known to have existed within the state. Moreover, there were other important autonomous spheres and agents within the Indian state, such as temples, religious sects, caste communities, markets, and banking networks.

When the periodical elections are held for the past 16 times at National level and much more time at various state level, the Governments were changed on the basis of their programs and its implementation and the acceptability of the same by said varied forces , groups and communities. Simultaneous elections for the Assembly and Parliament were not followed from 1971 onwards except in certain States. The Local self Governments were also elected on different periods. Hence there is no clear accountability on the ruling parties as they blame for the non-implementation of programs on each other of the three tier Governance. This becomes easy excuse for the politicians and bureaucrats to practice rampant corruption at every level by utilizing public ignorance and non availability of knowledge as it is in built due to gigantic mechanism of governance. The system created by checks and balances of the Constitution as State – center, Accountant General/Auditor General, Courts, various regulatory authorities, quasi-judicial authorities etc., become contradictions and procedural calamities for the common man. More interestingly the citizens were to bind themselves of unknown systemic procedures and decisions.

The programmes formulated by the government at the national level by annual budgets to tune of Rs 6,00,000 crores were implemented through various departments and organizations. The actual beneficiaries have to know the qualifications and parameters to get the programmes to reach them. Every year huge money by crores is surrendered to the government by various departments and institutions, as the beneficiaries were having no knowledge of the availability of such programmes. The welfare state cannot say that people are not ready to utilize the funds allotted to them. It is the duty of peoples’ government to make the products and services available with the Government reach the targeted beneficiaries.

The growing discontent and demands are related to ironic fact that post-colonial India succeeded in establishing the ‘state at the core of India’s society’1 The state ‘infiltrated the everyday lives of Indians, claiming itself responsible for every thing they could desire’2 .Thus although the state has succeeded in establishing itself as responsible for people’s welfare , it has not, in reality, been able to provide many people with basic needs for survival and dignity. Under this failure of governance,  it is natural that there are active political demands and discontent towards the state through which people aspire to fulfill their desires and basic needs. In other words, it is because the state has monopolized the function of legitimate redistribution of resources that the question of representation and  entitlements in state politics has become a crucial issue in modern post-colonial India. Distribution of resources in pre-colonial India, however , as  it was mainly managed by the social  system of rights rather than by the state. Although the people’s expectations towards the state have increased, the working of the Indian state does not seem to match the responsibility it has increasingly taken on itself. This has led to the situation where there is a growing crisis of governability , unfortunately there has been a rise of every day malfunctions and corruptions that have become a part of the built-in system of the post colonial Indian state 3


Nation – states exist to provide a decentralized method of delivering political (public) goods to persons living  within designated parameters (borders). Having  inherited, assumed ,or replaced the monarchs of  yore, modern states focus and and answer the concerns and demands of citizenries. They organize and channel the interests of their people, often but not exclusively in furtherance of national goals  and values. They buffer or manipulate external forces and influences, champion the local or particular concerns of their adherents, and mediate between the constraints and challenges of the international arena and the dynamism of their own internal economic, political, and social realities.4

States succeed or fail across all or some of these dimension. But it is according to their performances-according to the levels of their effective delivery of the most crucial political goods- that strong states may be distinguished from weak ones, and weak states from failed or collapsed  ones. Political goods are those intangible and hard to quantify claims that citizens one made on sovereigns and now make on state. They encompass

24 Indigenous expectations , conceivably obligations, inform the local political culture, and together give content to the social contract between ruler and ruled that is at the core of regime/government and citizenry interactions.5

When the state machinery could not satisfy or reach the needy the imbalance in the governance is reflected in unrest leading to extremism and division of states into smaller units to meet the aspiration of different groups . A social state stands for a full description of all the economic , political ,and social circumstances and each policy option, as well as the status quo, is modeled as an alternative state.6 There are two main problems with democratic  instrumentalism. It shows insufficient respect for value pluralism neglecting  the constructive role of democratic decision –making processes for groups of  individual agents who try to determine how they should act together. And it ignores the “constructive functions” (Sen 1999) of democracy i.e. how  individual  agents learn from each other in deliberative decision-making processes about what the problems are that affect them and what the best means are to solve them. Taking seriously this constructive function point to an epistemic account of democracy, i.e. an account that values democratic decision-making not just for its commitment to political equality but also for its knowledge-generating potential. The aggregative process is attuned to sufficiently widely shared agreements on how to rank two alternatives, but not to the reasons for which they should perhaps be ranked in this way. In the  deliberative account, it is precisely this exchange of reasons that lies at the heart of the democratic decision-making process. The deliberative account is thus more thoroughly procedural than aggregative democracy in this regard  as it considers the process of reasoning itself as a n essential element of democratic decision-making .  Aggregative democracy, by contrast , takes into account the products of individual reflection. This  amounts to an overly amorphous view of social evaluation that disregards how the structuring  influence of the deliberative process may facilitate democratic decision-making .  Secondly the deliberative view centers on the public discussion of reasons for and against alternative social states. In the aggregative account, individual preferences, and deliberation about them, are primarily treated as a private matter. Hence , insofar as public deliberation is taken into account at all, it is through the lens of the benefits it may impart on individuals. Such individual benefits may be direct, as when participating in discussion with others is treated as an element  of well being.




About Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan MA ML( USA) Ph D

Dr. E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, was a Member of Parliment - Lok Sabha one term and two terms Rajya Sabha and Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industy, New Delhi Sr.Lawyer ,Supreme court of India, NewDelhi, India. President, Indian society of International Law, New Delhi Founder of 21st century International School, Sivagangai Tamil Nadu. Author of books WTO and India, RTI and others
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