Role of civil services in a democracy UPSC/Role of civil service in democracy/Role of civil services in democracy
Of all the institutions governing peoples and those who rule over them, the most noble and egalitarian is democracy. It is an institution where the people decide who should govern them. Though India had elements of functional democracy in the ancient times, it is after independence that we became a modern democracy. There are three pillars that ensure the smooth functioning in a modern democracy:
The civil services form a part of the executive. Unlike the ministers whose tenure is not permanent, the civil servants are permanent. Their chief role is to advise and assist the ministers in their functions. In fact, there is evidence that even in ancient India, there was a class of officers and executives who played similar roles. For instance, the Mauryan administration had Adhyakshas and Rajukas. The history of modern civil services in India can be traced to the East India Company that had a class of officers to help in its commercial activities. Then, it was in 1800 that the Indian Civil Services (ICS) came into being. Though the rules of entry were highly skewed against Indians making it into the service, they were relaxed in 1922 that bettered the chances for an Indian ICS aspirant.
It was after independence that the civil service became an institution to truly serve the Indian people. When we talk about the role of civil services in a democracy, particularly in India, there can be two aspects to it. First of all, there are the traditional roles and functions that the civil servants are expected to play. They are:
- AS COLLECTOR
The designation ‘collector’ was originally given to officers who collected land revenue under the British Raj. Today, IAS officers as collectors perform the following functions:
- Collecting land revenue
- Land assessment
- Land acquisition
- Collecting income tax dues, other duties and dues
- Distributing agricultural loans
- AS DISTRICT MAGISTRATE
- As DM the civil servants have the following jobs:
- Maintaining law and order
- Supervising subordinate executive magistracy
- Supervising police and jails
- Hearing cases under the preventive section of the CRPC
- AS COORDINATOR FOR ALL DISTRICT-LEVEL AGENCIES
- AS CRISIS ADMINISTRATOR
When a crisis happens, the civil servants in charge of the area are required to act fast and bring the situation under control.
- AS DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
The civil servant is expected to lead in many developmental activities in the region under his supervision.
Present day problems and the current socio-political scenario mandates that the civil servants take upon a more holistic view of their job.A civil servant is required to take up more developmental and leadership roles as per the times, apart from discharging their traditional duties. They can have a positive impact on the kind of life people in the nation lead because:
- Their principal role is to advise and assist the government. This government (ministers) keeps on changing but the IAS officers remain the same. So, they are essential for a sense of continuity to the administration.
- Their wide range of knowledge and specific domain expertise allow them to bring in and conduct developmental activities within their region.
- Not bound by electoral politics, they can steadfastly work for the upliftment of society and root out specific problems using the existing machinery.
- They can give unbiased and apolitical advice to the ministers.
- They are present all over the country thus acting as a binding force.
- They can also act as forces of change in the society.
But there are specific challenges that the civil services face in a democracy. These are also factors that bring in criticism. They are:
- Civil servants fall prey to political forces under threat or bribes.
- They indulge in nepotism.
- They are alienated from the public.
- Frequent transfers prevent any real work.
- Political interference prevents people from working sincerely.
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