Thursday, 5 July 2012

Existing Structure of GoI-its Strengths and Weaknesses

Extract ARC2: Report 13 "Organisational Structure of Government of India", pgs 68-70

Existing Structure of the GoI

The work of Government of India is distributed into different Ministries/ Departments. 

A Department has also been defined in the General Financial Rules as follows:
(1)  A department is responsible for formulation of policies of the government in relation to business allocated to it and also for the execution and review of those policies.
(2) For the efficient disposal of business allotted to it, a department is divided into wings, divisions, branches and sections.
(3) A department is normally headed by a secretary to the Government of India who acts as the administrative head of the department and principal adviser of the Minister on all matters of policy and administration within the department.
(4) The work in a department is normally divided into wings with a Special Secretary/Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary in charge of each wing..."

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Existing Structure: The existing structure of the Government of India has evolved over a long period. It has certain inherent strengths which have helped it stand the test of time. However, there are weaknesses also which render the system slow, cumbersome and unresponsive.

a. Time Tested System – adherence to rules and established norms: have maintained stability during times of crisis; and where necessary innovative structures have been created.
b. Stability: The structure of Government staffed by the permanent civil servants has provided continuity and stability during the transfer of power from one elected government to the other. This has contributed to the maturing of our democracy.
c. Commitment to the Constitution – political neutrality: has prevented politicisation of government programmes and services; and has helped in the evolution of institutions based on the principles enshrined in the constitution.
d. Link between policy making and its implementation: the staffing pattern has maintained this link promoting the concept of cooperative federalism (concept of federalism where nation, states and local administrations work cooperatively to address issues).

e. A national outlook amongst the public functionaries: transcending parochial boundaries and strengthening  national integration. 

a. Undue emphasis on routine functions: The Ministries of Government of India are often unable to focus on their policy analysis and policy making functions due to the large volume of routine work that they are saddled with. This leads to national priorities not receiving due attention. Often, functions which are bestcarried out by the state or local Governments or could easily be outsourced continue to be retained with the union Government.

b. Proliferation of Ministries/Departments - weak integration and coordination: The creation of a large number of Ministries and Departments sometimes due to the compulsion of coalition politics has led to illogical division of work and lack of an integrated approach even on closely related subjects. It has been observed that the Ministries/Departments often carve out exclusive turfs and tend to work in isolated silos. This, at times, detracts from examination of issues from a wide national perspective and in an integrated manner.

c. An extended hierarchy with too many levels: Government of India has an extended vertical structure which leads to examination of issues at many levels frequently causing delays in decision making on the one hand and lack of accountability on the other. Another noteworthy feature of the structure is that several levels 
are redundant as they do not contribute to the decision making process.

d. Risk avoidance: A fall-out of a multi-layered structure has been the tendency towards reverse delegation and avoidance of risk in decision making. Another aspect of the existing structure is an increasing emphasis on consultations through movement of files as a substitute for taking decisions. This leads to multiplication of work, delays and inefficiency.

e. Absence of team work: The present rigid hierarchal structure effectively rules out team work so necessary in the present context where an inter-disciplinary approach often is the need of the hour to respond effectively to emerging challenges.

f. Fragmentation of functions: At the operational level also, there has been a general trend to divide and subdivide functions making delivery of services inefficient and time-consuming. several decades ago, this was captured in a telling manner in a Shankar cartoon, of an official being appointed as “Deputy Assistant 
Director General, Envelopes (Glue)”!

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