I have written four mains with Public Administration as an optional. I got 228 marks in 2015, 297 in 2016, 290 in 2017 and 307 in 2018. Public Administration has always been special to me and this is one subject which never ditched me in Mains exam.
My journey with public administration began in the end years of college when I got Laxmikanth public administration book. Over the years I read a number of books, many research papers and have really grown fond of this subject.
One thing I would like to state in advance is that I have done very little answer writing as far as optional paper is considered. But I have focused more on approach and analysis, linkage and relevance. I will share all these experiences in this write up and hope that you will benefit from it somehow.
To start with, I learnt much of my pub ad from a thread run by @doodlbean maa’m on ForumIAS. I scanned through all 260+ pages on that thread and observed, read, ingrained the right approach towards public administration.
In the next few years I built on this foundation, going into details by reading from various sources.
Based on my personal journey I would recommend following approach. Aspirants should see if it suits their studying style, time availability and interests. This is only indicative in nature. There is absolutely no need to read some of the books I mentioned if you don’t have time.
The essential books: The must read books
Aribam-Paper 1 & Paper-2 (One should start with these two books)
Administrative Thinkers: Prasad & Prasad (This can go parallel with Aribam if you are new to the subject, otherwise P&P can always be referred to for more in-depth understanding of a thinker)
Mohit Bhattacharya: New Horizons of Public Administration (The language of this book is tough, so it should be read after Aribam. 2nd or 3rd reading of the book gives some good conceptual clarity)
Shubhra Saxena: Public Administration Super 50 (25-25 topics from Paper 1 & Paper 2 have been dealt in a nice manner, more of a revision and content enrichment book, will help in marks augmentation. This used to be my go to book during the interval between paper 1 and paper 2 on the optional exam day)
Vikram Singh: Public Administration Dictionary (Some of the complex concepts have been explained beautifully and a simple manner, quite effective for using them in your answers)
Frederickson, Smith & Others: The Public Administration Theory Primer [Some selected chapters of Primer can be done like Postmodern theory (ch 6), Governance (ch 9), future of pub ad (ch 10) etc]
The non-essential books: Recommended, but they are not necessarily must-read books.
Mohit Bhattacharya: Restructuring Public Administration: A New Look (should be read after New horizons, deals with NPM and Post NPM development; concepts like Neo-weberian state (NWS) has been explained beautifully.
Mohit Bhattacharya: Social Theory and Development administration
Ramesh K. Arora: Comparative Public Administration
Hidden Syllabus :
This is what we often hear in pub ad circle that there is a hidden syllabus. Irrespective of whether it is there or not, following things/names need to be studied, mainly through internet or other books.
Following should be looked into :
Public Administration in other countries – the French and American version, Thatcherism and Reaganism and how New Zealand successfully adopted concepts of Thatcher
Minnowbrook 3 and latest advances in the field of Public Administration (You can refer to public administration review (PAR) website)
Thinkers like Marx and his views on Bureaucracy, Hegel, Hayek, Nozick, Friedman, Talcott parsons, Aaron Wildavsky and Budgeting, Waldo,Warren Bennis, Foucalt and his Governmentality concept, Edward Weidner and his contribution to Development Administration, Gunnar Myrdal, Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), Harrold Lasswell and his idea on Policy Science, Estonian Black Box of Policy Making
Gender and Administration, Gender in Administration and Gender and Budgeting etc. (Very well covered in Mohit Bhattacharya: Social Theory and Development administration)
Ferrel heady and his contribution to Comparative Public Administration
Concepts like Neo Classical Theorists, Neo Marxism, Post Structuralism, Post Modernism, Pareto Optimality, Critical Theory, Habermas, Contingency vs Strategic Contingency , Neo Taylorism and Gramsci’s criticism of Taylor, Taylorism and recent best practices like Toyota Production System, Kaizen, Gemba etc, Phenomenological approach: Heidegger And Husserl work. asked in 2018 mains)
Amartya Sen & Jean Dreaze vs Bhagwati Sen Debate
Techniques of Administrative improvement – CPM, PERT and how to draw the charts, Gantt Chart, Enterprise Resource Management, SAP, Management Information System
Road to good score:
Use simple language which doesn’t require an examiner to read a particular sentence twice. Simplicity is the function of your understanding and conceptual clarity. Build upon it.
