PAUL H. APPLEBY AND INDIA’S ADMINISTRATION
Krishna K. Tummala, Ph.D.
Professor & Director
Graduate Program in Public Administration
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
“Paul H. Appleby and Indian Administration,” in P L. Sanjiva Reddy et al, eds., Democracy, Governance and Globalization: Essays in Honor of Paul H. Appleby (New Delhi: Indian Institute of Public Administration, 2004), pp. 209-228
Krishna K. Tummala
is Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Public Administration, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA. He has seven books and over sixty-five articles published in international journals. He traveled extensively presenting papers at national and international conferences, and lecturing in several Universities abroad. Professionally, he has served in various capacities both the national organizations in his area of expertise – the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). He was Chair, Section on International and Comparative Administration (SICA/ASPA); Chair, Kansas Chapter of ASPA; Senior Fulbright Fellow; and Senior Research Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research. He served on the Editorial Board of PAR,
the flagship journal of ASPA. He won the first prize in an international essay contest on “Reservations in the Indian Public Service,” held by the Indian Institute of Public Administration, and received the “Public Administrator of the year, 2001" award from the Kansas chapter of ASPA. He currently serves as a member of the National Council of ASPA, and the Executive Council of NASPAA and also of Pi Alpha Alpha. He is currently on the “Fulbright Senior Scholar” roster.
PAUL H. APPLEBY AND INDIA’S ADMINISTRATION
Krishna K. Tummala, Ph.D.
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS, USA
This is a personal sojourn, even an odyssey. I had not met Paul Henson Appleby in person, but am the proud legatee of his academic largess. Doyen and Dean of Public Administration, Appleby was a philosopher of administration. His writings were not prodigious, but substantial and influential.i From an Indian perspective, his most important contribution comprises of the two reports he gave on Indian administration.ii He was in India for the first time in 1952 as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and submitted his first report in 1953 which was the product, by his own account, of nearly four months’ travel covering 9,000 miles interviewing hundreds of Minsters and administrative officials.
I read his first report for the first time in 1958 while starting as a student of the very first batch of students of the Indian School of Public Administration (the extinct cousin of the Indian Institute of Public Administration– IIPA). I return to the report now after forty-five years, the last thirty-five of which have been spent in the United States where I continue to teach and research in public administration, with a particular fancy towards comparative administration. While reflecting upon this experience, I am painfully aware of the two admonitions sounded off by Appleby: One, most foreigners who have had no experience in India “should be slow to speak in administrative terms in the Indian context,” and two, that they, like him, should not be representing any “power centers” that could be thought as dictating anything to India or Indians.iii In all humility, while I may not fit the bill on the first count, I certainly am on the second. Despite the fact, I left the homeland a long time ago, I continue my association with Indian administration, traveling there often, a couple of times supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and once as a Fulbright Senior Scholar, other times on my own, researching and publishing on Indian subjects. While I freely admit to all the shortcomings of an expatriate who might have missed many a nuance of the mother-land, I can perhaps look from a distance objectively, and comparitively.
One of the two other caveats that Appleby spelled out in right earnest was that for the sake of brevity, and knowing that his report was meant for those who were already familiar with the Indian situation, he would only indulge in a “sweeping general discussion.” That is what I expect to do here.iv In particular, I will deal with three broad areas – constitutional, political and administrative– relating them to Appleby’s observations.
1.Working of the Constitution
Unlike neighboring Pakistan, post-independent India did not bank much upon the intellect of foreign experts for its reforms.v India produced volumes of reform literature of its own. The one initial exception was that of the contribution of Appleby, who in fact followed that illustrious Indian reformer, A. D. Gorwala.vi
Indeed, India produced tons of reform literature on its own, but the influence of foreign reform literature cannot be ignored as was the case with the most voluminous of all, the Administrative Reforms Commission Report whose 1969 work – in fact some of the language used – is either inspired, or a close copy of the reforms of the Fulton Committee in the United Kingdom. See Tummala, Public Administration in India
(Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1996), especially chapter VII.
The first observation of importance made by Appleby is that the Indian Constitution is general enough to provide opportunity for growth and flexible enough to adaptation. Over years, this process in general has been quite successful. More so, considering the experience of its two independent neighboring countries– Pakistan and Bangladesh– which have been carved out of India, but went in different ways, certainly straying from elementary democratic tenets into military rule. In India, democratic political institutions have taken firm root, and are working, even if with fits and coughs occasionally. It is projected as the largest working democracy in the world. It is well under its way towards being a developed nation; current President Abdul Kalam hopes it would be one within the next twenty years. It is an economic powerhouse as the fifth largest world economy. Its expertise in Information Technology (IT) currently is unsurpassed. It is a nuclear power. And it is now competing with China for space at the world table. Not much need be said about its accomplishments. But a good deal can be discussed about its short-comings with the underlying belief that how much better it would have been, and could indeed be.
