The Delhi government has been advertising for 30 urban change agents. It has instituted a fellowship programme to which 30 young leaders under the age of 35 can apply and expect a salary of up to ₹1.25 lakh a month to suggest solutions for Delhi’s most pressing urban challenges. Great idea, you would imagine. But what exactly is the bureaucracy doing? Isn’t it its job to solve our problems? Delhi is reportedly facing an acute shortage of senior bureaucrats. Delhi’s deputy CM claims that while there are 309 posts for DANICS (Delhi, Andamans and Nicobar islands civil service) officials in Delhi, the city government has only 165. Apparently IAS officers of the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territories) cadre do not want a Delhi posting. They don’t want to get caught in the crossfire between the AAP government and the Centre.

Given this situation, Arvind Kejriwal clearly has no choice but to come up with unorthodox ways to get his radical ideas implemented. While the Delhi case is publicised, shortage of officials is a common problem across States and quite a few of them including Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim are hiring consultants. Even central ministries are doing so. A new fad is to hire researchers (mostly US-returned) and compensate them generously.

The trend has also set in because many in power do not believe IAS officers have the skills to come up with ideas and deliver on them. But if it’s ideas that they want, what’s stopping the Government from crowdsourcing them from the lay public? Besides, there are several NGOs in the development sector funded by government that generate research reports. Why duplicate work? If there is an ideas deficit, shouldn’t the bureaucracy be overhauled, instead of burdening an already overburdened nation by dipping into government coffers?

Editorial Consultant