Editorial Bureaucracy and red-tapism: It's time to truly end the British Raj

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Bureaucracy and red-tapism: It's time to truly end the British Raj


5 min read
07 Dec 2020, 03:40 PM IST
Aditya Nath Jha

India needs to rid the legacy of the colonial era and create processes, systems, laws and institutions that are designed around the people and not a “chosen few”.

With great power comes an even greater reluctance to give it up.

The British created laws, systems and processes in India to rule a colony. These were designed for the benefit of the Crown and its representatives, not its Indian subjects. Yet, when India became independent, we adopted them wholesale, ostensibly for reasons of continuity and convenience.

Successive generations of politicians and bureaucrats of independent India, irrespective of political affiliation, have tasted the vast, all encompassing, intoxicating power, and its spoils, once enjoyed by the elite whites. Having tasted it, they have found it rather pointless to give it up and dismantle the structures created to enslave us.

At the peak of British Raj, only a few thousand Britishers actually lived in and ruled India, a country of 350 million people. It needed, and created, a desi middle layer, consisting of darogas, tehsildars, sipahis, chaprasis, babus and the like. This layer was responsible for turning the wheels of governance and the actual day-to-day interface between Her Majesty's majestic government and her humble, impoverished colonial citizenry.

The design challenge facing the British was to keep this administrative layer loyal to the British under any and all circumstances and ensure it didn't shift its allegiance to the people.

The British Raj made them believe they were the “chosen ones".

Everyone else was dishonest, conniving, incompetent, immoral or conspiring against the state. It was the duty of the chosen ones to suspect everyone else. And harass them into submission. Various instruments of harassments were created, written into vaguely worded laws and put at their disposal. The simplest of things were complicated beyond comprehension. Complications and vagueness imply interpretations. Interpretations imply discretionary power. There's no power like discretionary power.

The chosen ones were also given wide latitude to abuse their discretionary powers without consequences. A daroga, for example, could—and did—accuse, threaten, charge and detain anyone. He could be shameless with women, merciless with men and answerable to nobody. A clerk in the revenue department could make you run around for years for the copy of a document. The only way out was to pay in cash or kind and buy peace. This ensured the relationship between the state machinery and the people remained asymmetrical, antagonistic and adversarial, as it does till today.

To allow for smooth neglect of duty and abuse of power, the British Raj created an illusion of justice. When you read about the decade long Central Bureau of Investigation cases that go nowhere, the open embezzlement of lakhs of crores by our public servants and their relatives without a single conviction, the shoddy forensics, the blatant tampering of evidence and the endless appeals, don't be shocked; it is designed to be so.

One of the philosophical underpinnings of the British Empire was its self-perceived moral superiority. It truly considered itself as a civilising force for the pagan and barbaric natives. To prove its civilisational superiority, it set up a formal, structured network of courts to dispense justice. However, it was extremely pragmatic. It couldn't create a justice system that produced tangible results; especially the kind of results that punished an erring state official speedily and effectively. But it could create a process where a complaint could be filed, and thereafter the law could take its own course. This course of law was excruciatingly long, convoluted, torturous and perpetually enveloped in procedural fog, as it remains today.

An under-appreciated gem of the British Raj has been the “transfer" system. To begin with, the daroga was not a local and had no social checks and balances. When he abused his powers, his parents were not there to be ashamed of his actions, his village elders were not there to talk to him and his childhood friends were not there to remind him of his limits. He had been transferred from somewhere and would be transferred somewhere else, without developing roots; or any sense of attachment and empathy with the local population. If, through an accidental pang of conscience, or through a misplaced sense of karmic duty, he did act in the interests of the people, he could be promptly transferred, as it gets done today.

Independent India has continued to expand the role of the state, the requirements for compliance and the radius of suspicion. The number of chosen ones and the complications of compliance have increased exponentially, under every government.

A few tweaks have been made. The British Raj system, unlike the totalitarian systems of the Left and the Right, is flexible enough to create space for a bit of democracy, a bit of justice, a bit of private enterprise and wealth creation, a bit of protest, a bit of class mobility and a bit of hope.

But the systemic architecture of independent India remains the same in 2020 as it was in 1920—to rule a colony. With similar results.

