Karl Marx had wished the state to wither away. It hasn’t. Even in the countries where Marxism was purported to have been practised, the state became more and more powerful, and its prime tool, the bureaucracy, became more and more relevant. In capitalist countries, too, bureaucracy has come to stay. We, in India, have our own brand of bureaucracy, which is castigated, pilloried, used, abused, harassed yet pampered, cultivated and cajoled to assist in policy formulation and in executing such policy decisions. There is no likelihood of it withering away.
Amongst the variety of ills that afflict bureaucracy, corruption lies at the top of the shack. However, the moment we talk of corruption, a number of questions immediately crop up, especially in the wake of the emerging socio-political environment:
* Is the entire bureaucracy corrupt?
* Does the present-day bureaucrat have a choice to remain honest?
* Has the choice become limited over a period of time?
* Can bureaucracy afford to be honest?
* Does the politician (the prime decision maker) want integrity in bureaucracy?
* What is the price to be paid for remaining honest?
* Is just being honest sufficient for a bureaucrat?
Given the state of affairs, what can a bureaucrat do? Is there a choice before the bureaucracy? There is a price to be paid for making any choice. If honest bureaucrats have suffered on account of being harassed and transferred, so have the dishonest ones, as the law catches up with them. Some recent events have provided enough evidence to this effect. The high and mighty amongst the bureaucracy have paid a heavy price for being dishonest and pliable. An honest and efficient bureaucrat can be put to inconvenience (especially in the higher echelons of bureaucracy), but the dishonest one is more likely to suffer in the long run (what with increasing access of the media to official misdeeds and an ever-increasing number of well-informed public). In fact, there is greater recognition today, both by the media as well as the public, of the good work being done by bureaucrats. The number could well increase once it dawns upon the bureaucracy that there is no other option. And it does not end with honesty alone. He/she has to perform and deliver. A bureaucrat cannot afford to be inefficient. He/she has to be aware, accessible, disciplined and, above all, transparent. The issue is not about the survival of the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy has to thrive, in the interest of our country and our people.