“If there is any substantial public significance in what I have found to say,” Appleby concluded, “...it is my general judgement that the Government of India is a highly advanced one, and in the revelation of the government’s hospitality to criticism and its insistent search for improvement.” He also thought that Government of India has shown its “concern for perfecting its processes.”vii
In retrospect, one may question these premises. The Constitution is voluminous, replete with great detail, some of which rightfully belong in the public policy arena. Some pious statements, such as those incorporated in the Directive Principles of State Policy have been subjects of litigation having been declared not to be enforceable in a court of law. The commitment to high constitutional principles themselves at times proved to be constricting, given the very commitment to some progressive social policies. The very first Amendment to the Constitution could be cited as an example which was an outcome of the conflict between the social commitment to uplift the backward classes and the constitutional credo of equal treatment of all – a tenet inspired by the American Constitution.
There is no dearth of effort to improve and change. True to the Sanskrit tradition of neti, neti (this is not, this is not), the search goes on. Yet, one may dispute the claim whether the powers that be are hospitable to criticism now. One cannot fail to notice the defensive postures of the current leadership, which is steeped in nationalism (of a far different kind than the one that Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters projected). Here appears to be a great harking of the distant traditional past – a past more laced with Hinduism. The very secular nature of the country is currently under attack; at least there is the effort to change the definition and dialogue.
The Constitution provided for a strong federal government (commonly known as the Centre) to ensure national unity in a polyglot society which is as diverse as diversity could ever be. Appleby noted this and also showed the many factors that weaken the nation. Yet, he thought that the Constitution was cast in an “...extremely federal mould.” He was struck with the “(A)lmost complete dependence of the Centre on the states for administration of social-action programs...” and the lack of resources at the States in the face of their burgeoning responsibilities.viii It is posited here that the very imbalance is dysfunctional, more so in a regime of coalition governments.
One of the most disturbing dysfunctionalities is the exercise of Emergency Powers– more to the point, the use of Article 356. Appleby thought that there is “an apparently diminishing capacity of the Centre to exercise those powers...especially within a strong state....” absent “any nucleus field structure of the Center around which to establish emergency administration, and growing hostility to the idea.”ix He could not have been more wrong today.
The Indian Constitution provides for a federal form which in a way is sui generis.x Unlike the experience in the United States, under Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, Parliament at the Centre can change the boundaries of any State by merging part of it into another State or with parts of other States. The executive power of the States shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with the laws passed by Parliament (Article 256), and not to impede or conflict with the executive power of the Centre (Article 257). Moreover, in pursuit of national interest, Parliament is empowered to legislate for one or more States for an year at a time, if the Rajya Sabha (the upper House) so passes a motion by a two-thirds majority. On top of all these powers is Article 356. Under this Article, if the President is “satisfied” on receipt of a report from the Governor of a State, "or otherwise", that a State government cannot be run in accordance with the Constitution, he may proclaim an Emergency, subject to the approval of Parliament. For all practical purposes, the State government will be taken over by the Centre thus transforming a federal form of government into a near unitary one.
Given such a formidable power of the Centre, one would expect that Article 356 would be used sparingly and with great caution after considerable deliberation. But such has not been the experience. In fact this Article has been the bone of contention continuously insofar as in over 100 instances majority governments, duly elected legislative Assemblies of States, were dismissed by the Centre. Initially, this provision was correctly invoked to either dismiss unstable or corrupt governments which prompted M. V. Pylee, an authority on constitutional law, to conclude that “... in practice, the emergency provisions...have proved to be...a protective device for responsible government.”xi
The subsequent experiences, however, proved beyond dispute that this process has been thoroughly politicized and perverted in that several State governments controlled by a party (or parties) opposed to the Centre were unjustly dismissed and Presidential rule imposed, thus arbitrarily taking over the State governments on political gorunds. In just a two year span, first during the Janata rule in 1977 and later the Congress (I) government in 1980, in six out of nine cases, State governments which were duly elected to power and continued to enjoy majority support in their respective States were dismissed by central governments controlled by the Opposition. Or, to put it differently, the new government at the Centre had conveniently gotten rid of those State governments which were approved by the previous Opposition government at the Centre in what appears to be a political tit-for-tat move.xii
Perhaps the most blatant abuse of this power occurred in 1992 when the Congress (I) government at the Centre dismissed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the State of Uttar Pradesh (UP) consequent to the serious law and order problem following the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.xiii While this was understandable, the central government did not stop there. It dismissed three other State governments in Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh (HP) as well which had nothing to do with the demolition of the mosque, nor with any other law and order problem. The only common thread was that they were all BJP governments. Not unexpectedly, the MP Chief Minister, Sunderlal Patwa, went to court challenging his dismissal. That State High Court ruled in his favor stating that “...the consequences which flow from the Proclamation under Article 356 are drastic,” and that “this extraordinary power should not be permitted to be used or abused to achieve political ends.”xiv
However, on appeal by the Centre, the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal stressing the secular nature of the country which they thought was threatened under the circumstances.
