UP must right-size administration for good governance
The NITI Aayog has advised the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government to trim state bureaucracy by merging departments with overlapping or cognate functions and close down redundant ones. Eighty-four departments—including sainik kalyan, political pensions, entertainment tax, stamp and registration, national integration as also separate rural development and samagra gram vikas vibhag—make the call for a less-top heavy administrative structure intuitive. But if the state is to indeed ensure “greater convergence and effective implementation”—this is what, as per a Times of India report, NITI hopes would be achieved by streamlining UP bureaucracy—it has to go beyond just the trimming exercise. To be sure, it isn’t clear if the NITI roadmap goes beyond the old hat ‘minimum government’ dictum, but ‘maximum governance’ (or “effective implementation”) would need right-sizing of the government. UP would do better if it were to fix the head-tail ratio in its bureaucracy, that is, if it took steps to shed the excess weight at the top while ensuring that the lower rungs of the government machinery aren’t starved for personnel.
Governance deficit has a lot to do with, among other things, missing foot soldiers at the grass-root level. For instance, if UP police has to function with only 50% of the sanctioned strength—in April, there were only 1.81 lakh personnel against a sanctioned 3.63 lakh posts—how can it be expected to uphold law and order effectively in a state that has over 21 crore people? The state had the fourth-highest number of cognisable crimes under the IPC and the highest number of such crimes under Special Local Laws in 2015, as per the National Crime Records Bureau. The fact that it has the most number of IPS officers in the country isn’t really going to make a difference to the crime rate if enough lower-level personnel are not there. Similarly, as of May, Hindustan Times reports, only 5.85 lakh teachers were serving in the UP government-run primary and upper primary schools while almost 7.6 lakh teachers are needed. Expectedly, the state had the lowest number of Standard III students who could do a simple subtraction, as per ASER 2016.
These are obvious problems that the Uttar Pradesh government must fix, along with its top-heavy bureaucracy. The challenge would, of course, be finding the resources to do this because recruiting teachers and police personnel means footing a larger salary outgo as well as other attendant costs. This is where NITI will be able to help the most, by, say, outlining a roadmap to greater contractual or ad hoc recruitment for teaching posts. Maximum governance, the Uttar Pradesh government needs to realise, is about the striking the optimum head-tail ratio in the administrative structure.