India Uncut

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

The long rope

“Pick the deserving bureaucrats. Then give them a long run,” says TVR Shenoy in the Indian Express. He argues that bureaucrats should be given enough time to settle in and make a difference to any particular government department, just as Sourav Ganguly and John Wright have had four years and counting in charge of the Indian cricket team. Taken in isolation, his logic is infallible. Any officer needs time to grow into his job, and continuity is essential if departments like the Intelligence Bureau and the Life Insurance Corporation, which Shenoy cites as examples, are to flourish. But taken in context of who would be appointing these officers, continuity wouldn’t change anything at all.

After all, these bureacrats would essentially be picked by politicians, and who is to say that they won’t pick partisan officers over efficient ones? Also, if fixed tenures are set in stone, it become harder to hold officers accountable – as if it isn’t hard enough already. Shenoy’s example of Ganguly is a good one, but he misses two aspects of that analogy: firstly, Ganguly did not start out with a guaranteed long tenure, but had to deliver results one series at a time; and secondly, many worse captains than Ganguly, like Mohammad Azharuddin, have had a longer tenure. Length and continuity, by themselves, do not mean anything. Accountability and honesty at the top do.
amit varma, 4:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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