What is Committed Bureaucracy? 

A committed bureaucracy refers to an administrative system where civil servants are dedicated to furthering the government’s policy agenda and goals in the interest of the public. However, the nature of commitment matters. There can be both positive and negative forms of commitment.

Positive Commitment:

  1. Developmental commitment: Bureaucrats passionate about socio-economic progress through efficient implementation of government development schemes like infrastructure building, digital governance, healthcare access etc. For example, Effective rollout of COVID vaccinations, higher roads/bridges construction targets met.
  2. National interest commitment: Administration anchored in furthering long-term national interest and unity, keeping politics secondary.  For example, conducting free and fair elections, disaster management.
  3. Rule of law commitment: Bureaucratic adherence to constitutional principles, transparency norms, accountability frameworks despite political pressures. For example, enabling citizens’ right to information, impartial regulatory oversight.

Negative Commitment

  • Political/partisan commitment: Bureaucracy loyal to incumbent regimes, leaders, and partisan interests over public welfare. Outcomes reflect preferential treatment, suppression of institutional autonomy and dissenting views.  For example, using discretionary powers to benefit ruling party supporters.
  • Elitist commitment: Administration beholden only to a small non-representative stratum of society comprising certain castes, classes, influential lobbies shaping biased policies. For example, tax officials preferentially aiding crony capitalists.

While a fully neutral bureaucracy may not feasible, excessive political control dilutes governance capabilities. Thus, positive developmental and rule-law commitments enable a bureaucracy to deliver social change and stability.

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