As shown in Chapter 3, administrative reforms play a critical role in transforming governance in accordance with the prevalent ideological dispensation. Governments need to be regularly reinvented; otherwise, they lose viability and relevance. In other words, in order to remain sensitive to contemporary demands, what is thus pertinent is to go for systemic changes. The idea of government renewal thus assumes tremendous significance in contemporary thinking about how to make public services relevant to the stakeholders. This is done in a context that appears to exercise a determining influence on the ideological texture of administrative reforms, one that does not suggest mere structural changes, but also sets in motion processes whereby new ideas for better public services are welcomed and appreciated. The basic point, as argued in the earlier chapter, is how to make the administration truly public by being attentive to what is deemed to be appropriate in a particular socio-economic and political milieu. It is true that the fundamental conceptual parameters informing administrative reforms in India may have been derived from wider concerns for citizencentric public administration; nonetheless, the contextual influences always remain most critical in deciding the major thrust of administrative reforms. Two ideas are of significance here: on the one hand, administrative reform entails primarily specific measures for administrative renewal according to the prevalent ideological concerns of those in authority; on the other hand, they are futuristic too because reforms are said to set in motion processes for change which are reflective of what is required to be done to achieve administrative goals. Hence, administrative reforms cannot be a single shot phenomenon, but ones that need to be continuously pursued; otherwise, they will end up being mere contextbound technical devices. One of the major components of administrative reforms is civil service reform. Besides specific committees, appointed to review the functioning of the Indian civil services, the Pay Commissions are also integrally connected to the processes of change that Indian bureaucracy has so far undergone since the constitution of the first Pay Commission in 1946. The Weberian form of hierarchical governance was critical in setting the ideological tone for the first four pay commissions; given the universality of the state-led development paradigm, bureaucracy had always had an edge in contemporary thinking, because of its
assumed utility to accomplish the ideological goals that those in power sought to achieve. The situation underwent a sea change following the adoption of the 1991 New Economic Policy, which radically altered governmental priorities by giving precedence to the market in fulfilling the neo-liberal ideological directions of the state. Seeking to articulate the idea of governance in accordance with the World Bank-sponsored governance paradigm, the Pay Commissions since 1994 have suggested major measures for transforming Indian bureaucracy from being rent-seeking in the erstwhile Licence-Quota-Permit Raj to being a useful instrument for public services. Suggesting that the Weberian top-down model of administration is simply inadequate since citizens are also consumers, the governance model of governance is also an attempt to expand the base of public administration by taking into account the importance of external actors who had never had a role in the past. In order to remain truly public in its functioning, the government needs to be not only accountable to the stakeholders, but also attentive to their requirements. This is citizen-centric governance, as per the neoliberal conceptualization of governance. The chapter has two interrelated parts: given the overwhelming theoretical importance of the governance model, the first part of the chapter is devoted to the idea of governance, with a view to analytically assessing its viability in contemporary India. Despite being rooted in the World Bank endeavour, the idea of governance seems to have become critical in civil service reforms in India. With its analytical depth, the first part will be of tremendous use in comprehending the second part of this chapter, which focuses on the two pay commissions – the fifth and sixth Pay Commissions – appointed in 1994 and 2006 respectively. Although these are primarily review commissions, they are nonetheless major steps towards adapting the Indian civil services to the neo-liberal ideological dispensation in which the interests of the stakeholders always reign supreme. Besides suggesting significant structural changes, these two commissions are thus a watershed in so far as Indian public administration is concerned, because not only are they pay commissions in the conventional way, but they also seem to have translated the ideological intent of the ruling authority into concrete steps while reviewing the Indian civil services. Despite having provoked debates and criticisms, the governance paradigm appears to have been accepted as perhaps an antidote to the decline of ethics in governance in India. Based on the drive towards making administration accountable to the citizens, there is a sense in saying that governance is likely to succeed as a paradigm, given the optimism that it has, so far, generated in developing countries, including India, where bureaucracy, by being rent-seeking, was always the captive of vested social, economic and political interests. Governance is thus a powerful challenge in a rather stultified environment in which the citizens’ roles as active partners in governance have always been compromised. In view of this, it is highly appropriate to pursue a critical discussion of the concept of governance, which the chapter seeks to do in Part A. Drawing on the argument that governance is a determining influence in both the fifth and sixth Pay Commissions, Part B is devoted to a detailed discussion of the recommendations that
these commissions made for streamlining Indian bureaucracy in order perhaps to articulate the idea of governance in spirit and depth. Both these parts, despite being analytically separate, hinge on the common argument that the clamour for ethics in governance seems to have become a natural call because of the well entrenched rent-seeking character of bureaucracy in the erstwhile era of state-driven and planned economic development. The fifth and sixth Pay Commissions may have had their limitations, but the drive towards setting new standards of governance, in which accountability, adherence to the rule of law and the commonly accepted ethical code of conduct remain supreme, is said to have drawn citizens, as Part B further argues, to public governance as active partners, because of their increasing faith that the instruments of governance will be tuned to what they require to gratify their individual and collective needs. Parts A and B are integrally connected, to show that governance, which is a conceptual category with practical implications, has gained salience in India where public administration gradually became an instrument which was neither public nor administratively effective. Hence there was a clamour for change, which the fifth and sixth Pay Commissions articulated in their recommendations. Whether these recommendations are adequate to halt the deterioration of ethics in governance is a question that cannot be easily answered. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that these pay commissions stand out in the annals of governance in India not only because of their attempt to alter the texture of Indian bureaucracy, but also because of the importance that they gave to the issue of ethics in governance as integral to the efforts towards building a corruption-and also prejudice-free governmental system.