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Glimpses of Bureaucratic Brilliance

‘Administration in India’, edited by Ashish Kumar Srivastava and Iva Ashish Srivastava, is a scholarly compilation of 14 essays on varied aspects of administration — providing a rare glimpse into the transformation of the different sectors of the country’s political economy



Dedicated to the unsung heroes of Indian Administration, this scholarly compilation of 14 essays, on different aspects of administration in India is a treasure trove for both portioners and academics engaged in a study of the subject which impacts the lives of a billion and half people on the planet. India is not only the world’s most populous nation; it is also a country which has surmounted innumerable challenges in the past seven decades – from the large scale communal conflagration in the aftermath of Independence, the rehabilitation of refugees, the integration of princely states, the reorganization of internal boundaries, security threats from within and across borders and a tough challenge on account of our dependence on oil. As we emerge as one of the fastest growing economies, we must pause to look at our accomplishments – from the green to the white and the rainbow revolutions, the elimination of absolute poverty and deprivation, the successful implementation of the Right to Food, Work, Education and Information, the successful conduct of elections and the absolutely transparent process of selection to the civil services and the armed forces through the UPSC. Also Read - Triumphs and trials While the political leadership rightly deserves the credit for providing the helmsmanship to the nation during all these difficult years, the ‘ship of the state’ has actually been rowed very successfully by the members of its permanent civil service, and in these 14 essays, some of them written by administrators themselves, we get a rare glimpse of the transformation of the different sectors of the political economy of the country.


The articles include my essay on the vision for a future-ready civil service under the title, ‘From Past Precedents to Future possibilities’. Let us now examine the structure of the book: divided into three sections, viz the social sector, infrastructure and economy, and governance and citizen interface, each chapter takes up an issue of contemporary relevance and discusses it threadbare. Each contributor has made a fairly exhaustive study of the issue under discussion and the text is replete with references and bibliographical references for further reading. Each chapter can merit a review, but I have selected two articles which bring out an aspect that has not yet been covered as extensively as the others – as for example, the concept of time poverty among tea garden workers of North Bengal, and the possible (political) reasons for the withdrawal of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Development Board. We are all aware that poverty has many dimensions – and development literature now talks about ‘multidimensional poverty’. Priyadarshini Bhattacharya who is currently posted in the Dooars region of North Bengal talks about how this aspect of ‘time poverty’ has escaped the classical paradigm of labour economics with its obsession with core issues from a male gaze. Bhattacharya documents the daily life of a female plantation worker to show how she has lost all agency on account of the structure of her work life. As managements negotiate new wage agreements where ‘hazri’ or attendance is now no longer a function of time, but of productivity ‘kilograms of plucked leaf’, women lose out on the one and only resource that was in their control — that of time. The shifting concept of ‘hazri’ has been accentuated by the fact that control has moved from the hands of owners/managers of plantations to impersonal buyers who own brands, and have no physical, let alone emotional connect with those at the end of the production cycle. The fact that the supervisors (sardars) are all male also makes it difficult for women to express issues Also Read - The lost legends of Doon related to their health, especially during the menstrual cycle. Bhattacharya also talks about the innovations like skilling options, discussions on sharing the family responsibility with male members, campaign against alcoholism and introduction of cooked nutritious meals to women when they are on duty, besides of course provision for clean toilets and creches for kids. The article by Ravinath Raman on the failure of the Char Dham Development Board to find acceptance among the traditional priests and stakeholders is a study on the steps that need to be taken before a ‘faith-related legislation’ can find general acceptance. Although the main legislation had provisions to guarantee the hereditary rights of the traditional priests and their families (locally called Hak – Hakook), including the right to perform religious rites and the right to take voluntary donation (dan) from the pilgrims and rights to Hundis (collection boxes) prior to the enactment of the legislation, the local priests got together and found political support, not just from the opposition legislators, but also from those in the ruling dispensation who had a personal axe to grind against the then CM. Raman, who was then the Divisions Commissioner and the first CEO, offers his suggestion: first and foremost being that governments must be continually engaged in a dialogue with the stakeholders who are likely to be affected by the decision adversely. Secondly, it is better to move incrementally on issues which involve the belief systems of people. Again, while all the successful examples of temple trusts – be it of Vaishno Devi or Tirupati – were based on just one deity and operated in the close geographical vicinity of the deity, the Char Dham Board represented four different patterns of worship. Perhaps having four Boards – one for each Dham — would have been more inclusive, and these could then have been federated into a Yatra Prashasan Sangathan. Before closing, one would like to place on record the hard work put in by the editors – Ashish and Iva Ashish Srivastava. The task of selecting ‘contributors’, assigning them working titles, following up with them to submit their articles on time, and acting as the interlocutor between the publisher and the individual authors is indeed an uphill task, which is difficult but also exhilarating, especially when the finished product is in your hands! The book is being launched during the inaugural session of the Valley of Words. The writer, a former Director of LBS National Academy of Administration, is currently a historian, policy analyst and columnist, and serves as the Festival Director of Valley of Words — a festival of arts and literature. Follow @mpostdigital @mpostdigital @mpostdigital @mpostdigital Sanjeev Chopra Next Story Triumphs and trials Although the Nairobi Ministerial Conference was considered successful with a consensual ministerial declaration, developed nations made minimal concessions in crucial Doha Development Agenda areas, maintaining major disagreements and leaving significant goals unfulfilled BY Krishna Gupta16 Dec 2023 8:26 PM Krishna Gupta16 Dec 2023 8:26 PM The WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from December 15 to 19, 2015. Between the Bali MC and the Nairobi MC, a lot of work was done to take forward the Bali package. LDCs tabled proposals in the GCs in 2014 and 2015 to implement various decisions taken in Bali in respect of their preferential treatment: ranging from the services waiver to preferential rules of origin. The November 2014 General Council meeting agreed to extend the deadline to agree to the Nairobi work programme until July 2015. The end-year December 2014 General Council meeting also discussed various proposals for the post-Bali work programme and the agenda and discussion points in Nairobi MC. Issues at the Nairobi MC


