By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rulemaster-General Vs. Bulky Rules Commission

TMG - RMG - FMG -- Taskmaster-General, Rulemaster-General and Filemaster-General -- the three great towers of the formidable bureaucratic edifice! We have taken a look at the TMG. Now let me show you how I visualized the RMG at first, when I already had a track record of 15 years as a civil servant in independent India, where the Government set-up continued to bear a close resemblance to the British model.

The name Chapterji was a hilarious variation of Chatterji, which is one of the most common names in the State of West Bengal. By the way, Chatterji itself is a permanent distortion of the authentic Bengali name Chattopadhyaya, which couldn't be pronounced properly by the British rulers in colonial India -- but that's a different story which I shall tell some other time!

Shankar's Weekly
14 Jan. 1973
Bulky Rules Question

I happened to meet Mr. R.N. Chapterji, Chairman of the Bulky Rules Commission, at a party the other day. He was, I found, very communicative about the problem with which he is currently preoccupied.

"What are the basic aspects of the Bulky Rules question, Mr. Chapterji?" I asked him.

"The basic aspects are quite simple," he said. "The rules and regulations governing our affairs have become too bulky. Some people want to change the situation and simplify the rules. But others want to keep the rules as they are, unless they can be made bulkier. Naturally the two sets of people can't help clashing."

"Why should anybody want the rules to be bulky, Mr. Chapterji? Surely it will be in everybody's interest if the rules are simplified?"

"Not necessarily! There are the people who have been appointed to the posts whose incumbents are expected to interpret the complexities of the rules and regulations in force. They will lose their jobs if the rules are simplified."

"I see."

"Then you have the people who have really managed to master the Bulky Rules, and they are the ones who wield all the real power. If the rules were simplified, everybody could master them, and these Rulemasters will lose their hold on their bosses!"

"I see."

"And then, of course, there are the parties who want the rules to be interpreted in a way which favours them. Obviously, the more complicated the rules, the greater the room for any desired interpretation. These parties are naturally opposed to any reduction or simplification of the rules."

"Of course! Anybody else, Mr. Chapterji?"

"Well, in general most decision-makers prefer the rules to be bulky, because that gives them a good alibi to cover up their mistakes and delays."

"Who are the people who oppose the Bulky Rules, then?"

"Oh, there are some people who are against the Bulky Rules because the delays caused by the complications adversely affect their interests. But most of the people who oppose the Bulky Rules do so because they would like to come to grips with them and start wielding power, but don't have the competence for it."

"Mr. Chapterji, while the Bulky Rules battle is being waged, the rules seem to be getting bulkier and bulkier . How does that happen?"

"Well, the Rulemaster-General just goes on making new rules, and issuing correction slips and clarifications about old rules, so as to make the rules bulkier. The Rulemasters at the lower level help the RMG in this project, by raising all sorts of doubts about existing rules and asking for endless corrections and clarifications."

"Why do they do all this?"

"Because their job security depends on making the rules bulkier. That way, they figure, even if their opponents win and secure a simplification, the rules would still be as bulky as in the beginning."

"Mr. Chapterji, it is more than a year since the Government appointed the Bulky Rules Commission, but you haven't yet submitted your report. Do you mind if I asked what's causing the delay?"

"Oh, there are many reasons! But the main thing is that the Government had nominated some senior Rulemasters as Members of the Commission, to give expert advice to the Chairman and other Members. Unfortunately they have conflicting views, and we haven't been able to agree on a common approach yet."


PostScript, 2013
Changing perception of RMG's role

Well, I wrote that article 40 years ago, and much of what I had visualized about rules and their bulk has stood the test of time, and found to be universally true. But I have an important observation to make concerning certain progressive changes in my perception of the RMG's role in the bureaucratic framework.

It will be useful if you get to know the FMG also well before I discuss that aspect. So, on to the Filemaster-General!

(to be continued)

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