The consequence has been the brutal concentration of state power, complete opacity in functioning, a chronic and lethal inefficiency in implementation and a total lack of accountability in all state organs spanning everything.

If you are wondering why the roads of Patna get flooded every year when a bucket of rain falls, or why a flyover in Bangalore takes eight years to construct, and why we, the people of India, are still so helpless against our own municipal corporations, sewage boards, panchayats, circle officers and still so terrified and reluctant to go to a police station, it's the British Raj in action, circa 2020.

It's comic, or tragic, to aspire to be a superpower when we can't fix our drains; let alone attract people to set up world-scale manufacturing units in India.

We need to trust our people. No state has prospered if it doesn't trust its own people. Trust means designing processes, systems, laws and institutions around the people; not around the chosen ones. If we wish India to truly prosper, we can't continue to be suspicious of everyone and have them run for years for permissions for everything in an endless loop. For this, we have to dismantle the British Raj.

We need speed of execution. We need accountability of public servants. We need total transparency in the budgets of municipal corporations. Speed, accountability and transparency require specialists with domain knowledge and implementation experience; not generalists spending three clueless years in a random position. It also requires the total, complete and absolute dismantling of every single bureaucratic privilege and protection conferred upon the chosen ones by the British Raj.

And, finally, we need a working justice system. An illusory justice system has provided carte blanche immunity for the chosen ones across the political spectrum and their cronies. They protect each other. Together, they believe, they can get away with anything. And they do.

Dismantling the British Raj needs a change in our mindset. Or, we can continue to be ruled like a colony and pretend that we are not. After all, the greatest triumph of colonialism is the colonisation of the mind.

These are the author’s personal views.

Aditya Nath Jha is CEO of Krayon Pictures.

 
Successive generations of politicians and bureaucrats of independent India, irrespective of political affiliation, have tasted the vast, all encompassing, intoxicating power, and its spoils, once enjoyed by the elite whites. Having tasted it, they have found it rather pointless to give it up and dismantle the structures created to enslave us.
this , they have nothing to gain by dismantling it.
 
Nothing will change for another 100 years. It seems there is some type of contract or secret agreement signed by leaders with the United Kingdom which ends in 100 years, till that India will have to follow the term and conditions of the agreement.
 
this , they have nothing to gain by dismantling it.
Nothing will change for another 100 years. It seems there is some type of contract or secret agreement signed by leaders with the United Kingdom which ends in 100 years, till that India will have to follow the term and conditions of the agreement.
Services have now become much much much better due to computerization since 1990s. Do you know how banking, railway and other sectors were before computers were introduced in 1990s? Wasn't it 1990s when computers were introduced? The population has continued to grow and rural to urban migration also has grown. Yet the efficiency has improved, thanks to computerization.
 
Do you know how banking, railway and other sectors were before computers were introduced in 1990s

The computers are installed with such softwares which have slots to upload irrelevant documents and if they are not uploaded then it will not let you proceed with the passport or other sort of registrations for application. Completely mismanaged.

State Banks ask 200 types of documents , and some private too, and then at times you have provide hand written application and that should be either submitted per hand or per post for some work to be done. And here I am not including the processing time.

Go to land registry office you will have to wait months till you have right documents collected from multiple govt offices and then only it will be accepted.

You have no idea what is going on.
 
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have you ever gone to a state run bank? computers or no computers they have the same dont care attitude.
The computers are installed with such softwares which have slots to upload irrelevant documents and if they are not uploaded then it will not let you proceed with the passport or other sort of registrations for application. Completely mismanaged.

State Banks ask 200 types of documents , and some private too, and then at times you have provide hand written application and that should be either submitted per hand or per post for some work to be done. And here I am not including the processing time.

Go to land registry office you will have to wait months till you have right documents collected from multiple govt offices and then only it will be accepted.

You have no idea what is going on.
But the speed of at least some works have been drastically improved due to computers since early/mid 2000s or even late 1990s, For example, drawing money from ATM, railway reservations, etc.
 
