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Help Desk – Random Acts of Administration

© Ole Witt

Random Acts Of Administration

An Indian once told me: "In India every 40 kilometres everything changes - the food, the language, the mentality. The only constant are the conditions in the government offices." I wanted to review this thesis and photographed my work in three states and 14 different governmental offices. I found a connection between India and the Western world through their shared love of excessive bureaucracy. From my western point of view I am used to obsessed ways of efficiency, which treat humans as numbers. In India the carelessness of the authorities and the inefficiency with which the employees handle it fascinated me and I began to engage more intensively with the bureaucracy. Although the western world and India could hardly be more opposing both are united by the bureaucratic insanity.

The Indian bureaucracy is considered one of the most chaotic in Asia. When the new prime minister took office in 2014, he called on 3.6 million bureaucrats to clean out their offices.  Truckloads of rotting files were taken to the dumps. Nevertheless, the success of the campaign "Digital India" is still a long way off. Mountains of papers, tangled work chains and hours of waiting are still a reality in India.

The confusing bureaucracy of the subcontinent is a legacy of colonial times. At that time, the British Kingdom appointed bureaucrats to oversee the country. The way these offices function has hardly changed to this day - in hospital administrations, vehicle registration offices or customs offices piles of files are stacked up to the ceiling. The system in this chaos is not visible to outsiders - only the bureaucrats keep track, at least they say.

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