The once famed steel frame of India, as the country’s bureaucracy was described by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has long become rusty, if not rotten. This is accepted wisdom. But now, large parts of the steel frame seem to be entirely missing from the governance structure.
On Wednesday, Union minister Jitendra Singh informed Parliament of the persistent shortage across all the services, reiterating the serious concerns of a parliamentary standing committee which had noted that the vacant positions have a direct and adverse impact on governance.
Inadequate manpower is, of course, only one in a long list of grievances against the civil services but it still strengthens the case for an overhaul of the bureaucracy. This will be an immensely complicated task and face enormous resistance from within, but a good starting point could be to hire personnel from outside the civil services, especially for senior positions, as suggested by Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman of Niti Aayog and an expert on Indian bureaucracy.