“India’s public institutions face major challenges in recruiting, motivating and retaining talent. The problem has been manifest in the core government bureaucracy for years. In 2012, the total authorised strength of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service was 10,884, of which more than three thousand were vacant – 28 per cent of the total. In 2011, of the 100,000-odd Group A sanctioned posts of the central government, 15 per cent were vacant. In 2013, the army’s officer vacancies were nearly 10,000, while its annual recruitment was about a fifth of that (in 2012). In end-2012, against the sanctioned strength of 924 in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, 528 posts were vacant – unsurprisingly, India’s air safety was downgraded to category II by the United States Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year.
While the problems are significant at the entry level, they are manifestly more acute at the senior level. The absence of lateral entry at senior levels of the bureaucracy and the judiciary, the straitjacket posed by the seniority criterion and, of course, the “malleability” criterion imposed by the bureaucracy’s political masters have extracted a heavy price. As domain knowledge in a host of tasks becomes more specialised, the stranglehold of the generalist becomes increasingly self-limiting.”