Our ‘Not-Eunuch’ Bureaucrats

This is a guest post from my friend Sandeep, who is currently in Canada but is expected to return to Pune shortly and cook a meal for me that he claims will be the best that I ever ate. He really knows how to please me.

This is a thoughtful piece of writing. He had just sent me an email about the article that he refers to at the end of the post, but I persuaded him to allow me to post this as a guest post. Bureaucrats everywhere are the same and I am sure that Sandeep’s rants will get a lot of sympathetic nods from my readers. Do please read on.

Twenty years ago, Rajiv Gandhi, India’s late Prime Minister, lamented that only 15% of every rupee spent on governmental developmental works and poverty alleviation reached the poor. The remaining 85% was swallowed by corrupt middlemen and government bureaucrats. He also said if all of the the massive governmental outlays on poverty alleviation actually reached the poor, India would cease to be a poor country.

India’s bureaucracy is also its curse. Unlike politicians (who are often and rightly maligned), our bureaucrats cannot be voted out of power. They are never held accountable for their action – or lack of it. Many of them (though not all) are corrupt, incompetent and just plain callous.

The new government is promising to try and push through the reform of India’s bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is powerful and it will be hard to push these reforms through. But reform in this area will make India a much more equitable and prosperous country.

As any student of ancient history will tell you, the ancient Persian and Roman empires were brought down in large part, by their bureaucracies, which were run by all-powerful court eunuchs. Our bureaucrats are not eunuchs, but they are just as corrupt, arrogant and incompetent as their ancient counterparts.

Will attempts at bureaucratic reform in India succeed? We hope so. The future of one-fifth of humanity depends on it.

Read this Wall Street Journal article to learn more.