Indian Decade

India’s Bureaucracy Shame

India’s notoriously bad bureacracy has just been shamed in a new report.

The wise say we shouldn't repeat mistakes. Clearly, it's not an adage that applies where the Indian bureaucracy is concerned. In the last ten days since I wrote about my recent frustrations with our bureaucracy when trying to get my passport renewed, two reports have validated the point I drew from my experience.

A survey carried out by The Political And Economic Risk Consultancy, a Hong Kong-based firm, has found bureaucracy in India to be the most 'stifling in the world'. The survey included questions to 1300 business executives across 12 Asian countries, and on a scale where 10 was the worst score possible, India clocked a shameful 9.41.

As if that isn't damning enough, what's worse is that every possible relevant quarter knows of this systemic rot. In fact, a recent survey on the Indian bureaucracy that questioned thousands of civil servants found more than a third had at some point in their career thought of quitting their 'high-status, high-profile, powerful' positions. The survey showed that there was a depressing realization that those with merit and integrity were often overlooked for plum posts, which are invariably given to more 'flexible' (meaning corrupt) officials.

The survey also showed a sense of despondence among those interviewed, many of whom felt they weren't able to contribute effectively. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made noises about huge administrative reforms, and a commission has been set up to do just this. But little has been done so far, a slowness to act that could hamper our economic progress. I don't understand what we're waiting for.