Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
India and its International relations.
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Involving States in foreign diplomacy
The concept of competitive federalism, particularly in matters of foreign affairs, was on display in Kerala during the five-day visit of the Sharjah ruler, Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi. Apart from holding discussions with the Sultan on trade and commercial cooperation and presenting a road map on joint projects between Kerala and Sharjah, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced at a convocation ceremony of the Calicut University to confer a D.Litt on the Sultan that the ruler had agreed to release 149 Indian prisoners from Sharjah jails. Although traditionalists may argue that foreign affairs are in the exclusive domain of the Union government, the successful outcome of the meet has been widely applauded.
Greater inclusion of States in policymaking:
The optimal use of such linkages is what Mr. Modi envisaged in the BJP manifesto: “Team India shall not be limited to the Prime Minister-led team in Delhi, but will also include Chief Ministers and other functionaries as equal partners.”
Modi is acutely aware of the need for inclusion of State governments in foreign policymaking, particularly in matters relating to trade and investment. He had visited Japan, China and Singapore and seen for himself the potential for the States to play a role in securing the best deals for themselves within the overall policy of the Central government.
In his earlier stint as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu negotiated with foreign governments to make Hyderabad an IT capital, prompting even presidents and prime ministers to visit the city on state visits. Given his personal reputation, the Government of India invited Mr. Naidu to lead an Indian delegation on IT.
The policy of countries like the U.S. and China to encourage their State governments to take economic delegations to foreign countries and even to establish their own trading offices abroad has been the model.
The government claims that the basic mechanism for the States to play an important role in not only implementing foreign policy, but also in formulating it has been established.
The Ministry of External Affairs now has a States division, which keeps in touch with the States to assist them in building bridges with the countries in which they have a special interest on account of proximity or the presence of diaspora from that State.
IFS officers have been asked to choose a State each to understand its special requirements and to advise them.
States’ leader’s interest at the cost of national interest:
Pandit Nehru wrote letters to the Chief Ministers, explaining certain aspects of foreign policy, but did not solicit their views, though they could ask questions or make suggestions. As regional parties began to exert influence at the national level, States began to dictate terms even in foreign policy. The States exercised veto on crucial issues, making it difficult for the Prime Minister to have his way in formulating policy.
The Chief Minister of West Bengal stopped then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from signing an agreement on sharing of Teesta waters with Bangladesh after the agreement was negotiated.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu not only insisted that India should support the U.S. resolution against Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council, but also stopped the Prime Minister from attending a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on the ground that Sri Lanka was not safeguarding the interests of the Tamil minority.
Kerala itself had insisted that the Italian marines who killed two fishermen should be tried in India and punished here, causing a rift in India’s relations with the European Union.
In all these cases, the larger interests of India on the global scene were sacrificed to make life easier for the leaders of the States concerned. Even strategic and security issues were ignored in the process.
The promise that States would be involved more in foreign affairs has not been kept as yet as the moves made so far are half-hearted.
A State’s division in the Ministry of External Affairs, by itself, cannot make a difference in policymaking.
A new structure, in which the States are fully represented, should be established and the Ministry of External Affairs should have offices in key States.
Think tanks should be established in States to facilitate policy options and to provide inputs to the States and the Centre.
A new architecture needs to be devised to involve the States in issues identified as crucial to them.
A major change in mindset is necessary to accomplish it.
The States must also develop expertise on foreign affairs to be able to take responsible decisions in their interaction with foreign lands
States’ diplomacy can be made successful by a deliberate allocation of responsibilities to the State and the Centre. The above-mentioned steps must be implemented on urgent basis.
Connecting the dots:
Discuss how the concept of competitive federalism, particularly in matters of foreign affairs is evolving. What are the challenges being faced and what needs to be done given the benefits of such an engagement?
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
Role of civil services in a democracy.
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability and institutional and other measures.
Reforming Civil Services
India is at the confluence of two trends that are fundamentally challenging the world: The rise of Asia, with the growing importance of the Asian consumer, and digitisation. The Asian consumer’s rise between 2010 and 2020 will in dollar terms add a new United States to global consumption. Digitisation (ubiquitous connectivity, unlimited storage, massive and growing computing power, enormous growth in data, artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, computer capable mobile handsets) is profoundly changing not just how people live and interact, but also how businesses and governments are, or will need to be in future. The modern era’s need for specialisation fundamentally challenges Macaulay’s notions of a well-rounded generalist on which the Indian civil service was founded.
How should our bureaucracy evolve to navigate the challenge?
Our government is spread thin. It is understaffed when compared with governments in developed countries and many important government departments are staffed by people who do not have the requisite skills to discharge their increasingly specialised jobs.
It is widely recognised that the prestige of the service has fallen since the 1991 reforms — the reduced controls and the accompanying reduction in licensing reduced their power.
Reforms also saw the emergence of alternative professions in the private sector whose pay was considerably higher.
The equation between the politician and the bureaucrat also changed decisively in favour of the politician.
The service, therefore, lost a lot of its attractiveness.
The recruitment examination:
Though extremely competitive, is not targeted.
Candidates can choose any two subjects and have one common general knowledge paper. Thus, people who get in are from different backgrounds.
The nature of jobs that are performed in the state secretariat and the Centre encompass disparate departments (education, health, finance, public works department, urban development etc). Many of these require specialists like accountants, town planners, environmental experts, economists, architects, management degree holders et. Generalists today perform all these different roles.
All the officers get a year-long training at their respective academies and then are posted to a district. They get trained to become good administrators. In today’s highly specialised world, it does not prepare them well for many of the roles they are expected to perform in the secretariat, whether in the state or at the Centre. After a few years in the state secretariat, there is a race among them to get the jobs at the Centre. Further, most jobs in the states are not as attractive as the posting in Delhi.
It shows that the best officers prefer to do jobs for which they have not been explicitly trained rather than do the jobs they are actually good at in the states.
The skills and aptitude required to work as a district magistrate are different from that required to work as a joint secretary at the Centre.
We need to move away from the colonial paradigm.
We need to staff specialised ministries, at the Centre or in the state, with people with the requisite skills irrespective of how bright they are.
The time has come to set up a high-powered committee to work out the correct bureaucratic structure for India. This is urgent.
To make this century an Indian century we need the state to be able to address the challenges we face and facilitate the changes we need. This requires a qualified and effective bureaucracy. We expect them to do what they were never trained to do in an increasingly specialised, complex and changing world. We need to fix this now.
Connecting the dots:
The rise of Asia and digitisation have resulted into new challenges. To tackle it we need a change in the way administrative system works in India. In this light discuss the need of reforming the civil services.
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