Should underperforming bureaucrats be made to retire early?

Should underperforming bureaucrats be made to retire early?

India's steel frame is the bureaucracy. Remnant of the British times, it was continued with the hope that it will act as engine for India's rapid growth. However, failure in living up to the hopes and expectations of people has cast doubts on them and they are being termed as the ‘white elephant’. Max Weber, one of the earliest to conceptualize, in his ideal type bureaucracy, attributed the following features to the bureaucracy- impersonality, hierarchy, specified duties, professional qualifications, salary, full-time careers, separation of office from ownership and centralized powers; other essential qualifications being impartiality and efficiency. This huge bureaucratic machinery has been constituted in all countries with the sole aim of providing continuity to administration and achieving efficiency in administration. A question arises what to do when this bureaucracy becomes a burden, underperforms or does not work in consonance with its objectives and attributes.

They must be retired –

1. This move will discipline others. Those who are not active will get a stern warning.

2. This will also help bring fresh talent in administration. Old minds sometimes prefer status quo. New talent will give new boost to the services and help change orientation and mindset.

3. With age a person can grow inactive. This can lead to underperformance. Only active officials can encourage lower officials and government servants to be active in performing duties.

4. This will also give a clear signal to the new entrants as to what is expected of them and what will be the punishment if they do not live up to the expectations.

5. With this kind of punishment, only those people who truly want to serve the country through civil service will join the service. This will deter those applicants who see the bureaucracy as a money making career.

6. Performance based job security and incentives will make bureaucrats work harder and in an efficient manner. The reach of bureaucracy and this efficiency together can work wonders for development of India.

Other ways must be utilized –

1. Different punishments or methods must be used to deter instead of retirement. There are many ways to improve performance of the underperforming.

2. Retiring will not help as there must be someone to train the fresh recruits. These experienced bureaucrats can guide the fresher.

3. Retirement can strike fear in minds of bureaucrats and they might not take bold decisions needed for growth and maintaining law and order. They will refrain from taking risks.

4. Security of tenure guarantees their independence from political interference and makes them less vulnerable to political pressure. This can help them take a stand against wrong policies.

5. Underperforming bureaucrats can be handled in many other ways like suspension, pay dock, increment stalling, etc.

6. Shifting underperforming bureaucrats to non-active duty like training is also an option. These bureaucrats have experience which proves valuable.

7. The advice of these experienced bureaucrats is useful in sensitive areas in India to new officers as they have handled the area.

8. We must also shift focus from punishment to encouragement. We should try to encourage underperforming bureaucrats to perform well. We should understand their difficulties. Sometimes political pressure can cause an official to not perform well.


Retirement is not a solution. We need people of talent to replace the retirees. Retirement must be thought about only for extremely underperforming officials whose career record has not been that good. However such criteria must be used sparingly and with much thought. Going ahead with forced retirement can become a political tool to get back at resisting or honest bureaucrats. This will be a bad practice and will not install confidence in the officials as they will focus more on security of tenure than their official duties. Other strict punishments can achieve the same result instead of retirement. We must explore those avenues.
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  • RE: Should underperforming bureaucrats be made to retire early? -Deepa Kaushik (09/23/15)
  • It is not only for the bureucrats, but holds true for every sphere of life. Underperformance when tolerated leads to immense loss to the nation invarious forms. Development of any nation does not only mean the economic development, but in every form. Underperformance of any citizen burdens the nation in some or the other form. The higher the position and authority of the citizen, higher is the loss for the nation.

    Bureaucrats hold a resonsible position in the society and they need to be extra careful while performing their duties. Even the slightest errorin their duties makes the common man pay in some or the other form. It could be the law and order sitruation, or economy or any other form of duties that the bureaucrats are appointed for, they should be performing and giving result to their fullest.

    Underperformance should be punished, but it is doubtful whether early retirement could be a sensible option. The underperforming bureaucrat would continue to underperform till the time he is made to retire. Even the transfers could not be all that effective, as the underperformance would reflect from one or other part of the society and would effect the nation in the same way.

    Such underperformers should be made to realize their error and that should ideally reflect in their further performanmce. A suspension can be regarded a remedial measure. But one should keep in mind that the underperformer is not made to work under any pressure, be that political or from the famous personalities or in any other form. Hence, the underperforming bureaucrats should be punished, but early retirement should not be option for that.
  • RE: Should underperforming bureaucrats be made to retire early? -Navneet (09/23/15)
  • Forced retirement would very harsh and not a solution. Such measure may be used unfairly and can victimize anyone. But accountability for the post is earnestly required, failing to that should attract some punishment such as demotion, suspension etc.