Friday, 19 October 2018

Civil Servants and Politicians: A complicated Relationship Essay

Civil Servants and Politicians: A complicated Relationship Essay

Civil Servants and Politicians

Who are the politicians in a nation? The government? The opposition? Or the people in the parliament? Politicians are the people who form the government and run the administration at different levels. It may be at the Gram Panchayat level, Municipal Corporations, State as well as the country. Therefore, they have a vital role with regard to development of the country. The internal policies, external policies, projects, schemes, etc., are formulated by the governing body at each level. But it does not mean that those not directly involved in the running of a country do not come under its purview. The opposition, for instance, play a major role in shaping the policies and ideas though, indirectly. Politicians who represent various political parties follow or are required to follow a set of ideologies and a vision which corresponds to the needs and concerns of the state or region they belong to. Aiding the efforts of these politicians or leaders representing the public in the government are the civil servants or bureaucrats with their expertise and specific knowledge about the various departments or wings of the government. 

The Indian political system has three wings namely the legislature, executive and the judiciary. This model of system is known for its unique attribute of checks and balances. The system of checks and balances is a part of our Constitution. It guarantees that no part of the government becomes too powerful. For example, the legislative is in charge of making laws. The executive branch can veto the law, thus making it difficult for the legislative branch to pass the law. The judicial branch may also say that the law is unconstitutional and thus make sure it is not a law.

The legislative branch can also remove a president or judge that is not doing his/her job properly. The executive branch appoints judges and the legislative branch approves the choice of the executive branch. Again, the branches check and balance each other so that no one branch has too much power. This works as a self evaluating, and regulatory structure where politicians only have restricted area of power, expected to deliver to the public with unselfish motives. 

With the command majorly resting in the hands of the politicians representing the public, the most basic question arising here is that are these bunch of politicians capable of making intricate laws and highly comprehensive policies, rules and schemes? Do they have the sufficient knowledge and expertise to justifiably execute their powers in the respective wings considering there is no minimum educational requirement for them? The answers by most shall be a no. Here is when the civil servants come to the rescue. These are politically impartial and independent of government and work in central government departments, agencies, and non-departmental government bodies (NDPBs). The Civil Service does not include government ministers. Civil Service helps the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies as effectively as possible. They provide various other services like paying benefits and pension, ruling employment services, running prisons, issuing licenses, maintaining law and order etc. A large number of them work on policy development and implementation, including analysts, project managers, lawyers and economists. Recruited through highly rigorous and meticulous procedures, they build the confidence of the public in the correctness and suitability of the laws made. Being accountable to the public they need to meet the highest possible standards in all that they do. The members of civil service serve at the pleasure of the President of India and Article 311 of the constitution protects them from politically motivated or vindictive action. 

A reliable civil servant delivers services that measure up to the standards of international economic competition and diplomacy and to the expectations of the democratic government in power as to the thorough implementation of its policies. A responsible civil service is held accountable by the majority of the electorate through the exercise of the right to vote and other forms of political participation. Furthermore, a responsible civil service refrains from discriminating against the parliamentary minority and against social groups who traditionally possess fewer resources such as social status (racial or ethnic minorities) or political pull (women or the poor), than others.

Relationships between civil servants and ministers may be marred by suspicion and mistrust. Ministers may suspect civil servants of continued loyalty to an earlier regime, or despise the work ethic and practices developed then. Civil servants may think ministers motivated by short-term political interest or naive about the problems of government. Either group may think the other corrupt. If civil servants find difficulties with proposed policies, their objections may be thought political rather than technical. They may indeed be prejudiced against new policies and new ways of working. Civil servants need to understand and accept new political priorities and show total loyalty to the government of the day. But the minister's political future and the good of the nation depend on civil servants offering honest and courageous advice. 

Ministers and civil servants working together may help build a national consensus on matters about which most people agree or which offer little room for political maneuvers. Government decisions may become the subject for political controversy even where any governing party would have to do the same. The problem is exacerbated in countries having an executive president, by the need to distinguish loyalty to the president as head of state, from opposition to the president's policy. Where controversy leads to public disenchantment with politics, there is special value in seeking a national consensus on core issues, such as security, drugs, terrorism, and development, education and health.

Politicians are often blamed for exercising unjustified control over the civil servants. In pursuing their political ambitions, politicians in their various capacities want to shine not only with the media but also in parliament in comparison to their party colleagues, and with constituents who elect them. They also need to command the respect and allegiance of the civil servants. The individual motives take precedence over the general objectives of public good. There exists manipulation to control the actions of the civil servants for the benefit of politicians. However, they fail to see that the civil servants have a longer term in the system than the politicians with much shorter and fixed tenures. 

Several recommendations have been made to pass a law that fixes the tenure of the civil servants. This has its own pros and cons. Independent functioning of the Civil Service Board can be a great measure to ensure that they remain effective and free from political forces hindering the implementation of justice and integrity in highly decisive matters. However, it is equally important that stricter laws should be made to keep the powers of the politicians under check; otherwise the whole motive behind the formation of this law shall go in vain.

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