Q) Long due reforms with a view to strengthening, not just tinkering with, the steel-frame would call for bold decisions to be taken against some populist and established trends. In this context, critically evaluate the current condition of the Indian bureaucracy. Also give measures to reform it.

Why this Question

Important part of GS paper II. 

Key Demand of the Question:

Issues currently persisting in the bureaucracy and measures to reform it.


Critically evaluate - Give your verdict as to what extent a statement or findings within a piece of research are true, or to what extent you agree with them. Provide evidence taken from a wide range of sources which both agree with and contradict an argument. Come to a final conclusion, basing your decision on what you judge to be the most important factors and justify how you have made your choice.


Give a brief overview of the bureaucracy in India and why they are called a steel frame.


In the first part, highlight the issues that the Indian bureaucracy is currently facing. 

In the next part, highlight the reforms that are urgently needed in order to reform the governance process. 


Conclude with a way forward.

Model Answer


The bureaucracy in India is a crucial pillar of the Indian democratic state, which has been responsible for administering India even before it was independent. Also known as the civil services, it has been a crucial binding force in the Indian Union of States. 

However, there are certain issues that have undermined the efficiency of bureaucracy in the process of governance of the Indian State. These include:

  1. Resistance to change- the bureaucrats  in India are often alleged to be status- quoist and resistant to changes as they are wedded to their privileges and prospects. For eg.- through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, Rural and urban local governments have been made institutions of self-government. However, the intended vision has not been achieved, due to the reluctance on the part of the civil servants to accept the changes in control and accountability as well as the altered roles and responsibilities.
  2. Red Tapism- it refers to the excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant and bureaucratic and hinders action or decision-making. The bureaucracy is criticized for this as they conform more to rules and less to the needs of the people.
  3. Political Interference- The politicians sometimes for the sake of fulfilling their populist demand, influence the functioning of civil servants. This hinders their services to the people and can lead to issues like corruption.
  4. Frequent Transfers- Officers are transferred too often. This denies them the opportunity to settle down into an official role. At times, a particular administrative location is used as a testing lab where officers keep arriving and leaving, with a deleterious impact their morale, leading to a reduction in efficiency and effectiveness.
  5. Too much of Generalist Approach- with the world changing rapidly, the needs of the people have changed while the civil servants still continue to work on the same generalist approach hindering the process of good governance. The new challenges need officers with a specialist approach to specific problems.
  6. Patrimonialism- it was defined by the World Bank in 1994 as monopoly of power + discretion – accountability – transparency. Bureaucracy in India currently faces this situation.

Reforms that are needed

  1. Flexibility for bureaucrats from a strict observance of rigid rules and regulations to make them more action oriented and directed towards good governance.
  2. Right sizing the bureaucracy- This enables ministry officials to carry out their responsibilities efficiently and to be held accountable for their performance. The reforms must look into role clarification, core governance issues to ensure optimum number of functionaries being available for effective service delivery without any spillage or leakage.
  3. According to the Fifth Pay Commission no premature transfer should be allowed and there should be a fix of a minimum tenure for each post.
  4. According to the Hota Committee on Civil Services Reforms, 2004 domain assignment should be introduced for civil servants to encourage acquisition of skills, professional excellence and career planning.
  5. Adoption of modern management techniques such as management by objectives in civil services.
  6. Creation of new work culture and encouraging creativity and innovation among bureaucrats.
  7. The civil services have to be representative in character and it needs to have a significant number from rural areas and disadvantaged backgrounds in order to achieve inclusive development. 
  8. Introduction of lateral entry in civil services. This will also motivate the existing officers to further improve their service delivery.
  9. A mechanism is needed to evaluate the performance of civil servants during their tenure on several parameters. The Hota Committee on Civil Services Reforms, 2004, recommended replacing the ACR (Annual Confidential Report) with a system of performance assessment with greater emphasis on objective assessment against agreed work plans.

Since independence there have been several committees and commissions that have been appointed for civil service reforms like- Administrative Reforms Commission, Kothari Committee, P.C. Hota Committee, etc. Recently in 2020, the government launched Mission Karmayogi (a national capacity building and performance evaluation programme for civil servants) to bring reforms in bureaucracy. Good governance and better administration of development is a sine qua non in present times and this makes the bureaucratic reforms a necessity in order to retain their effectiveness.