24 September, 2020

Errors Of Commission

Even long service on government panels can't demystify their inner workings

Sandeep Adhhwaryu
Errors Of Commission

An occupational hazard of middle age is serving on boards and committees. In India, where most things happen under the aegis of the government, this is particularly demanding—especially in sectors where democracy requires consensus rather than a one-man bureaucratic diktat. Huge areas of government decision-making and spending are still determined by part-time committees—a hangover of post-Independence Nehruvian times, when India was struggling to create new institutions and a national identity without access to in-house expertise or professional consultants.

Though fondly termed "expert", a committee is not necessarily the most efficient way of achieving creative results. Members, however committed, have their own preoccupations and priorities, and devote only a fraction of their minds to the task at hand, frantically reading the background papers as they drive to the meeting, and absent-mindedly signing judiciously doctored minutes. And though committees don't get paid, they cost money—members are flown in from all corners of the...



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