Introduction should be sharp and focused. Don’t beat around the bush. Also, for 10 marker try to come to the main body in the very next paragraph as time and space is limited. In 15/20 markers, one can elaborate the same point in little bit more details compared to a 10 marker.
It often happens that we approach question tangentially, meaning that we use the concepts but somehow it is not answering what has been asked. So using the keywords of a question in your answer would help in ensuring that diversion doesn’t happen in the answer.
For paper 1, contemporary examples, especially from Indian Administration will surely boost your marks. Hence keep an eye on happenings in Indian administration and link it with Paper 1 thinkers and theories. Example: Use of MIS in district administration is an example of New Public management (NPM), Social audit is a tool to take feedback from environment (People, civil society) and make administration more transparent (moving from a closed system to an open system) etc. Similar linkages can be thought of.
For paper 2, try to link with paper 1 concepts and thinkers as far as possible. For example for 2016 Pub ad paper-2: defense ministry/home ministry question..Likert’s linking pin mechanism can be used to improve policy making process in India, officials from two overlapping ministry can work jointly on a policy like border management in remote areas (defense ministry and home ministry).
Use of constitutional articles: If there is a question on governor, the starting line can be : Article 153 states that there shall be a governor for each state. Similarly, article 163 for Council of minister, article 169 for state legislative council, article 279A for GST council etc should be used.
Use of 2nd ARC recommendations, Punchhi commission recommendations, Sarkaria commission recommendations would augment marks. Aribam covers selected chapters of 2nd ARC in the end of both books. Those must be done thoroughly. Also, it is recommended that you read original chapters and make some concrete notes. This will improve your understanding.
Use Flow charts and Diagrams wherever possible. They will help you to present your answer in a better way and you can save lots of time. For example, Barnard’s contribution-satisfaction equilibrium can be shown using a balance (remember that justice lady using that tarajoo..balance). Write Contribution on one end and satisfaction on another end. Similarly, PRIs and Social Audit can be linked with Sherry Arnstein’s participation ladder. Draw a ladder and show how true empowerment happens through participation.
Try to quote one example as far as possible for all answers. This will mean you need to have a collection of examples. Keep an eye on best practices (Some best practices which I had collected are 1.Vadodara’s One day governance model(ODG) 2.Gujarat CM’s citizen access approach: SWAGAT Project 3.UP’s grievance redressal project: Lokvani Project 4.Nagaland’s community Involvement in Elementary education, health services and electricity management: Communitisation Program 5.Some e-governance programms: E-Mitra-Rajasthan, HARIS-Harayana, SARITA-Maharashtra,FRIENDS-Kerala,GYANDOOT-MP,BHOOMI-Karantaka 6.Bhagidari : Citizens participation in Governance, Delhi 7.Trichi Community Policing model, 8.PRAHARI: Community Policing Initiative in Assam ). Keep collecting similar examples and also work on their linkages: (Compassionate Kozikhode project..Can you link it with Perry’s Public service motivation model (PSM)?)
Have a good peer group and discuss about topics and questions regularly. Confluence of various ideas will do magic on your answer. This can be done either on ForumIAS (now quest platform) or on telegram. Also, you can form a very close group of 3-4 friends apart from these platform and discuss everything with them. I have benefitted immensely from these associations and I am highly thankful to all my friends for their help and co-operation.
Though I didn’t do much answer writing practice for optional I highly recommend that you do practice answer writing on a frequent basis. It is also good to join any test series so that someone would correct your presentation. Additionally you should go through the toppers copy, try the questions first and learn from their approach. If there is a good diagram, you can practice and internalize it. Keep collecting such flowcharts and diagrams. This is called cumulative learning from community (to use the pub ad terminology: network learning )