But the speed of at least some works have been drastically improved due to computers since early/mid 2000s or even late 1990s, For example, drawing money from ATM, railway reservations, etc.
Investing money to get 70% of the theoretical output but failing to get even 40% of it means there is something wrong. ATMs at many places in new delhi are out of order
 

Prevalence of Colonial Influence in India’s Bureaucracy: Unraveling the Legacy​


Ashutosh Debata @ Beyond the headlines
MAY 21, 2023, 23:21 IST

India’s colonial past continues to cast a long shadow over many aspects of its society and institutions. One area where this influence remains particularly pronounced is the bureaucracy. The bureaucratic system in India, inherited from British colonial rule, reflects deep-rooted structures and practices that have persisted over time. This article explores the prevalence of colonial influence in India’s bureaucracy, delving into its historical origins, examining its impact on governance and administration, and discussing the need for reforms to ensure a more inclusive and efficient bureaucracy.

The roots of India’s bureaucratic structure can be traced back to the British Raj, when the British colonial administration established a highly centralized and hierarchical system to govern the country. The British bureaucracy was characterized by its rigid hierarchy, bureaucratic red tape, and a top-down decision-making process. These features have seeped into the Indian bureaucratic system, shaping its functioning even after independence.

One of the enduring legacies of colonial influence is the focus on rules and procedures over outcomes. The bureaucracy in India often places a disproportionate emphasis on adhering to established protocols and bureaucratic formalities, which can hinder efficiency and responsiveness. This bureaucratic red tape can be a significant barrier to timely decision-making and effective implementation of policies, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

Another aspect of colonial influence is the hierarchical nature of the bureaucracy. The British introduced a clear distinction between the ruling class and the subjects, and this divide often perpetuated a culture of elitism and a sense of entitlement among bureaucrats. This hierarchical structure can impede the free flow of ideas, discourage innovative thinking, and create a disconnect between the bureaucracy and the citizens it is meant to serve.

Additionally, the colonial influence is evident in the lack of diversity and inclusivity within the bureaucratic system. The British administration primarily recruited individuals from the privileged classes, perpetuating a system that was dominated by a particular section of society. Even today, the Indian bureaucracy struggles with issues of representation and inclusivity, with underrepresentation of marginalized communities and limited opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to rise to leadership positions.

The need for reform in India’s bureaucratic system is apparent. Efforts should be made to streamline bureaucratic processes, reduce red tape, and foster a culture of efficiency and accountability. Reforms should also prioritize inclusivity and diversity, ensuring representation from all sections of society within the bureaucracy. This can be achieved through targeted recruitment policies, training programs, and mentorship opportunities for individuals from marginalized communities.

Furthermore, the bureaucratic system should embrace a more participatory and consultative approach to decision-making. Engaging with citizens, civil society organizations, and experts from various fields can bring fresh perspectives, promote transparency, and enhance the quality of governance. Decentralization of decision-making powers can also empower local administrations and foster a sense of ownership and accountability at the grassroots level.

The transformation of India’s bureaucratic system requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. It necessitates a critical examination of the colonial influences that still permeate the system and a collective effort to reform and modernize administrative practices. By moving away from the legacy of colonial bureaucracy, India can build a more inclusive, efficient, and citizen-centric administrative machinery that aligns with the needs and aspirations of its diverse population.

In conclusion, the prevalence of colonial influence in India’s bureaucracy is a significant challenge that the country must address. The bureaucratic system, inherited from the British colonial era, perpetuates hierarchical structures, bureaucratic red tape, and limited diversity. Reforms aimed at streamlining processes, promoting inclusivity, and embracing a participatory approach are necessary to create a bureaucracy that is efficient, responsive, and reflective of India’s vibrant and diverse society. By unraveling the legacy of colonial influence, India can forge a path towards a more effective and citizen-centric administrative system.

 
The computers are installed with such softwares which have slots to upload irrelevant documents and if they are not uploaded then it will not let you proceed with the passport or other sort of registrations for application. Completely mismanaged.

State Banks ask 200 types of documents , and some private too, and then at times you have provide hand written application and that should be either submitted per hand or per post for some work to be done. And here I am not including the processing time.

Go to land registry office you will have to wait months till you have right documents collected from multiple govt offices and then only it will be accepted.

You have no idea what is going on.
Land records are state and municipal affairs so they vary from state to state and municipal to municipal.

