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Bloating bureaucracy

Northcote Parkinson had graphically described the unrelenting bloating of bureaucracy with little relation to output. The focus in private enterprise is on productivity and in multi-tasking. There is a substantial shrinkage of activities in several government departments unrelated to a humongous growth in numbers employed. I look at the evolution of one such department of the Central government, the Press Information Bureau in Chennai.
When I entered the profession in the early 1960s, it used to be headed by an assistant information officer with four assistants. PIB used to be the nerve centre for providing information: daily press releases, regular pressers by ministers and senior officers from Delhi, visits to PSUs across the nation and close interactions with editors and journalists of various newspapers. With improvements in technology, most of these functions have been rendered superfluous. Delhi-centric policy-making and the considerable expansion of TV have led to interactions of policymakers with media becoming rare. Under the NDA, communications of the PSUs have been centralised to the corporate headquarters and media interactions have become few and far between. Factory visits are non-existent. With communications made through the Internet, there is not much work at the regional centres. Over time, there has been a massive rise in the ranking of the officers. From the level of information officers heading the region, it grew in stages to the level of deputy principal information officer to additional director general and today a director-general level officer for the region and an additional director general for the state with corresponding promoted levels down the line! The level of contact with the publications has reduced substantially.
Two decades ago K P Geethakrishnan as the chairman of the Expenditure Reforms Commission presented extensive reports for reducing redundancies in government departments in different ministries. For the I&B Ministry, the commission suggested closure of several activities like the Publication Division. The overall effect would have been in reducing the number of employees by half with substantial savings in expenditure. Arun Jaitley as then I&B Minister was inclined to agree, but he was succeeded by Sushma Swaraj who wouldn’t. The reports, as in the case of several others, are gathering dust.
IE has been suggesting decentralising many of the functions of the I&B Ministry. I am happy to note welcome changes in this area. The functions of the RNI are tagged on to the regional office of PIB. Considerable increases in the salary levels as a consequence of successive pay commissions and technological changes demand substantial reductions in the numbers employed. Can this happen?

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