Bureaucracy: Bedrock to Democracy

By | December 2, 2015

Bureaucracy is a set of written rules and regulations. It involves a hierarchical setup wherein there is a separation of work at each level. It is a contractual service extended by the government to the civil servants to serve the general public on their behalf. The entire governance, administrative and executive structure of the government is dependent upon the bureaucracy. It has often been charged with being antithetical to democracy, as bureaucrats are the not the representatives of people.


Bureaucracy has often been accused of being rigid, full of inertia, unwilling to change and acts as power concentrator. It has been inward looking and has been found guilty of being more concerned about internal procedures and processes rather than developmental works. A large number of veto points in a vertical hierarchical structure often stymies the decision making process.

Power concentration in bureaucratic structures are often in contradiction to the developmental stage of a nation. More developed the nation, the more down sized is its bureaucracy. Civil services in India have been practicing New Despotism since independence. They acted as British in disguise, so unapproachable, so elitist, socially aloof.

However, it was described as the steel frame of Indian government by Sardar Patel.

Bureaucracy acts as an effective bridge between the government and citizens. It provides continuity to the government policies. Democratic governments may come and go but bureaucrats ensure the continuity of policies from one government to another.

Bureaucracy imparts stability to the nation. It always controls any acts of violence, protests etc against the government. All the government goods and services meant for the public are extended by the civil servants.

Civil servants help in policy formulation and policy execution. Policy formulations as delegated legislations are the prerogative of these bureaucrats. They employ their vast experience in policy formulations, use all facts and data they have access to and come up with effective policy frameworks. These policies are then implemented structurally through well formed organizations. Bureaucracy acts as a facilitator to democracy and acts as a bedrock to a democratically elected government.

But there is an urgent need to upgrade the bureaucracy to reflect the aims and ambitions of today’s tech savvy and ultra fast citizens. There needs to be a paradigm shift from process accountability to productivity accountability. End results should be the sole thing which should matter. The bureaucracy has to look beyond transactional governance towards a more holistic transformational governance. It needs to be down sized and right sized to reflect modern day realities.

Though there are few contradictions and paradoxes, but still democracy cannot work without bureaucracy. These two complement each other. Though to ensure good governance, the government and the bureaucracy must tread the path of reforms to be relevant today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 75 = 81