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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Exam Strategy for Public Administration


Public Administration
Given the time constraint, a well-thought out strategy makes the difference between success and failure. Intensive and focused approach built on analysis needs to be scrupulously adhered to. Some ingredients of a 'smart strategy' are:
Building a general overview Perusal of question papers of previous years Identification of 'thrust areas' for concentrated pursuit Examination-bias Adequate writing practice for time management and evolving right content Continuous review of performance and appropriate corrections At least two weeks before the examination, writing exercises should be stopped and the entire attention should be on revision. Every candidate appearing for the mains examination should be conversant with the fundamentals of the structure, process, behaviour and environment of the administrative system. It's equally important that the student should be conversant with the contemporary and the current developments of socio-political and economic nature that have a close bearing on the functioning of the administration. For example, changing governors; direct grants to panchayats; economic reforms with a human face; globalisation and administration; second generation reforms and the social infrastructure; right to information and participative development.
Amassing information is a big 'don't'. Candidates should be able to identify 'core areas' which cannot be avoided in the context of the mains examination and consolidate. Most importantly, study and writing practice should reinforce each other. Writing practice holds the key to success. It ensures legibility, time management and adherence to word limit. Effective introduction, logical build up and balanced conclusion send the right signals to the evaluator. Every question needs to be studied carefully to understand the exact requirements. For instance, some years ago, in the mains examination, the office of the Prime Minister was given and some took it for Prime Minister's Office. Several times, the questions are general in nature and not direct. For example, criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime; public sector enterprises are neither public nor enterprises; recruitment of recruiters needs to be streamlined and planning in India needs to be depoliticised.
For short questions, answers should be direct and precise. In a long essay, introduction should be appealing and effective. Elaboration of the theme should be properly prioritised. Sequencing should be done in such a manner that one paragraph logically follows from another. Depending upon the paper I or II, apt illustrations add value. While answering a question on welfare administration, the concept of welfare needs to be supplemented with the initiatives undertaken by the government highlighting the different types of programmes, the coverage and the resource profile. Unlike general studies, public administration requires interpretative skills, ability to correlate theory and practice; and synchronise conventional with the current. For example, presidential activism in India; budget as an instrument of socio-economic transformation; citizen-administration interface and e-governance; regulation and development; development and delivery models.
Paper I
Administrative theory: Section - A
Theories of Administration: Scientific Management, Human Relations' School, Bureaucratic Theory and Systems Approach - These are all essential theories and students need to focus on critical aspects, which is not there in General Studies (GS). Students need to be exhaustive with their preparation, which should be based on 3Cs - comprehensive, clarity and critical approach.
Structure of Public Organisations: In GS, a general approach to public sector is required whereas in Public Administration, the approach to this is actually amplification of government policy. Few years ago, a question in the main stage in the Public Administration paper was, `Welfare obligation of public sector has been abandoned in the era of liberalisation''. This question will never come in GS. The nature of this question is provocative and you need to respond with a positive attitude. Your reply could begin with:''Public sector still fulfil nation's goal of welfare.... '' Or, there might be a question which says, ''Since 1967, position of governor has been politicised''.
Administrative Behaviour: This topic is a real challenge and students need to be thorough with a concept like motivation. They need to be thorough with atleast three thinkers which include Maslow, Herzberg and Macgregor. They need to make a comparative account of all three of them. The year preceding, a quotation from Macgregor's original book of quotation was given.
Accountability and Control: We are in a parliamentary system and students need to be clear about Parliament and its functions. They should read books on governance by Arun Shourie and Bimal Jalan. They also must be conversant on how Parliament functions in all aspects.
Section B
Administrative Reforms: This is a dynamic area as the emphasis is on technology. Students need to be thorough with legislations like Right to Information, rendering administration through people-centric institutions like panchayats and nagar palikas. Concepts like social auditing and participatory governance need to be studied in detail.
Comparative Public Administration: You need to read thinkers like Riggs. Earlier, public administration was centred around Western concepts whereas the focus is now on third world countries like India. Students are expected to be familiar with issues like governance, rural development, privatisation and human rights in Brazil, China and South Africa.
Development Administration: Students need to approach this topic with an open mind and with some amount of reading. They need to follow international trends on how technology is impacting administration across third world and elsewhere. This is relevant for India as there is a political dimension to the whole concept as it deals in issues like federalism and decentralisation. It has a dimension of administration where you deal with various aspects like poverty alleviation, empowerment, retraining and administration machinery.
Public Policy: It's a challenging topic and students need to be aware about Dror who spoke maximum on issues related to public policy. Students need to be aware of how the country is developing particularly on issues related to disinvestments. Students need to be aware of anti-poverty programmes and how employment-generation schemes have evolved all these years.
Financial Administration: This topic is routed in Indian practices. You have issues like Parliament and Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and how do they function but students have to be absolutely clear on these issues. There is premium on latest knowledge like the PM's and finance minister's recent speeches as well.
Paper II
Indian Administration: Section - A
Evolution of Indian Administration: Areas which are crucial include criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime, President's rule, Federal system in context of coalition government, fiscal and monetary policy.
Constitutional framework: President, Parliament and judiciary: These are important but students should not follow the conventional mode while preparing for main paper. Questions are generally twisted and they need to muster facts while giving right interpretation. Like in GS, the questions will deal with discretionary power of Governor (Article 116) whereas for public Administration, they might ask, ''Governor is an agent of centre''. Similarly in GS, the question might be based on Panchayati Raj System based on 73rd amendment. In Public Administration, they might ask, ''Panchayats are not development delivery vehicle, they are an independent tier of governance in true Gandhian spirit''. Students need to read national dailies to prepare for these kind of topics.
Union Government and Administration: The focus is on Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Cabinet Secretariat. The PMO has acquired enormous importance during the last three to four decade. Students should focus on how the relationship between PMO and Cabinet Secretariat has evolved under these c i rc u m s t a n ce s. Newspapers and journals should be good source of information on this issue.
State Government and Administration: Students need to be thorough with the Sarkaria Commission's report on Centre-State relations and National Commission to Review the Working of Constitution report which was submitted in 2002
District Administration and Local Government: The changing role of collector vis-a-vis technology, District Rural Development Authority, District Development Authority, structure of panchayats and nagar palikas. There should focus on on issues like Right to Information, Cyber Governance.
Section B
Public Services: There should be focus on UPSC, State Public Service Commissions and how ''recruiters should be properly recruited''. The constitutional aspect and functions of these institutions need to be studied.
Control of Public Expenditure: Sections like Parliament and CAG have already been dealt in paper I. They need to further focus on Public Interest Litigation, judicial activism which includes extra ordinary intervention by Supreme Court and High Courts in order to restore dwindling public faith in system because of declining public morality at highest level.
Administrative Reforms: Queries on Right to Information, social audit, panchayati raj, Voluntary R e t i re m e n t Schemes are part of the administrative reforms.
Machinery for Planning: Student need to focus on Planning Commission and how the role has changed during all these years. They need to find out that whether Planning Commission should be merged with Finance Commission in the context of liberalisation. Students can gather information from national newspapers, periodical and journals.
Administration of Law and Order: The role of central and state agencies in the maintenance of law and order and articles published on these issues should be given top priority
Welfare Administration: This is an evolving area and there is no specific reading material available on this issue. Students need to go through annual report of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Writing: Application is the key while writing this paper. Avoid jargon and abbreviation, be precise. Premium is on accuracy, insightfulness and application.

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