Administrative reforms can be defined as artificial inducement of administrative transformation against resistance.

The Central and State Governments are required to live up to the expectations of the Indian people to provide them with rapid economic growth, increased access to basic services, consistent with equity and social justice. This requires a model of governance based on

(1) Cooperative federalism

(2) Decentralisation


(3) Accountability

(4) Economic reforms

(5) Respect for citizen’s rights and transparency

The above will not only benefit individual citizens but also launch the country on the path of sustainable development. Progress cannot be measured only in terms of growth in gross national product or per capita income, but in a variety of attributes such as life expectancy, nutrition, health care, education, and opportunities for employment.


As demonstrated by the experience of the successful East Asian economies, the State has to play an important role in promoting and facilitating economic development and widespread benefits of growth to the people

At the very least, this role would consist of

(1) Installing and enforcing the Rule of Law and property rights

(2) Maintaining a non-discretionary policy regime


(3) Assurance of basic infrastructure and services

(4) Protection of environment

(5) Protection of vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of population.

Administrative reform is a continuing necessity in a society, more so when the society confronts a quantum jump in its basic framework of governance including, of course, its goals. Thus viewed, India started its career of an independent nation-state with a profound contradiction.


The polity which was adopted was new, entirely of its own making and choice. But the instrument to implement its new tasks was inherited from the Raj and was thus continued from the past. The British Raj had narrowly limited goals of governance which may be summed up as follows:

(i) Maintenance of law and order in the country in the narrow, even negative sense of the term

(ii) Collection of necessary revenue to meet its expenditure

(iii) Retention of strategic powers in the hands of the British civil servants


(iv) Subservience of administration to the paramount needs and interests of the ruling country.

On the other hand, the Constitution of India, which has been in force since 1950, rests on t following three axes:

1. From a remotely governed country, India emerges as a democracy of the parliamentary type, I on a system of periodic elections held on adult franchise.

2. India is a union of states, the Constitution making both the centre and the constituent states gene autonomous in their respective areas of operation.


3. Irrespective of levels of political complexions, the government in the county is solemnly committed! The Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution itself, which direct it actively work for the economic and social well-being of the people. This philosophical change in the roll compels a reorientation in the perspective of public administration in the larger society.

All these constitute nothing short of a profound qualitative change in the goal as well as role of the state in India.

They are new and novel in their nature, no less than in their implications. Under the Constitution the earlier objectives either ceased to be valid or became inadequate. Consequent upon change in goals and objectives it is axiomatic that the instrument of public administration required being re-engineered and re-cast.

This was not done and the administrative system employed by the British was adopted by Independent India lock, stock and barrel as it were and was used for newer tasks of democracy, development and state-making.

Before one proceeds further, it becomes necessary to clarify the term ‘Administrative Reform1. Administrative reform is a consciously planned activity manipulation of the public administration of the country with a view to making it fulfil its pre-set objective! This view makes it obligatory to regularly evaluate the implementation of the planned change with view to finding out whether the changes realize the pre-set goals. In other words, evaluation must be viewed as a part of the process of administrative reform.

Administrative reform is a more widely used term for manipulation of the public administration of the country although many other terms too are in competition with it. Other terms are administrative reorganization, administrative rationalisation, administrative changes etc. Since the late eighties, the term ‘good governance’ has quickly swerved into prominence. ‘

Good governance is an expression as it highlights the ‘software’ of administrative reform. Administrative reform is sometimes criticized for being a somewhat self-presumptive term. Who knows that a change in administration would necessarily lead to a pre-planned goal: the result flowing from a planned intervention in administration may elude the visualised goal thus falsifying it as a piece of administrative reform.

It is therefore advised by the critics that a more neutral expression such as administrative reorganization or administrative change may be preferred.

However, the term is gaining growing acceptance over the years. ‘Administrative reform’ has emerged as a standard expression in public administration, and is therefore preferred here.

A view prevailed in the early years after Independence that consequent on fundamental changes in the polity and environment, public administration will stir itself and imbibe appropriate orientations and set out to acquire new skills. This did not happen. Meanwhile, another development brought a new alliance into existence. One of the earliest decisions of Independent India was in regard to socio-economic planning as the mode of the country’s development. India adopted what has come to be known as command type planning based as it was on an expanding network of control mechanisms. The colonially trained bureaucrat did not find himself out of place in the new regime.

During the colonial period he was on top of the people; even under planning, his rule and domination remained unchanged but he was now ruling through license, quota and permits. As the state was to occupy the commanding heights of the national economy the career bureaucracy and the politicians discovered a common cause in the distribution of newly available largesse.

They quickly joined hands and emerged to dominate the national scenario. The quota-license-permit based development best flourished under the tight control resting in the hands of this newly forged partnership of two as each was feeding the other.

Both the politician and the bureaucrat felt comfortable in the new scenario, in the process brushing aside the original contradiction between the Constitution and the public administration at the time of Independence.

India is a third world country, with its endemic features of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, unemployment and over-population. Nevertheless, it contains within itself features of the other two worlds, too: Attributes such as democracy, rule of law, federalism, limited government, judicial review etc it shares with the First World; the adoption of centralised planning in India is a feature of the now-defunct Second World.

