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Bloating Bureaucracy

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The government may be trying its best to control expenditure and subsidies, but to do that it needs to add manpower and increase its salary bill by a fair bit.

This year, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has budgeted for 64,667 people joining its existing staff strength of 3,346,673. The government's staff strength will consequently rise to 3,411,340 by the end of the year.

Last year too, the government felt it needed more people to do its job properly. In 2011-12, 159,120 people were added to the 3,187,553 strong bureaucracy, an increase of 4.99 per cent from 2010-11.

Mukherjee has budgeted for an additional outgo of Rs 8,163 crore on account of salaries and allowances, to cover both the increased staff and salary increments. This takes the total pay and allowances bill of the government to a staggering Rs 111,878 crore.

But Mukherjee wants the ministers and bureaucrats to travel less and frugally. His budget proposes to cut travel expenses from Rs 3,519 crore to Rs 3,473 crore during the course of the year. Whether he will be able to persuade his fellow ministers and bureaucrats in the government to stop jetting around the planet at the drop of a hat remains to be seen. Incidentally, this year's government travel spending was around Rs 500 crore more than what was spent in 2011 — though that did not seem to help either the airline industry or the railways in improving their financial positions.

Of course, ministries often routinely overshoot the finance minister's budget targets when it comes to adding people and costs. In the past financial year, many ministries and departments added far more people than what Mukherjee had planned for, if one goes by the revised estimates. Despite these additions, few  — if any at all — ordinary citizens experienced any better service or productivity from these departments.

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Some departments are more prolific at adding unbudgeted people than others. A look at this year's expenditure chart shows that the Department of Atomic Energy intends to ramp up its staff strength from 33,492 to 37,632. For some odd reason, the civil aviation ministry plans to add a fresh 267 people to it rolls.

There are some departments where additional recruitments are necessary. Given the current law and order situation, the police force is expected to grow by 57,568 in the new financial year. Last year, the police force added 63,466 to its previous year's strength.

However, Mukherjee is not hiring in a big way for his own ministry. Only 13 people will be added to the Department of Financial Services. Perhaps to offset this, the Department of Economic Affairs will cut its staff by one person in FY2013, reducing its staff strength from 1,352 to 1,351.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 26-03-2012)