Two more egregious examples in this context were the one under the United Front rule in 1997, and the other under the BJP rule in 1998-99, both by-products of coalition politics. The first was in UP and the second was in Bihar.xv The BJP challenged the Proclamation in UP, and the Allahabad High Court ruled in its favor by quashing President’s rule. The Supreme Court however, stayed that order, and said that the Assembly should not be dissolved so that a political solution could be found. Consequently a coalition government was formed by the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). As this coalition appeared to be falling apart, the United Front government recommended President’s rule under Article 356. But the President declined, and returned the recommendation for a re-appraisal by the United Front government. The government withdrew its recommendation.
With the demise of the United Front coalition, a new general election was called in 1998, and the BJP came to power at the Centre by forming a coalition government. And it was its turn, with the Bihar government occupying center-stage. This State was under the rule of Rabri Devi of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), who was anointed as Chief Minister by her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav who himself was the Chief Minister but had to resign under a plethora of corruption scandals which came up in the courts.xvi But knowing the pressures to invoke President’s rule, Rabri Devi in her turn, in a preemptive stroke, went to the legislative Assembly and won its confidence. The BJP government at the Centre, nonetheless, under the pressure of one of its coalition partners, recommended the dismissal of her government in September 1998. Again, the President returned the recommendation for reconsideration, and the BJP government backed down. But in February 1999, as the law and order problem got worse in the State what with the massacre of several of backward class people, the BJP government recommended for a second time the dismissal of the Rabri Devi government, and the President obliged. While the Proclamation was ratified by the Lok Sabha by a very thin margin, its fate in the Rajya Sabha was almost a foregone conclusion as the BJP had only 45 seats when the opposition Congress (I) had the majority with 64 seats (out of the total 245 seats). To avoid a loss of face, the BJP decided to revoke the Proclamation on February 9, 1999 – the first such experience in Indian history. Rabri Devi was restored to power.
Taking cognizance of the misuse of Article 356, the Supreme Court of India laid down the following norms in its 1994 Bommai judgement:xvii Exercise of Emergency Powers is subject to judicial review, even after Parliamentary ratification; the President has to be “satisfied” that there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery, not necessarily based on the report of the Governor alone but also “otherwise”; his discretion to use these powers thus is not absolute but qualified in that grounds and reasons for reaching “satisfaction” supported with material, and the gist of events be provided; the Governor of a State must invoke Article 356 only as a last resort; the State legislature may not be dissolved until the Parliament ratifies the Proclamation; Parliamentary disapproval of a Proclamation of Emergency itself does not restore the dissolved Assembly, but a new election will (or, the Court may restore it); when a government enjoys the majority in the legislature, to impose President’s rule in a situation of mal-administration of the State will be construed as extraneous to the purpose of Article 356; and a central government, even if it is elected with a landslide majority, cannot dismiss a State government solely on the basis of the fact that it is of a different party so long as it is working in consonance with the Constitution. Contrarily, an Emergency may be declared when attempts to subvert the Constitution are noted even when the government in question were to profess to work under the Constitution. But no one paid any attention. The (mis)use of Article 356 goes on routinely. Gujarat is a recent case in point.
Narendra Modi’s BJP government in the State of Gujarat was indicted by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for its “comprehensive failure” to stem the communal carnage since February 2002.xviii (That Modi used communal tensions for political advantage during his later successful election in December 2002 is beyond dispute.) Consequently, even some of the members of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – the coalition cobbled together by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of the BJP – demanded that the Modi government be dismissed. But the Vajpayee government not only did not yield, but went on to absolve Modi of any responsibility. Once more, partisan politics prevailed over Constitutional principles and good governance.xix
Given the controversy and the misuse of the Constitution, there have been several demands for the deletion of Article 356 from the Constitution altogether. On May 10, 1997, the Standing Committee of the Inter-State Council decided not to scrap Article 356, but to have ample safeguards against its misuse. They could not, however, agree what the safeguards should be. The Constitutional Review Commission in 2003, while recommending that the Article be not deleted, cautioned that it be used sparingly and only as a lost resort. It also suggested that in case of a political breakdown, the State in question be given an opportunity to explain its position and try to redress the situation before invoking the dreaded Article.xx Nothing came of these several recommendations. As of now, Article 356 stands in its original form, and the above examples prove its blatant misuse for partisan purposes, thus thoroughly corrupting the original intentions of the Constitution. The usage has become so common that the demands for the invocation of Article 356 can be heard any time when a disgruntled politician waiting in the wings would call for the dismissal of the government of the day in the State. It is gratifying to note however, that the Inter-State Council, in its meeting in Srinagar in August 2003 decided that a Constitutional Amendment should be added to incorporate safeguards against the misuse of this Article. One only hopes that this time they act on this, and end the nefarious use of the central power in conveniently dismissing those State governments that it does not like.
