Steel Frame of India as Steel Fetters on Democracy

The Indian Administrative Service remains an imperial institution which has failed to endear itself to the people. It is not indispensable. A momentous shift has been taking place in India these past few years, with a protected, state-controlled economy relinquishing the stage to globalisation and a market-based system. The state has been shedding many of its traditional responsibilities , to be taken over by the private sector and civil society groups such as NGOs and voluntary organisations. And with the centralised decision-making discredited, there is a growing demand for the devolution of powers and resources to elected bodies at local levels. All these wrenching changes notwithstanding, there is an extreme reluctance when it comes to modifying the functioning of the Indian bureaucracy. It is taken as a matter of faith that the existing mechanisms of governance, as epitomised by the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), will by themselves, and willingly, adapt to the changing scenario. This is far from assured, however, as will be clear from a study of the genesis of the Indian bureaucratic services, its structure, and the dynamics of its functioning since 1947.

The Indian Civil Service, the precursor to the Indian Administrative Service, was instituted by the British to facilitate their rule over the Indian population. The job of the ICS was to administer the country, collect revenue, maintain law and order, and assist the colonial rulers in the exploitation of India´s resources. The ICS was to maintain the ruler-subject relationship—an elite, western-educated bureaucracy exercising control over the illiterate, ignorant Indian natives—ostensibly for their benefit, in reality for their exploitation.

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Himal Southasian