Essay on the Changing character of public administration in India



Public Administration as a Government in action has been integrally tied to the nature of government in a specific context.

There are material, economic, social, and politico-ideological contexts that influence the extent and nature of governmental involvement in societal problem solving.

The character and re­quirements of the regime shaped Indian public administration during colonial rule. After Independence, the context of administration changed radically as the government, in a situation of resource constraint had to work towards planned socio-economic development in as short a time as possible. 'Development' took the Centre-stage in Indian administration immediately after the start of independent political life.

Since 1991, the context of administration has again been changing under the impact of the New Economic Policy.

Concepts like 'globalisation', 'liberalisation', and 'privatisation' have gained wide cur­rency that are indicative of more openness of government to international competition, deregulation and dismantling of a series of government controls, and downsizing of government by handing over selected activities to the private sector, and by encouraging the non-government organisations to work more and more in the social development sector, particularly in such fields as health, education, women's devel­opment, etc.

Changing character of public administration

World War II had a major impact on intellectual developments in public administration analysis and theory.

It triggered a search for more precise quantitative analysis and operations research techniques for application to public decision-making. Another important development is the virtual resurrection of the Hawthorne findings-that public organisations are complex social institutions embedded in wider social environment.

In case of third world countries, newer insights into implementation analysis have been particularly useful, as most development planning exercises boiled down to successful implementation at the field level. There was clear research evidence to suggest that many well-planned social programmes failed to achieve the desired results because of lack of proper implementation.

Implementation Analysis and Research

The first generation implementation basically took a top-down approach. It was conceived that goals and objectives are set by the top level and the only legitimate ones, and any departure from these exemplifies implementation failures.

This kind of top-down vision led to the recommendation for fewer and clearer goals and virtual banishment of politics from the administrative process.

Whereas, the second-generation implementation research challenged the top-down view and ar­gued that in course of implementation, changes in programmes are only natural and even desirable.

This led to the origin of 'bottom-up' approach that acknowledged the need for finding effective ways of realising policy objectives in diverse local situations. In this approach, the local needs of clients re­ceive priority. The field workers in a hierarchic set up are not considered inert and passive; rather they are looked at as possessors of important policy insights, which the top management generally lacks.

This view, known as 'backward mapping" suggest that the workers at the street level are more familiar with the problems encountered in programme implementation, and their role in policy making must be recognised the bottom-up approach has surely sensitized the administration to the need for local level autonomy.

Flexibility as the Hallmark of Implementation Success

Research on programme implementation has clearly brought out the fact of local adjustment of imple­mentation process to suit peculiarities of local needs.

(1) It is flexibility, not rigidity that makes for success of an implementation exercise.

(2) Modifying the classical model of politics-administration dichotomy, administrative analysts have drawn attention to intermeshing of politics and administration in real life.

(3) In Public Administration analysis, it is admitted that the classical concepts of rigid hierarchical super­vision, inflexibility in decision-making, mechanical enforcement of top-level directives, and avoidance of 'politics' in administrative operations do not fit in with the realities on the ground.

(4) Operational flexibility, self-correcting or adaptive organisations in pursuit of continuous learning and change-orientation are some of the hallmarks of contemporary public administration.

Distinction between Macro and Micro Administration

Another important feature of public administration today is the distinction between the public macro and micro administration. Classical public administrative principles and structural concepts of administration or human relational ideas were all formulated with reference to the internal design and working condi­tions of an organisation.

It was micro-administration that concerned the theorist of classical public ad­ministration. The central objective of classical administrative theory had been to explain how people in an organisation worked toward achievement of goals set by top management.

But later-day public administration focussed attention on macro-administration consisting of a set of organisations and agencies interacting among themselves to achieve programme goals. There would, therefore, be numerous decision-points, several participants, and a multiplicity of agencies. Planning, in such a situation, calls for orchestration of activities of a number of organisations.

Lessening Load of Governance

The new public administration lays emphasis on taking much of the load of governance off the shoul­ders of government. The concept of 'third-party government' is emerging, which places reliance on private, semi-public, and voluntary organisation for the performance of many of the functions, instead of depending on conventional government departments.

New paradigm of public administration

For the first time in the history of commonwealth, a high-level conference addressed itself exclusively to the issues of public management in today's context dubbed as 'government in transition'. There was a general consensus that strong environmental forces have been buffeting the public sector, and govern­ments all over the world are being forced to cope with them. Some of the impinging forces are

(1) Knowledge-based production

(2) The communication revolution.

(3) Massive explosion in world trade.

In a multi-polar world, trade negotiations need to be worked out both bilaterally and multilaterally.

The information technology revolution has led to shrinkage of distances among partners and facili­tated almost instant electronic networking. Globalisation has become a reality, setting the stage for professional networking and collaboration in the development and sustenance of a new public adminis­tration.

The 'new paradigm' emphasised

The role of public managers providing high-quality services that citizen's value

Advocates increasing managerial autonomy

Reduction in Central Agency Control

Demands measures and rewards on both organisation and individual performance

Recognises the importance of providing human and technological resources that managers need to meet their performance targets,

Is receptive to competition

Is open-minded about which public purposes should be performed by public servants as opposed to private-sector.

Five Components of the New Paradigm

(1) Relates to the delivery of high-quality services that citizen's value. The consumers are reconceptualised as active consumers and not passive recipients. Hence serious efforts are being made to find out what the customers expect.

The most dramatic of such initiative is UK's Citizens' Charter, a global statement of the government's service quality commitments.

(2) Emphasises that to achieve high-quality standard of services, the managers need increased autonomy. A distinct trend is noticeable toward shifting operating responsibilities from the central departments to spe­cific agencies. Organisational structures are being simplified and hierarchies flattened to create condi­tions for more positive and productive managerial leadership.

(3) Relates to fairly rigorous performance measurement of individuals and organisations. Rewards, including pay structures, are based on fulfilment of performance targets. In financial management, agencies are changing from cash to accrual accounting, thus making them more cost-conscious and resource-saving.