It is important to note in this context the role of a Governor. The Governors, as appointees of the Centre, were intended only as ceremonial heads of States, with real power sitting with the Chief Minister who commands the confidence of the legislative Assembly. But such has not been the case. Many a time the Governor’s position tended to be a place where a dislodged politician or some one else who needed some rehabilitation is appointed. In fact, it has become a patronage position, clouding the objectivity of a Governor while recommending President’s rule. There have been any number of instances where the Governor not only played the political role instead of being a non-partisan but also served the interests of the powers that be at the Centre. Thus, the very utility of the office of a Governor came to be questioned.
Returning to the federal form, Appleby wrote: “No other large and important national government, I believe, is so dependent as India on theoretically subordinate but actually rather distinct units responsible to a different political control for so much of the administration of what are recognized as national programmes of great importance to the nation.”xxi His observation is correct. Such a constitutional scheme of dependence would indeed work smoothly when the same party, sharing the same ideological visions were to be in power at both the Centre and the States. But such an assumption is not only fallacious, but also deleterious to democracy in that it might actually lead to a party dictatorship, which in a parliamentary form is one step short of Prime Minister’s dictatorship, as was pointed out by critics of Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher in United Kingdom, or as was the case with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Emergency in India. When different parties are in power, which is more than likely in a democracy, and as has been the experience in India since the late 1960s, the term “cooperative federalism” comes to mind. But coalition governments muddle the situation further.
Coalition governments are not new in the Indian context. Many State governments have had this experience. But this is relatively new to the Center, the earliest being the Janata government in 1977. The BJP coalitions of Prime Minister Vajpayee illustrate the point. His first government in 1996 was a coalition with four other parties, and lasted a grand total of thirteen days. He second in 1998 with fifteen other parties served for thirteen months. The third, the NDA government with twenty-four parties is now serving. Having survived a no-confidence motion in August 2003, it appears to have been poised to serve the full five year term.
To keep the coalition stable, on the one hand the leading party is normally pressured to dilute its own political ideology. On the other, the constituents keep making demands, on a government which is beholden to them for being in power. That the States can extract dearly needed resources from the Centre in exchange for their support may in fact turn into blackmail. The threats administered from time to time by Chief Minister Jayalalalitha of Tamil Nadu, or by Mamata Benarjee of Trinamool Congress, or the more subtle demands of Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh – all part of the NDA – are some examples. To this be added the internal pressures faced by the BJP from within its own constituents– The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) pulling the BJP towards a more radical Hindu nationalism which does not sit well with the other NDA partners. The most recent example of a suggestion to bring out a Bill banning cow slaughter in India – an animal sacred to the majority Hindus, and is eaten by Moslems who constitute the largest minority in the country – is an example of where the NDA partners put their foot down, and the BJP had to back down. This is reminiscent of the experience in Israel where the right religious parties consistently press the government in power towards a more orthodox practice of Judaism while colonizing some departments of administration to the point of appointing food inspectors to ensure that the food is kosher enough, or not fly the national airline, El Al, on sabbath.
Coalition governments which spend a great deal of time in their efforts to remain in office will have little energy to lead the country on its developmental path. This reminds one of the expression used by A. J. Cronin. To paraphrase him, the governments tend to be in “office,” and not in “power.”xxii
2. “Politics without Principle”xxiii
If “politics” were to be defined as the “art of the possible,” most everything possible has been happening on the Indian political scene. Appleby, while expressing his satisfaction that the constitutional structures were working at that time because of a historically derived administrative system, extra-ordinary leadership and an extraordinary dominance of one party system, was prescient enough to say this: “What of the future under more ordinary leadership, division of control of states among different parties, and a growing sentiment for ‘autonomous status’?”xxiv Several observations can be made in this regard.
