Journal Articles

Of bureaucracy, the public and ‘vishwas’ politics

Yamini Aiyar


January 3, 2022

In 2021, the bureaucracy or more specifically the Indian Administrative Service, made its way into the headlines in unexpected and unsavory ways. In February, while defending the governments’ disinvestment policy in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a sharp attack against the bureaucracy. ‘Babu’s will do everything? What is this great power we have created?’ he asked, ‘What are we going to achieve by handing over the reins of the nation to babus?’

Prime Minister Modi is not alone in expressing deep-seated frustration with the bureaucracy and in particular the elite IAS. Nearly all his predecessors from Nehru to Manmohan Singh (the irony notwithstanding) routinely pointed fingers at the babu for all that was wrong with India’s ‘governance’ – red tape, inefficiency, corruption. ‘The government at every level… is not adequately equipped… to meet the aspirations of people’, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first address to the nation as Prime Minister back in 2004. But what differentiates February’s attack from frustrations of the past is the fact that it was made in Parliament in full public view and in defence of the private sector.

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