The Nairobi MC opened with the Chairman, Amina Mohamed, making a passioned plea for successful negotiations. She also signalled that new issues such as global value chains and environmental goods trade were also important in world trade. She also urged all countries to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which was agreed to in Bali. As the MC progressed, a draft Agriculture text was circulated among Members by the Lesotho Minister, who was acting as a facilitator. To the surprise of developing countries, the text did not properly reflect issues of importance to developing countries, such as special safeguard mechanism and public stockholding of food grains (both these issues were primary demands of the G33 group of countries, which included India, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil). There was also no proper reflection of the elimination of export subsidies. As the negotiations progressed, it became increasingly clear that the draft text on various issues reflected developed countries’ positions and ignored those of developing countries and LDCs. With no agreement even on the last day of negotiations, December 18, the ‘Green Room’ process was invoked by the DG, WTO, who invited the five major negotiating countries: US, EU, China, India and Brazil.


The final discussions were reduced to the following issues: Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM); A solution to the issue of public stockholding of food grains for food security; * Export competition, which included the four issues of export subsidies, export credits, international food aid, and trade undertaken by state trading enterprises. After protracted discussions in the Green Room, a compromise text was agreed upon which included a SSM for developing countries and the issue of public stockholding of food grains for food security. However, the USA, the EU and Brazil ensured that the text proposed by India seeking for an accelerated work programme for SSM was not included. Moreover, the SSM text had a reference to the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, rather than the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). The issue of public stockholding of food grains did however provide for an accelerated work programme, which was basically a repeat of the Bali decision. The basic outcome on this was the same as Bali: that the public stockholding programmes in developing countries would not be challenged under the Agreement on Agriculture until a permanent solution was found. On export competition, there was an agreement to phase out export subsidies immediately by developed countries and by 2018 by developing countries.


There were some exceptions such as those of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and EU, which were allowed to phase out export subsidies in dairy, processed foods and swine meat by 2020. India did manage to get Article 9.4 of the Agreement on Agriculture retained which allowed subsidies for marketing, handling and transportation until 2023 for developing countries and until 2030 for LDCs. On export credits, maximum repayment periods were defined (18 months for developed countries, 36 months for developing countries and 36 to 54 months for LDCs). In other words, developed countries managed to ratify and continue their export credit policies, rather than phase them out. On state trading enterprises, it was agreed that their operations should minimise trade distortions. Finally, on food aid, it was agreed that such aid should not displace commercial trade and domestic production.


The other important decision in the Nairobi package was the immediate ban on export subsidies to cotton, effective from January 1, 2017. This was a longstanding demand of the ‘cotton 4’, namely Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad and Mali, who had submitted a proposal in this regard in 2015. The decision also included duty free, quota free access to markets of developed countries. Two other decisions were adopted as part of the Nairobi package: preferential rules of origin for LDC exports and special and differential treatment in services to LDCs, which freed LDCs from the Most Favoured Nation obligation. LDC services and service providers were given preferential market access until 2030. While the preferential rules of origin would make it easier for a product to be called ‘made in LDCs’ by easing origin requirements, the services waiver would allow LDC service providers preferential access to markets of other countries.


In all, the Nairobi package consisted of six Ministerial decisions on SSM, public stockholding of food grains, Export Competition, Cotton, preferential rules of origin for LDCs and the LDCs services waiver. Conclusion While the Nairobi MC was a success in that it produced a consensual ministerial declaration, it was clear that developed countries gave away very little in the main areas of the Doha Development Agenda, namely domestic support and market access in agriculture and non-agriculture market access (NAMA). Even in the areas where there was agreement, the USA, EU and Brazil prevailed over the position taken by India, particularly in the area of SSM and public stockholding of foodgrains.


Not only that, developed countries managed to get a green signal to continue with their export credits and food aid. On the other hand, the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration clearly reaffirmed the Doha Development Agenda (para 30) and also committed to continue the work on the outstanding issues in Agriculture (Domestic Support, Market Access), NAMA, Services, Development, TRIPS and Rules (which includes trade remedies like Anti-Dumping, Safeguards and Subsidies). In other words, while the Nairobi MC ended on an optimistic note, the core of the Doha Development Agenda remained to be achieved. There was much more to achieve in the forthcoming negotiations. The writer is Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Mass Education Extension and Library Services and Department of Cooperation, Government of West Bengal



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