Thursday, November 5, 2009

Indian Bureaucracy and Attracting Talent

I have written previously (here, here and here) about attracting talent (I mean, people who otherwise don't feel obligation to return out of nostalgia and family obligations, and looking for more professional opportunities) from abroad to Indian education system. Today I will write about a big negative factor which will affect you regularly whether you return to some big name institutes or any other university, and that is to deal with the Indian bureaucratic system either in the university you will work (or Institutes) or in the city where you will live. If I have to mention single most important factor for not wanting to return to India, it is the administrative system you have deal with while working. Even in a college in small city, you can find talented motivated students who are joy to teach, but my experience with the bureaucratic system is mostly negative while working for years there. Recently, I had a very bad experience, that's why this post is generated.

When we talk about Indian bureaucratic system we actually talk about British bureaucratic system as it was during the colonial time. There are two factors in this, first that it was designed for the population whom British were governing, not for their own population. So the idea was to create a system for the population keeping British person as supreme authority. The babus and middle level officers we have in our systems(I don't understand their presence as well), most probably were middle men to communicate between masses and a final authority (typically a British guy) in every matter. Now front forward, that system is still continuing more or less even after 60 years. And since British were ruling the India, system was based on mistrust. So in current context you cannot trust population and basically you don’t need to deliver. I am not a political science person, but this is my explanation of Indian bureaucratic system.

For every single matter (big or small), files moves slowly upwards and reaches to top level officer for approval and there is no provision of delivery or time-line, so it can take months or years before your matter will be resolved. Since there nobody accountable for anything, you really can not do anything other than greasing babus and trying to do things fast. In my opinion, the root cause of problem is pyramid structure of administration where all authority is with the highest level officer and middle level people are not accountable for anything and also do not have power to take any decision at all.

If you are used to western system where in my experience (my sample is from 3 different developed countries) there is almost no direct corruption in routine office work. In most cases, the job is done either on the same day or following day. In case there is some delay, it is explained, and can be followed up by an email or phone until it is over. In most cases, if you provide sufficient papers, its the job and responsibility of the officer to resolve the matter as soon as possible. If you ever plan to return to India, be ready to get frustrated with the system on routine basis.

Of course, I hope this will get better but it may take decades before some professionalism comes. Its hard to change mind set and work ethics of whole system.

1 comment:

Yayaver said...

Take a noteon the system working- "You will find government offices to be always either ruled by the books or moulded in favour of corrupt and powerful. The fact is government institutions work on directives from the top. It does not matter, whether they like your idea or not, see merit or not. There is no incentive for them to take risks and improve efficiency. The trick is to lobby at the highest level for reforms. Because if one person at the very top accepts your suggestions it will be accepted and implemented at the way down. No doubt this requires a lot of patience and persuasion, but the effort is well worth it."