The first and foremost is the state of political parties which are the life blood of any democracy. But in India, as Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph pointed out, “(W)ithout a majority party, India has regularly produced majority governments.”xxv The Congress party (a reincarnation of the Indian National Congress which was at the forefront of the national movement) was dominant at the Centre until the Janata coalition government in 1977 effectively ended its monopoly.xxvi
Two phenomena regarding the parties are noteworthy: personality cults and regional parties. Many a party in India tended to be individual-centered in that whoever, for whatever reason, walks out of the parent party may start party of his/her own. The beginnings of this may be traced back to Indira Gandhi, when she started Congress (I) – I, for Indira – in 1969, having cut the original Congress party “syndicate” to size. Today, one cannot miss the parties with either a suffix or prefix to their names. No student of democracy can take any exception to the creation of political parties. But what is troublesome is the proliferation of parties with no apparent cohesive “platform,” much less an ideology worth mentioning. Even the Communist Party, which is largely considered as a monolith, has three different parties.
Then, there have been a large number of regional parties. Starting from the creation of the AIDMK as an outcome of the non-Brahmin movement in the southern State of Tamil Nadu (the then Madras State), several of these were generated to satisfy regional needs and demands. Perhaps the most telling example in any democracy is the creation of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) by the famous film actor, N. T. Rama Rao, which within ten months of its creation came to power in the State of Andhra Pradesh, and since seems to be a major power broker.xxvii Whether or not these parties are serving the regional needs well, it is clear that the hallmark of these parties is the lack of a national perspective leading to many a squabble among themselves.
Simultaneously, a different breed of leaders is emerging whose vision is not only limited, but often times even base. It is long past the time of the “tall” leaders; now is the time for the “pulp” leaders, who at times seem to be having no other ulterior motive than keeping themselves in office, which incidentally has become a profitable enterprise. In this context, two other pathetic dysfunctions may be observed. The first of these is the frequent efforts to switch parties and allegiance because of the perceived, or actual offer of, political advantage of obtaining Ministerial berths, or some other membership of a statutory body for financial gain. Such an unscrupulous party jumping led to the very common pejorative– ayaa Ram, gayaa Ram (Ram being the common name, it translates into Ram came and Ram went). Such a practice has been commonly known as the “unholy alliances” in the “toppling” game in that by either pulling out and by joining others, or by a simple threat, governments have been brought down. This in turn led to the passage of the Anti-defection Amendment (the Fifty-second) in 1985 which made defection from one party to another (unless a third of the party members did it as a group) a reason to disqualify a legislator from office.
The other dysfunction can be summarized simply as the criminalization of politics and the politicization of criminals. Politicians and criminals found themselves to be such bosom buddies now it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other. For example, in 2002 in the State of UP, out of a total 403 members of the legislative Assembly, 190 were said to have criminal records which led a commentator to wryly observe that if there were 12 more of these, they themselves may have formed a government in that State.xxviii For sheer lawlessness, the States of Bihar and UP seem to be vying with each other.xxix All this led to the exasperated observation by the Chief Election Commissioner, L. M. Lyngdoh that lawbreakers have become lawmakers. To curb this tendency, despite the opposition by many of the major parties, but at the insistence of the Election Commission consequent to the demands of several civic groups and with the approval of the Supreme court, from now on all candidates for legislative bodies must disclose their (and their immediate family’s) antecedents – social, financial, and criminal – including the candidates’ educational qualifications. Whether this would weed out the corrupt, criminal and lawless legislators is yet to be seen. Politics at its base level seem to be playing havoc, and political parties do not seem to be willing to reform their internal structures, and clean up their act.
Appleby felt real good when he showered the following encomium: “I have come gradually to a general judgement that now would rate the government of India AMONG THE DOZEN OR SO MOST ADVANCED GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD.”xxx (Emphasis is in the original.) But it is important to note that Appley had two qualifiers. First, his rating was prefaced by the adverb “now”. He was reflecting on his time. Second, he clarified that “advanced” did not mean “efficiency” or “effectiveness”; it simply meant an advanced democracy. Yet, his praise was well-deserving, and is still so to an extent. But one would be indulging in folly in taking this uncritically.
India has been fortunate in inheriting a well organized administrative apparatus from the British. Prime Minister Lloyd George in a speech to the British Parliament called it the “steel frame.” The erstwhile Indian Civil Service (ICS) was the ruling class with a special trusted relationship to its master in England. The efforts at Indianizing that Service were also accompanied by serious attempts at Europeanizing it. As far back as in 1934, Jawaharlal Nehru, later to be the first Prime Minister of India, declared that he would have nothing to do with the ICS tradition. At the time of independence there was even the talk of scrapping the entire inherited administrative system despite the fact that there was no clear idea about what will replace it. Cooler heads, however, prevailed, such as those of Sardar Patel, the then Home Minister, who not only saw nothing sinister in keeping the colonial structure but supported it. But then the succeeding Indian Administrative Service needed to adapt to a state which was far from the previous law and order, controlling sate to that of a service state– a state which swore to go the path of democratic socialism by controlling the “commanding heights” of the economy.
