ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Do We Need a Neutral Bureaucracy?

Neutrality helps enlightened public officials escape the honeycomb-like structure of a partisan government.


The open letter written by more than 80 retired bureaucrats to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is significant for more than one reason. First, it is written keeping in view the normative principles of the Indian Constitution as the reference point. It is committed to receive the command from the Constitution. It shows that public officials are not slaves to either the politicians or any other authority other than the moral authority of the Constitution. Second, it shows that the principle of neutrality implies a measure of independence both from the partisan interests of the government of the day and the exogenous agenda that prompts certain social groups to cow others down to humiliating vulnerability. The spirit of the letter shows that there is a need for public officials to play an active role in at least voicing their concerns through interrogating the erring government—in the present case, the UP government. Such a role is crucial not only to bring in relief to its very credibility, but it also suggests the role particularly for a socially sympathetic bureaucracy to adopt administrative practices so as to give some relief to those social groups who continue to reel under the constant fear of mob lynching.

The growing menace of monocracy makes the constitutionally committed bureaucracy as ever relevant. Third, the letter also suggests that failure of the government, which by implication promotes the emergence of the hydra-headed mob lynching mentality, makes the discussion on post-bureaucratic society ­irrelevant. In India, we do require constitutionally committed bureaucracy. Do we not? Bureaucracy is neutral in terms of ideology and politics. Finally, and most importantly, it also suggests that even in the post-retirement period, public officials could make significant interventions for more noble purposes underlying the good society even without joining a particular brand of formal politics that has scant regard for constitutional principles such as freedom from fear and human dignity. To put it differently, this letter shows the mirror to those retired public officials who have joined political parties which are yet to prove in practice their normative credentials that stand firmly against the attitude of hatred and humiliation.

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Updated On : 11th Jan, 2019
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