This combination of apparently disparate features makes the task of reform of public administration much more complex. Government prevails at three levels – central, state and local – making administrative reform a simultaneous concern of all the levels of government.

Because of the pivotal importance of public administration in a developing country like India, the Constitution makers incorporated two all- India services namely the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) in the Constitution.

The all-India services are binary in nature, serving both levels of government – central and state (and in practice, at all the three levels – central, state and local). Though this arrangement to some extent softens the rigidity of a classical federal system, the attitude of the states’ to the all-India service is not unmixed with a feeling of unease.

According to the states, the all-India services are often viewed as the Centre’s local agent and as an agency to dilute their autonomy.

Attention to Administrative Reform

The years following Independence were anxious times for India. Not entirely certain about the administrative capability of the inherited system, the Government of India appointed a few committees to measure its local temperature.

The Gorwala Report on Public Administration in India (1951) underlined the need for a clean, efficient and impartial administration, to promote which a tribunal of enquiry was to be appointed. Shortly thereafter, India invited an American expert, Paul H.

Appleby to examine the country’s public administration. Appleby’s judgement, rating the Government among the dozen or so most advanced governments of the world, sent the morale of the political and administrative leadership soaring. Of the twelve recommendations Appleby made, two were accepted and implemented.

These related to the establishment of the Indian Institute of Public Administration as an autonomous organization and an O&M Division in the Government of India. As the O&M Division was a significant landmark in the history of administrative reform in India, it needs a separate treatment.

The O&M Division

Independence of the country was accompanied by Partition, which gravely dislocated the country’s public administration. The first task of the national planners was to take stock of the inherited administrative system, assess its strength and identify areas needing re-inforcement.

The second shift took place when the Organisation and Methods Division was set up in the Cabinet Secretariat in 1954. The O&M Division was created ‘with the aim of initiating and sustaining a concerted effort to improve administrative efficiency in all branches’ of administration.

The O&M set up is inspired by the belief that the main leadership towards administrative improvement must necessarily come from each ministry, the function of the higher-tier central O&M Division being basically to supply leadership and drive and by a cooperative effort to build up a common fund of information, experience and competence in O&M work.

The O&M division provided the much-needed standing machinery for bringing about administrative improvement in public administration on a continuous basis. To be able to accomplish this goal it charted out a three-fold plan of action for itself. First, it sought to make civil servants conscious of the prevailing inadequacies in public administration, and at the same time, of the need and scope for improvement.

Secondly, instead of being guided by mere impressions and hearsay it found out facts to ascertain what actually was wrong, and where. That is, it tried to locate the true causes which adversely affected speed and quality of work. Finally, it devised and applied appropriate remedies to effect economy and improves efficiency.

In immediate terms, the O&M set-up was more a machinery for administrative improvement than reform operating as it did at the micro-level. It sought to develop proper procedures for the disposal of work, aids for quicker and proper disposal of such work, control mechanisms; it also attempted to keep watch over the disposal of receipts and reducing delays, initiating a regular system of inspections simplified and effective reporting and training of lower categories of staff, and so forth. But its long-term achievement lay in making civil servants improvement-conscious.

Building political support for program delivery

Comparing HD Outcomes in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

• Both States possessed similar human development outcomes in 1981; By 2001, Tamil Nadu had jumped to third place while Karnataka remained in seventh place, despite similar rates of economic growth.

• Gap is now narrowing, but the question remains why TN was a superior performer in the 1980’s and 1990’s on the whole.

• Key difference is the role of the Tamil Nadu government in fashioning a set of public policies and interventions to boost human development beyond what might have been expected by growth alone.

Under its leadership O&M units were set up in the states as well, thus spreading the sweep of reform. The annual reports of the O&M Division covered its activities and indicated future lines of approach to problems of administrative reorganization.

From 1954 to 1964 it published seven such reports which provide valuable details of the work it did, as well as of matters relating to the modernisation of the machinery of government and its procedures of work.

The reports were, as a rule, placed before Parliament where they were regularly discussed. The parliamentary discussion provided guidelines for reform, kept alive parliamentary and (to an extent) popular interest in it and thus disseminated the need for improvement. Besides, the O&M Division initiated action which culminated in two noteworthy statements on administrative procedure laid before Parliament.

In the first statement, laid before the Lok Sabha on 10 August 1961, the government delineated measures to delegate more power and authority to field personnel, to speed up execution of developmental plans and programmes, to raise managerial skills through training and counseling and to reduce delays by undertaking O&M studies, etc.

These measures were necessary for implementing the Third Five Year Plan which had placed heavy responsibilities on the administrative system.

Two years later, the government presented to Parliament an outline of the progress made in the matter. Many rules were revised to cut down delay and a number of reports and returns were either eliminated or simplified. As one third of the secretariat had been engaged in ‘house-keeping work’ alone, continuous attention was given to simplifying such activities.

Training programmes for civil servants were started to improve efficiency. Attention was given to economy in public administration.

Yet, the O & M effort had several limitations which further curtailed its otherwise modest role in administration reform. Its single greatest weakness was that it lacked the correct type of leadership and even professionalism.