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Be Aware!!!! Indian bureaucracy at work

Many of us face the problem of inefficiency of public servants on the daily basis. One of the main reason is the number of department file goes to get the work done.  We all laugh watching Mussadi Lal in ‘Office Office’. But let me warn you, the situation shown in the program not mere work of fiction. He is the true representation of common man getting his work done at Government office.

Arun Shourie Testimony

Arun Shourie recounts his experience as Minister of Administrative Reform to Gurucharan Das, the author of India Unbound. He gave the chronological order of working of bureaucracy to amend the Manual of Office Procedures related to use of ink in office work.

Indian bureaucracy at work

Chronological order of work done by Bureaucracy

13 April

Query “Can officers use inks other than blue or black?” came to Ministry of Administrative Reform from the Ministry of Steel. Such trivial query was raised because officers in the ministry of steel used red and green ink on official papers. After serious consultation by Ministry of Administrative Reforms, it was decided to consult Director of Printing.

3 May

Ministry of Administrative Reform sent an ‘office memorandum’ to Director of Printing.

21 May

Director of Printing replied saying no rules were found about the use of different inks. They opined that heads of the department can use other colors while other officers must confine themselves to blue and black ink. They suggested consulting Department of Personnel in the Home Ministry.

6 July

Department of Personnel replied that this matter concerned the Manual of Office Procedures which is regulated by Department of Administrative Reform; hence they are competent to decide.

12 August

After having the serious discussion in Department of Administrative Reforms sent a letter to the Director General, department of archives as longevity of inks was an issue on government records.

27 August

Director General, department of archives replied that as regards fountain pens blue, black ought to be prescribed but in case of ballpoint pens blue black red and green could be permitted. But whatever ink was used its quality ought to comply with the Bureau of Indian Standard.


4 October

Chairman of Department of Administrative Reforms felt that before deciding the matter army should be consulted. A letter was sent to the joint secretary in Ministry of Defence.

22 December

Joint secretary in Ministry of Defence replied that red ink is used by the chiefs of army, navy and air force; green is used by principal staff officers; blue is used by all other officers.

28 March

The order was passed amending the Manual of Office procedure: ‘Initial drafting will be done in black or blue ink. Modification in the draft at subsequent levels may be made in green and red ink by the officers so as to distinguish the correction made.’

After recounting the tale, Shourie concludes ‘a good bureaucratic solution: discretion allowed but circumscribed.’


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