Bureaucracy and Democracy


To prepare for GOVERNANCE for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about Bureaucracy and Democracy. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Governance syllabus (GS-II.). Role of Civil Services in Democracy terms are important from Governance perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams. Even these topics are also highly linked with current affairs. Almost every question asked from them is related to current events. So, apart from standard textbooks, you should rely on newspapers and news analyses as well for these sections.


  • Bureaucracy is the executive arm of the government where elected government employs competent state officials to run state matter. They are selected by government through merit based process.
  • Democracy is the process whereby the government is elected by the people whereas Bureaucracy is the system in which elected government employs competent state officials to run state matter. They are selected by government through merit based process.
  • At the central level UPSC is a recruiting agency which acts as a watchdog for merit system.

Differences between Bureaucracy and Democracy:

Democracy Bureaucracy
Based on the values of Equality, Federalism, Republicanism Based on the values of Hierarchy, Centralization, Top to bottom flow
Freedom of Expression Freedom of Expression is not allowed
Public Representatives Direct
Responsive Non Responsive
Responsible to its electorates Responsible to its hierarchy
Elected Selected
Tenure is 5 Tenure is till the age of retirement


Evolution of bureaucracy since independence:

  • Nation Building: After independence, bureaucracy set out to implement agenda of its political masters. It included commitment to democratic socialism, secularism and non-alignment.
  • Democratization of Bureaucracy: After the 1967 assembly elections, civil services got major fillip with increased representation of backward castes. Later representation was given impetus post Mandal commission recommendations. Experts argue that it led to democratisation of the bureaucracy.
  • Welfare state: With the independence and adoption of constitution, India as nation transitioned from police state to welfare state where bureaucracy played major role in the smooth transition.
  • Dealing with divisive forces: The bureaucracy faced tremendous challenges to preserve the democracy like partition and subsequent communal riots, integration of princely states, linguistic reorganisation of states.
  • Emergency era: Experts say that Indian democracy has survived the emergency only because of strong bureaucracy.
  • Committed Bureaucracy: This idea emerged in 1970s and 80s. The idea most fundamentally, entailed that a bureaucrat should be hundred percent committed to the policies and programmes of the political party in power. By extension, this also implied full commitment to the individual politicians holding power. A bureaucrat was not to be guided by any other consideration.
  • License permit Raj: Due to socialist model of development, license was needed to start any business –small or big. The discretionary power rested with bureaucracy who could give license against favours granted by the concerned businessman.
  • Globalization: It marked the watershed era for Indian bureaucracy. By liberalisation of the economy is meant freeing a national economy from governmental control and letting it run as per the market forces. Liberalisation era marked the shift from License Permit Raj to facilitator role for bureaucracy.


Issues with Bureaucracy:

  • Ministers or Bureaucrats: Critics argue that appointing legislators on the executive post is faulty practice and rife with perils. Elected representatives should look to resolve social issues and form laws, not become administrators. To expect them to deliver quality services in the age of specialisation and technology is absurd. When career politicians are placed in charge of career administrators, it defeats the purpose of both.
  • Politicization of bureaucracy: This defeats the bureaucrats’ primary purpose of providing non-partisan and efficient administration. As soon as the government changes, the bureaucrats are either transferred or shunted. Favourable appointments by politicians makes separating line between politicians and bureaucrats blur.
  • Politicians – bureaucrats – Businessman nexus: The nexus was borne out of license quota raj where politicians and bureaucrats had discretionary power over allocation of natural resources in the country. This led to this unholy nexus and crony capitalism. It has undermined the democratic credentials of the country.
  • Attitude of the bureaucracy: Subsequent to the structural adjustment of the economy consequent to liberalisation, there have been perceptible shifts in the attitude of the bureaucracy. In the initial phase, they were openly hostile to these reforms.
  • Status quoist nature: Bureaucracy is still grappled with colonial mindset, red tapism, negligence towards vulnerable sections or insensitive towards needs of these people, treating people as beneficiaries instead of performing role of guardians of public purse and recognising rights of people.
  • Discretionary powers: The loopholes in laws, rules and regulations have become safe havens for bureaucrats to exploit the public resources, their authority where such loopholes are also used avoid their basic democratic duties.
  • Skill up gradation: Due to changing horizons of society, needs of society also change. Such needs can only be fulfilled if bureaucracy is also aligning itself with the changing needs of the society. But due to less interest shown by bureaucracy in skill up gradation marginalisation of vulnerable sections have been increased.
  • Less involvement of people in developmental process: Bureaucracy has shown less interest in considering people in policy formulation. Still top down Approach is followed by bureaucracy while neglecting people’s views altogether or taking views of through indirect channels.


Changing role of bureaucracy in post liberalisation era:

  • Due to planned economy and existence of public sector bureaucracy in initial years became responsible for regulation and management of all PSUs.

But privatisation drive after 1991 reforms, the role of bureaucracy has been drastically reduced. Bureaucracy has also survived this transition and striving to adopt principles of New Public Managemen

Download IGP- Current Affairs for Interview 2022
Enter your details to get the ebook!
1.5 Year Current Affairs
Download Free Ebook
Enter your details to get the ebook!
Basics Of UPSC Interview
Download Free Ebook
DAF Based Question
Whatsapp Your DAF-II
Fill form NOW
Get Your Personalized
Get Your Personalized
DAF Based Question
Fill form NOW
Whatsapp Your DAF-II
Mentors Guided
Prelims Test Series UPSC 2023
Program starts from 15th of January 2023
Online mode
Whatsapp Now
Offline mode
Enroll now
Whatsapp now