In spite of all the criticism against it, which is in consonance with criticism of bureaucracies any where,xxxi Indian bureaucracy adapted and performed reasonably well. The very first serious test came in terms of coping with the teeming refugees coming out of Pakistan, for example. The same experience was repeated in 1971 as Pakistan was dismembered to create a new state, Bangladesh. In fact there are those who argue that it was the bureaucrats who saved the situation in not only the developed world but also in the less developed countries (LDCs).xxxii
This however, is not to say that the civil servants, particularly those at higher levels who set the tone of administration and serve as examples to lower levels, have been paragons of virtue. They are officious and aloof in their behavior, status conscious in their demeanor, impervious and imperial even. Indeed, the original local self-government experience under panchayat raj has helped bridge the gap between the higher civil servants– the District Collector in particular, and the local politicians and populace. The nexus between the politician and the civil servant has not only been transformed but has become rather dispiriting.xxxiii The idea of a neutral competent civil servant has given way to that of a collaborator in the worst sense. The political masters– the Chief Ministers of States in particular, have started looking for compliant civil servants. Frequent use of transfers have become common, under the pretext that somehow transfer is not a punishment. The frequency has become so appalling that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi himself suggested in 1988 that for a district officer a minimum three year term shall be honored. What with the harassment, the civil servants found it to their advantage to join hands with the politicians. With burgeoning corruption, the relationship deteriorated quickly.
Without going into an elaborate critic of the entire administrative process, given the limitations of space, there is one feature that needs special consideration. Appelyby thought that “... the general condition with respect to honesty here is much better than the common criticism would suggest.”xxxiv He would have been surprised, even amazed at the current situation. Even then, as one newspaper put it: “Dr. Appleby’s approach to the question of administrative reform would have commanded greater confidence if he had spared some thought also to the problem of how, in the scheme he recommends the corrupt, the incompetent and the extravagant public servant is to be prevented form abusing his authority and his autonomy.”xxxv
India did not invent corruption; it appears to excel in Asia (There are worse exceptions such as Philippines, of course.) Indeed, there is no unanimity in terms of the role played by corruption. Many think of corruption defined as money changing hands, either overtly and covertly, in anticipation of, or already rendered, favors, as being dysfunctional. Some instead think of it being useful.xxxvi As explained above, what with the criminalization of politics, and politicization of criminals, the field is wide open for exploitation. The civil servants join hands with the politicians, and both get enriched at the expense of the society in general and the client in particular. Many a writer argued that low salaries, coupled with poor laws and poorer law enforcement, would encourage corruption.xxxvii In India, no doubt the pay scales have not been fabulous. But there is no dearth of laws and other mechanisms to deal with errant civil servants and politicians. It is the laxity of enforcement that is the major problem.xxxviii In this context Appleby noted: “The administrative personnel have, in addition to their personal integrity, at least two relevant technical responsibilities. One is for creating organizational structures that minimize opportunities for dishonesty and favouritism and maximize probabilities of propriety. The other is for procedures that serve the same ends. ...In time...structures can be set up, such procedures installed.”xxxix This optimism has been belied.
The investigating agencies do a poor job, often interfered with by the powers that be; the courts move very slowly; the accused find ways of getting bail, and even claim sudden and mysterious medical disorders; and the society in general tolerates. No many ended up behind bars and no restitution eve takes place. The Supreme court of India in its Vineet Narain decision of 1997 observed thus: “The Constitution and working of the investigating agencies revealed that lacuna of its (sic) inability to perform whenever powerful persons were involved. For this reason, a close examination of the constitution of these agencies and their control assumes significance. No doubt the overall control of the agencies and responsibility for their functioning has to be the executive, but then a scheme giving the needed insulation from extraneous influences even of the controlling executive is imperative.” xl
To deal with corruption cases involving high level public servants, any number of discussions have taken place about the establishment of a Lok Pal– the Indian version of an Ombudsman, but so far nothing was done. And where the Lok Ayukta was created at the States level, the experience has been rather very spotty, even negligible.