I do not know if you ever tried to get a passport during 2000-2005. It was .... not fun. They used to have the forms for passport application and even though the forms were supposedly free, they were never available at the passport officies. Touts used to keep them. The passport application involved police verification. And it always meant money. You could not track where your application is stuck. All of those have been fixed. Also, triplicates and attestations. During this time self attestation was not accepted and you had to get all your documents attested by some gazetted officer or sometimes from public notary. Guess what was needed?

Average time to get a passport was 6 months to an year. These days I have seen people getting passport in one week or even less. There are those whoa re delayed but Passport process is hell lot of faster. Just introduction of PSK has changed a lot of things. Its like a one stop shop for everything passport. You dont even need to get a photo. They take a photo.

BTW, I kid you not, Indian banks and passport services are WAY better than those in US and Canada. Our NEFT and RTGS leaves likes of Interac and 1000s of apps that US has in dust. Its hilarious! US switched to chip and pin cards later than Indian banks.

Try getting a Nexus card in USA. The backlog and delay is so hilarious that your can only shake your head. You can get you Indian passport faster than Nexus card to travel between US and Canada. It takes 12-14 months minimum with some people taking 24 months! I can get my Indian passport in 3 weeks max.
 
But the speed of at least some works have been drastically improved due to computers since early/mid 2000s or even late 1990s, For example, drawing money from ATM, railway reservations, etc.
I have personal experience of getting a passport in 2004 and then in 2014 and now in 2024. It went from 6-8 months to 2 months to now 2 weeks! Its hilariously fast in India. My mom and dad got theirs in 2019. It was 4 weeks. Meanwhile try getting Nexus card for travelling between US and Canada. 12-14 months to 24 months.

I mean if I were to tell 2004 me that one day I will be praising Indian system over American, I would have thought I am on something weird. MEA has been very very very responsive since Sushma Swaraj's time. I needed an answer on why I need permanent address in India when I do not own a property in India, the damned embassy gave me a lot of gyan, court decision and everything. They even guided me to how to get address verification done in India while I am outside! Helllo! Is this Indian embassy I am talking to??????? Bloody hell, during pandemic, they were giving visa to former Indians on a case by case basis even on weekends! I know because I got it done for someone. Even now, though they are not as helpful after all the Khalistan shit, they get things done.

Meanwhile Canadian embassies in Australia could not be bothered during "Holiday" season! You know, when they were evacuating Indians from Afghanistan, Talibans were escorting their buses! LOL!

Meanwhile, and I SHIT YOU NOT! Canadian embassy sent a damned SMS to all the reigstered canadians to come to air port with all their documents and wave to get attention of hopefully "someone" who could help them. I kid you not! There were jokes in media about Canadian plan to evacuate their people from Afghanistan.
 
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I do not know if you ever tried to get a passport during 2000-2005. It was .... not fun. They used to have the forms for passport application and even though the forms were supposedly free, they were never available at the passport officies. Touts used to keep them. The passport application involved police verification. And it always meant money. You could not track where your application is stuck. All of those have been fixed. Also, triplicates and attestations. During this time self attestation was not accepted and you had to get all your documents attested by some gazetted officer or sometimes from public notary. Guess what was needed?
You should thank late Sushma Swaraj for this. She brought the change. Earlier they used to keep file and not send for police verification. And police verification takes times as well. Especially when you applying for the first time or changing the address. If you keep the address same then police verification is very quick and that's why it doesn't take time.

Average time to get a passport was 6 months to an year. These days I have seen people getting passport in one week or even less. There are those whoa re delayed but Passport process is hell lot of faster. Just introduction of PSK has changed a lot of things. Its like a one stop shop for everything passport. You dont even need to get a photo. They take a photo.

It used to get stuck because people did not have their 10th or 12th certificate to prove their age. They used to misplace it and now the young generation keeps it safe plus there is adhaar card system now.

Land registry is still a problem especially to prevent fraud. There are many fraudster due to which it takes a lot of time even if your cases are genuine. The Khasra Khatuni is still majorly prevalent in India which has not been digitalized yet. And the fraud is happening there.

Meanwhile Canadian embassies in Australia could not be bothered during "Holiday" season! You know, when they were evacuating Indians from Afghanistan, Talibans were escorting their buses! LOL!

