21 May 2009

Bureaucracy and judicial revenge

The Wall Street Journal has an interview with T.S.R. Subramanian, former cabinet secretary - which seeks to discuss his new book on the state of India. He seeks to demean politicians and glorify bureaucrats in a predictably self serving manner:

"Politicians, unleashed by the knowledge that they are very unlikely ever to be called to account for their actions, have come to dominate the civil service and twist it for their own gain."

I don't think bureaucrats need to demean themselves, unless they seek special favours and rent seeking in partnership with the politicians. 

It also has some usual cliches:

"The average Indian, Mr. Subramanian says in a chat over lunch, just wants the basics from his government. "I don't think Indians care about disparity but they want a minimum standard of living, food, a place to stay and clothing," he says. These are all things that the government has singularly failed to provide to the masses in the 62 years since independence." 

Hardly the thing to say when you have been cabinet secretary for three prime ministers and that too while giving an interview while playing golf.

Finally his comment on the judiciary sounds just wrong:

"The judiciary comes in for equally scathing criticism for its failure to bring politicians to heel and to exempt bad behavior that ordinary citizens would be jailed for. I sense no love lost between Mr. Subramanian and his brethren on the bench. At one point, he offers a theory as to the root of these judicial shortcomings. Judges and bureaucrats traditionally stemmed from the same English-educated class of graduates, he says. And "most people who came to the judiciary were people who failed the civil service exams." 

High Court judges come after practicing as lawyers for nearly 20 years and district judges too have substantial experience. They hardly come from the same class of test givers. To assume most lawyers (many of whom later become judges) appear for the civil services is a wrong fact, but to assert they are taking revenge on the candidates who succeeded while they failed is simply delusional.

Here is the interview in the WSJ

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