It is important to note that it would be an absolute folly to judge Appelby’s observations from the perspective of current norms and knowledge. To his credit, he prefaced his remarks with the adverb “now,” as already seen, “for obvious reasons of concern for a future still unfolding and even more dependent on political leadership than on administration.”xli
He correctly places the burden squarely on the shoulders of politicians. The above discussion agrees with this assessment. Constitutions are no more than artifacts. They do not run on their own; they are to be run. However, as Woodrow Wilson a long time ago observed: “It is getting to be harder to run a constitution than to frame one.”xlii It is equally silly to believe or demand that a Constitution should never be altered. Constitutions grow, adapt and die, and created anew. What is problematic is to subvert it to make it serve political and partisan ends. What is important is not a popular government, but a constitutional government, as Chester A. Newland argued for long.xliii
There have been any number of reform attempts in India. Voluminous reports sustain this. What is lacking is “action-mindedness,” as Appleby correctly assessed. He went on generously: “This does not imply sloth, lack of social consciousness or irresponsibility; it refers to a way of thinking about and addressing action problems. It may be related to the obverse side of the shield which is one of India’s distinct virtues– a bent toward and capacity for speculative thought.”xliv
Indeed Appleby had his critics even then, and there will be now.xlv And one cannot fail to notice today, contrary to Appleby’s observation, there is a certain intolerance of criticism, however honestly and constructively it is advanced. Any number of Chief Ministers in the States have demonstrated this tendency by even hauling up the critical newspaper commentators with the pretext that they were trying to defame them, or worse, subverting the system.
No doubt India continues to be the largest working democracy. Its elections are largely peaceful, and even not corrupt largely. Recent polls in Jammu and Kashmir affirm this. But just having the political institutions is not enough. One might remember the admonition of Prime Minister Vajpayee who said: “The outer shell of democracy is no doubt intact, but it appears to be moth-eaten from inside.”xlvi
There have been attempts to make structural changes with the fond hope that they would ameliorate the problems. For example, there is the talk of amending the Constitution to keep the Parliament serve out the five year normal time as an antidote to unstable governments which are the consequence of either coalitions, or because of losing confidence in the legislature. This is short sighted. What is needed is a drastic change in the culture – political in particular, and social in general. If the political parties set their house in order while nominating their candidates, or electing their leaders, and demand that they be honest, Indian problem could be solved to a large extent. The society must demand such a change. It is gratifying to note that of late a plethora of civic groups, such as Lok Satta, have come to play important roles in keeping the government honest. Even some individuals are now pushing the government in this direction with the use of Public Interest Litigation (PIL). So long as the society is tolerant, and even worse, become a partner, there is little one can hope for. Thus, India has long ways to go, and it can.
Acknowledgements: The author gratefully acknowledges his debts to all the editors who published his previous writings which have been quoted here contextually
i He wrote five books, four of which were the outcome of his lectures. They are: Big Democracy
(1945); Policy and Administration
(1949); Morality and Administration
(1952); Public Administration for a Welfare State
(1961); and Citizens as Sovereigns
(1962). He also wrote two other monographs and about thirty articles and book reviews.
ii Paul H. Appleby, Public Administration in India: Report of a Survey (New Delhi: Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, 1957 – henceforward the First Report); and Re-examination of India’s Administrative System with Special Reference to Administration of Government’s Industrial and Commercial Enterprises (New Delhi: Cabinet Secretariat, 1956 – henceforward the Second Report). Rather curiously, on the cover page of the First Report his middle name is given as “A” when it should have been “H” for Henson. He visited India 1952, 54, 56 and 60-61.
iii See his “Forward,”, First Report.
iv Appleby’s second caveat was that what is good for one country need not be good to the others, although each may be benefitted by the other.
v Ralph Braibanti, in his “Reflections on Bureaucratic Reform in India,” observed that there was minimal reliance on foreign governmental advice and assistance. See Ralph Braibanti and Joseph Spengler, eds., Administration and Economic Development in India (Durham: Duke University Press, 1963), pp. 6-9.
vi A. D. Gorwala, Report on the Efficient Conduct of State Enterprises (New Delhi: Planning Commission, 1951), and Report on Public Administration (New Delhi: Planning Commission, 1953).
vii In his “Forward” to the First Report.
viii Ibid, p. 54.
ix Ibid, p. 4
x C. H. Alexabdrovictz, Constitutional development in India
(London: Oxford University Press, 1957), p. 159.
xi M. V. Pylee, India’s Constitution, 2nd ed. (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1967), p. 347.
xii See, Tummala, “The Indian Union and Emergency Powers,” International Political Science Review 17, No. 4 (October 1996), pp. 373-384; also, Public Administration in India, op. cit., pp. 81-89.
xiii For a discussion of this issue, see Tummala, “Religion and Politics in India,” Asian Journal of Political Science 1, No. 1 (December 1993), pp. 57-76.
xiv Sunderlal Patwa v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1993 MP 214.
xv For further details, see, Tummala, “Constitutional Government and Politics in India: The Case of Uttar Pradesh,” Asian Journal of Political Science 6, No 2. (December 1998), pp. 79-97.