Meanwhile, and I SHIT YOU NOT! Canadian embassy sent a damned SMS to all the reigstered canadians to come to air port with all their documents and wave to get attention of hopefully "someone" who could help them. I kid you not! There were jokes in media about Canadian plan to evacuate their people from Afghanistan.

Not just in Canada but some European countries have the same problem. Every thing which glitters is not gold.
 
@jetray @screambowl @Saaho

What to do in cases where the staff of government office doesn't work even after getting bribes? They don't start the work not in an attempt to extort more bribe but just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness.

A real life example:

My friend had moved to Singapore. He had a requirement of verification letter to prove authenticity of his driving licence.

Since he was in Singapore, his brother in India was looking after the task of obtaining this verification letter. It was in Ranchi. My friend's brother paid the bribe yet the staff wasn't discharging their duty. Just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness. It took them 6 months to issue that simple letter even after bribe and repeated requests. And finally when it was issued the name was much distorted. Not slight misspelling but much distorted name. My friend's brother had got the verification letter but to correct the name my friend would have had to personally come from all over Singapore. It hardly needs to be said that there was no guarantee that his time wouldn't be wasted after coming from so far. All this despite paying bribe.
 
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@jetray @screambowl @Saaho

What to do in cases where the staff of government office doesn't work even after getting bribes? They don't start the work not in an attempt to extort more bribe but just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness.

A real life example:

My friend had moved to Singapore. He had a requirement of verification letter to prove authenticity of his driving licence.

Since he was in Singapore, his brother in India was looking after the task of obtaining this verification letter. It was in Ranchi. My friend's brother paid the bribe yet the staff wasn't discharging their duty. Just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness. It took them 6 months to issue that simple letter even after bribe and repeated requests. And finally when it was issued the name was much distorted. Not slight misspelling but much distorted name. My friend's brother had got the verification letter but to correct the name my friend would have had to personally come from all over Singapore. It hardly needs to be said that there was no guarantee that his time wouldn't be wasted after coming from so far. All this despite paying bribe.
Look, typically those who do not do service after payment, do not get more payments. Its that simple. They become.... famous. Or if they cross wrong person, they are ... removed. Then there is this too: to reach a post, you need to pay. To earn on your investment, you need to work.

So corruption is self organizing.
 
Look, typically those who do not do service after payment, do not get more payments. Its that simple. They become.... famous. Or if they cross wrong person, they are ... removed. Then there is this too: to reach a post, you need to pay. To earn on your investment, you need to work.

So corruption is self organizing.
Till they become famous or are removed, what about the work? Can the work wait until they become famous or are removed? And if bribes don't produce the desired result what can produce the desired result?
 
Till they become famous or are removed, what about the work? Can the work wait until they become famous or are removed? And if bribes don't produce the desired result what can produce the desired result?
See giving bribe is also a crime so be careful. Approach a senior officer ( group A) and the local MLA with a hand written complaint keep a copy of it with you and email it to CM office. But normally money works all over India fortunately or unfortunately .
 
@jetray @screambowl @Saaho

What to do in cases where the staff of government office doesn't work even after getting bribes? They don't start the work not in an attempt to extort more bribe but just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness.

A real life example:

My friend had moved to Singapore. He had a requirement of verification letter to prove authenticity of his driving licence.

Since he was in Singapore, his brother in India was looking after the task of obtaining this verification letter. It was in Ranchi. My friend's brother paid the bribe yet the staff wasn't discharging their duty. Just because of reasons of uninterestedness and/or laziness. It took them 6 months to issue that simple letter even after bribe and repeated requests. And finally when it was issued the name was much distorted. Not slight misspelling but much distorted name. My friend's brother had got the verification letter but to correct the name my friend would have had to personally come from all over Singapore. It hardly needs to be said that there was no guarantee that his time wouldn't be wasted after coming from so far. All this despite paying bribe.
I went for two wheeler license, dint pay the bribe. Traffic police made me wait from morning till evening. Even then I dint pay.
For 4 wheeler, test was postponed twice then asked me to bring the vehicle to terrace of the RTO building , for others it was on the street.

Problem is that ppl have set a bad precedent to pay a bribe for every thing and govt staff just follow that.