Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indian Bureaucracy and how it works for itself

Spend Your Budget. This is the most important rule of bureaucracy and starkly differentiates bureaucracy from the purposes of private business. In a bureaucracy, however, profit is not an issue. If you don't spend your budget, you may be congratulated on your economy, but then the reasoning will be that now you don't need that extra money in your next budget. So your budget will shrink, without any other benefit accruing to you. A shrinking budget then means shrinking power in the bureaucratic system. This is the last thing that a bureaucrat wants. Therefore, you must always spend your budget, and economizing is a sin devoutly to be avoided. Spending your budget, you can proceed to the next step, which is:

Fail. Whatever it is that your bureaucrat is supposed to be doing, if you don't do it very well but can produce a reasonable argument that your failure is from lack of money (or enough power), then you can (if you've spent your budget) always ask for more money, i.e. to be "fully funded. The success of such deception, of course, is the fruit of the next rule:

Cover Your Ass. If you are a bureaucrat, you want to be sure that nothing is ever your fault. If it were, and if you were not simply starved for the money and power that you are seeking, then the reckoning might actually cost you money, power, or even the existence of your job.

Replace Useful Work with Useless Work. A good way to avoid accountability is if a new bureaucratic goal is created that is unrelated to the actual supposed mission of the bureaucracy. It is then easy to meet the fictitious goal and proclaim success, when nothing has been done about the original mandate.

Multiply Procedures and Paperwork. Something like "Outcomes Assessement" is an example of another excellent bureaucratic strategy. If there is a problem or complaint, then obviously we need to do something about it; and to do something about it we obviously need studies, more bureaucrats, and "solutions" that involve new rules, new procedures, less autonomy for those on site, esoteric jargon, and a great deal more paperwork. If the studies take long enough, and the procedures and paperwork are voluminous enough, then the original problem or complaint may simply be forgotten long before the system actually gets around to doing anything substantive. Even better, if the rules and procedures are of the "useless" variety, then there is no threat that anything would ever get done about the matter anyway. Useless procedures and paperwork provide much of the steam for the operation of Parkinson’s Law (Cyril Northcote Parkinson, 1955), that "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." After all, if extra time actually helped in accomplishing the original mandate, then the original mandate might actually be accomplished. But if the original mandate doesn't get accomplished, then obviously more time is need and, as we have seen, more money and power are probably also going to be needed. This will all benefit the bureaucracy marvelously. GOM or EGOM are typical examples.

Pass the Buck. An excellent way to cover your ass is to deny you have responsibility, not just for things that go wrong, but for the whole issue. The Bhopal Gas tragedy and 25 years of fooling the victims is a fine example.

Don't Rock the Boat. An excellent way to avoid responsibility in bureaucracy is not to be noticed. That is one meaning of not rocking the boat, or not making waves. And, of course, an excellent way of not being noticed is to pass the buck.

Jerk People Around. Once bureaucrats have their unions and their power, what do they do with them? Well, they "serve the public." If they don't actually serve the public very well, there is not much that can be done about it, since they will have the protection both of the civil service system and of the unions, and it may be all but impossible to fire them. So why not have some fun in the meantime? Just say no. The public needs to be reminded that they are at your mercy, so you might as well make things as difficult for them as possible. It helps that an inefficient "spend your budget" bureaucracy is going to have tons of rules and regulations, where they are most likely to be incoherent and even self-contradictory. So you will have no difficulty quoting one rule to one person and another to another, requiring them to do different things, both of which can then be retroactively invalidated by a switch in the rules which can be described as:
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

The reasonable response of the bureaucrat (who isn't even of the choosing of the voters in the first place) to this would be, "Sounds like a good idea to me!" You do not want law or regulation to be a "rule of action," because then people would know beforehand what is required, prohibited, or allowed. Your power, to decide all those things arbitrarily, would be diminished. Indeed, looking at almost any part of National or state regulations, no one can honestly deny that they "be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood." This is not an accident. It serves a purpose. And we see something else. Regulations are not created by elected legislators. Politicians have covered their own asses by passing the power of making regulations to bureaucrats, creating the unconstitutional system of "administrative law." The irresponsible bureaucrat thus comes to rule the modern state. The only drawback of this is its twilight existence. The bureaucrat needs to be faceless, both so as not to rock the boat with superiors but especially so that he can play his essential political role. The politicians who give bureaucrats power will always take credit for whatever works but then will always blame the bureaucrats for whatever goes wrong. As long as those bureaucrats are kept faceless, and it is the "system" that is the problem, then we actually have blame without accountability and without consequences. Nothing need be done, unless, of course, it is to give the bureaucrats more money and more power, because, after all, what else could really be wrong?

The above Rules have been cleverly applied by the successive Central Pay Commissions to degrade/ downgrade the Rank and Pay of the Indian Armed Forces.
Extracted and Modified from the original:
The Practical Rules of Bureaucracy
Justice Hegde resigns: The Good and the Bad- Fighting the corrupt Bureaucratic system is impossible

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