India may not be facing shortage of administrators, but it still does not have sufficient strength to run professional services.
Two of these areas are forest management and generation of statistics, where the government is facing a massive shortage of the frontline staff. "There has been no regular recruitment for many years," a senior government official explained.
Frontline forest staff protects wildlife and illegal felling of trees, vital to conserve India's rich bio-diversity. But, almost 40% of its posts are vacant.
"In the last four to five years, the number of vacant posts has increased," said VB Mathur, Dean at the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, which does research on wildlife issues.
As a result, a forest guard in the country's best tiger reserve Corbett in Uttarakhand has to protect wildlife in 35 sq km, an impossible task. Likewise in the Nameri Tiger Reserve, the average age of a forest staffer is 40-48 years, indicating that the personnel who are to protect tigers are getting old and there are no replacements for them.
The environment ministry, in a recent report, had highlighted that because of the shortage of staff and increased pressure of project evaluation, personnel on conservation jobs were on decline.
"In fact, even younger staffers are not willing to work in forests due to the absence of incentives," said a senior IFS officer.
The tale of field-level statistical officers is no different. About 30% posts in this field are lying vacant. And the government is yet to approve a proposal to hire adequate number of personnel as suggested by the ministry of programme implementation and statistics.
"We have hired some people on contract for data collection. But they don't have any accountability as many of them leave by the time data analysis starts," an official with National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) said.
In the recent past, the government had questioned NSSO data, especially on employment and unemployment, saying that the data had failed to reflect the correct economic position and was self-contradictory.
"We need to improve our data-collection and for that we need additional hands," the official said.