xvi Laloo Prasad Yadav was being investigated or prosecuted in the misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs. 27.8 billion. There were 1200 judicial contempt strictures and 2,186 pending contempt cases in the State. See, India Today (October 5, 1998), p. 15.
xvii S.R. Bommai et al v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1994 SC 1918.
xviii See, www.hindustantimes.com (May 31, 2002).
xix See, Tummala, “Democracy V. Fundamentalism: Religious Politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India,” in Santosh Saha, ed., Religious Fundamentalism in the Contemporary World: Critical Social and Political Issues (New York: Lexington Books, forthcoming).
xx Constitutional Review Commission, “Summary of Recommendations
,” (Unpublished manuscript, March 4, 2003), paras 8, 18 and 19.
xxi First Report, p. 22.
xxii A. J. Cronin, The Stars Look Down (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1935).
xxiii This is one of the seven deadly sins, as enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi. They are: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Science without morality; Worship without sacrifice; and Politics without principle.
xxiv First Report, p. 9.
xxv Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne HoeberRudolph, The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1967), p. 58.
xxvi Opposition governments at the Sate level have been in operation from much earlier. For example, after the 1967 elections, seven of the fourteen States went under their control.
xxvii For an explanation of this phenomenon and the later troubles, see Tummala, “Democracy Triumphant in India: The Case of Andhra Pradesh,” in Asian Survey XXVI, No. 3 (March 1986), pp. 378-395.
xxviii See,Vinay Krishna Rastogi, “IN UP ‘criminals’ could even form govt!,” www.headlines.sify.com (July 9, 2002).
xxix In the State of Bihar it is claimed that during 1991-1999 there had been 58,565 murders, 18,485 kidnappings, 8,377 rapes, 495 political murders, and 390 massacres. See, The Hindu On line
(February 14, 1999), p.7.
xxx First Report, p. 8.
xxxi For a general critic of bureaucracy and a long list of pejorative adjectives used against it, see Gerald Caiden, “What Really is Public Maladministration,” Public Administration Review 51, No. 6 (November-December 1991), pp. 486-493, especially, p. 492
xxxii For the developed country example, one might think of France which suffers from perennial changes in government but well developed, largely due to the fact that the bureaucrats– sometimes the same ones– keep moving in and out of government. See John Rohr, Founding Republics in France and America: A Study in Constitutional Governance (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995). Some very complimentary words are written about the Pakistani bureaucrats by Garth N. Jones and Shafik H, Hashmi, “Pakistan’s Upper Civil Service: Its Transforming Constituent Character,” in Tummala, ed., Comparative Bureaucratic Systems (New York: Lexington Books, 2003), pp. 235-264.
xxxiii See, Chapter VIII, “The Ethos of Indian Administration,” in Tummala, Public Administration in India (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1994), pp. 191-220.
xxxiv First Report, p. 6.
xxxv Hindustan Times,
August 15, 1956. “Report on India’s Administrative System by Dr. Paul H. Appleby: Comments and Reactions
(New Delhi: Lok Sabha Secretariat
, 1956), p. 20.
xxxvi For example, Samuel Huntington thought that corruption is inseparable form modernization. The problem for him is that behavior does not keep pace with the changing norms. See his, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968. Myron Weiner thought that corruption actually makes an otherwise rigid system more flexible. A routnized, mechanical administrative apparatus in a way is humanized. See his, Politics of Scarcity (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1962).
xxxvii See for example, Jon S. T. Quah, “Corruption in Asian Countries: Can it be Minimized?” Public Administration Review 59, No. 6 (November-December 1999), pp. 483-494.
xxxviii See, Tummala, “Corruption in India: Control Measures and Consequences,” Asian Journal of Political Science 10. No. 2 (December 2002), pp. 43-69.
xxxix First Report, p. 51.
xl Vinnet Narain et al v. Union of India et al 1998 ISC 226.
xli First Report, p.9.
xlii Woodrow Wilson, “The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly II, No. 1 (June 1887), p. 197-222. (Emphasis is in the original.)
xliii Chester A. Newland, throughout his professional life made a serious point of this. See, for example, his latest "Juggling and Serving Accountably: Panorama and Normative Synthesis On Public Service," Book Review, Public Administration Review, 63, no. 6 (November/December 2003), pp. 692-695, especially, p.693.
xliv He however, thought that there is “a new and extraordinary determination to overcome this lack.” First Report, p. 4.
xlv See for example, Report on India’s Administrative System by Dr. Paul H. Appleby: Comments and Reactions, op cit.
xlvi Quoted in India Today (February 15, 1999), p. 8.