Max Weber talked of bureaucracy as a faceless yet super-efficient machine, which could deliver at will, and dictate the positive course of the state and the country. They would be super cogs in the humongous bureaucratic machine. Those were not the days of the super specialized world. At the end of the 19th century Weber argued that, ”bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies are necessary to maintain order, to maximize efficiency, and to eliminate favoritism.” Its not known how many of the bureaucrats believe in this seminal theory of their existence, on the same lines as to how many doctors practice in word and spirit the Hippocratic Oath.
What people remember of the bureaucracy of yesterday, coming down the British Empire is the steel frame. The bureaucrats could literally pick up anything inclusive of language and culture. Only with a very high level of expertise and conviction will you the strength to remain faceless while being in important positions. This is the trait which made the slip happen, now it’s the torrent. It would be difficult to make out as to when postings to the key posts were done without having the face in mind. Managing a streak of such postings slowly became the sine qua non of a successful bureaucratic career. Unfortunately, that does not end even with retirement now, there is a bright and bold new world on the other side of 60. The reality is that nothing comes to the faceless and as the Americans say, there is no free lunch.
If large chunks of time are taken away by the non-bureaucratic wherewithal, expertise and delivery, both are bound to suffer. Thus, over a period of time the bureaucracy developed its own culture, which mutated with the dispensation and the environment. They have been successful in their own way, what has fallen in the citizens lap, has been none of their concern; public health infrastructure and public education can be two conspicuous issues in point. The direction of bureaucracy is clearly visible from a couple of recent incidents, though the manifestations and its expressions have been there for decades. The role and demeanor of a state police chief in the Sushant Singh Rajput case, then taking VRS and efforts to find a political rehabilitation, does not add glory to the institution.
The sordid saga of the tussle of the top two in the CBI is still fresh in people’s minds. Whatever might be your take on the West Bengal Chief Secretary issue, the institution suffers which has been the creation of years of hard work, dedication and vision. One Union Minister’s remark on the group of ex bureaucrats, even bereft of the context, means that anything can be said against the bureaucrats, serving or retired. The locking of horns between the ex Mumbai Police Commissioner and his ex political boss, on which the last word has still not been said, is a can of worms in itself. Haryana had its own tryst with the Police Chief. Closer home, we have a bureaucratic story brewing out of Mysore, whether it is COVID-19 mismanagement or otherwise, the institution pays a price. Social media has given an open platform for a free for all for everybody. There would individual gainers and they are for sure, but bureaucracy is clear loser.
BUREAUCRACY HAS TO STAND ON ITS OWN FEET, FOR THE COUNTRY TO STAND ON ITS FEET.