This comment on the Municipal administration by an incoming Secretary of the Municipal Corporation in 1938 seems to prefigure contemporary descriptions of administrative informality in India’s ‘porous state’…
“The staff was criticised in severe terms by my predecessor in office in the last Annual Report. I am unable to make any comments upon the work of the staff during the year under report as I did not join till after the close of the year and received no notes when I assumed charge. My own view, however, is that the fault lies not so much with the members of the staff as with the system of recruitment and organisation of office. To mention only one serious point, the office files have a disconcerting habit of getting lost frequently often never to be traced. This can be attributed mainly to the defective organisation of the office. There is no system of inspection by which the work of the staff may be controlled and checked so that it is impossible to fix the responsibility for the loss of a file or other such matter upon any single member of the staff since the fault is generally detectable only after a considerable lapse of time. Another factor which materially contributes to this state of affairs is the presence in the office of a large number of clerks as unpaid candidates who cannot be expected to show the same degree of responsibility as a regular member of the staff. It may here be pointed out in passing that the term ‘paid apprentice’ is really a misnomer in so far as they enjoy all the benefits of a permanent employee, such as the benefits of leave, Provident fund and regular increments. Their absorption for all practical purposes in the regular cadre coupled with the considerable increase in work due to the natural expansion and growth of Municipal activities without a corresponding increase in staff are perhaps responsible for their presence in order to relieve and assist those who are over worked. Another irregular and objectionable feature of the organisation of the staff is the absence of any uniform grades or scales of pay.
It is, therefore, very necessary in the interests of efficient administration to overhaul the organisation and place it on a regular and intelligent basis. There must be fixed grades and scales of pay and they must be strictly adhered to in each case. There must be certain principles governing promotion and increments.
Lastly, the present system of candidates must be abolished. There should be no ‘unpaid candidates’ attached to various branches for so-called practical training, for the presence of irresponsible persons in the office is obviously fraught with danger as has been amply shown by experience. As for the “paid candidates” they should be, as they are meant to be, only candidates receiving a maintenance allowance and not regular employees in disguise, as they are at present.”
Report on the Administration of the Delhi Municipality for the year 1937-38