Monday, November 11, 2019

15 November 2019: Talk on 'Government at the Grassroots: A case study of field administration'

Rashmi Sharma
Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)

Organised by
The Centre for Policy Research (CPR)

The working of government at the grassroots was explored through a case study of field administration in one district in Madhya Pradesh, based on an analysis of 56 government organizations across 8 departments, interviews with Panchayat Representatives, government officials, NGO representatives and journalists, and focus group discussions with citizens.

The case study found that though the role of field administration was very wide, the capacity to deliver was constrained for several reasons. The structure was fragmented, with separate offices of 37 departments at various levels, as well as rural and urban local governments. Given the large number of government offices, there was inadequate manpower in individual institutions, especially at the grassroots. Moreover, there were several gaps in expertise, and a large number of posts were vacant. At the grassroots, several types of workers were hired on contract at low salaries, with no prospects of promotion. They were dissatisfied and agitated constantly for better working conditions. The posting of regular employees was patronage-based, and promotions very slow, which created a perverse incentive. The infrastructure in many field institutions was inadequate in terms of seating space, toilets, drinking water and sanitation.

Departmental offices from the state headquarter exercised tight control over the field offices in terms of activities, manpower and finances. This made it difficult for government workers to respond to people’s needs. The role of local governments, through extensive as per law, was very limited in practice. The District Collector had varying authority over departmental offices. Consequently, the capacity for coordinated action was limited. There was little analysis of problems, because officials saw their role as following orders. Technology had been used to centralize even more as state level officials monitored more intensely through daily reports and video conferences. There was wide-spread rent-seeking, and the impact of measures to enhance the accountability to the community was weak. This resulted in poor quality institutions, fractious relations between government workers and citizens, and poor capacity to solve local problems.

There is need to seriously re-think field administration. The measures suggested include empowering local governments, creating fewer but stronger organizations, hiring better skilled personnel at the grassroots, providing greater opportunities for promotion, developing more consultative and analytical processes of working and eliminating rent-seeking.

Date: November 15, 2019
Time: 10:00 A.M.

Conference Hall
Centre for Policy Research,
Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi–110021(INDIA)

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