Is the Election Commission of India (ECI) the most efficient bureaucracy, public or private, anywhere in the world?
As of January 2014, the ECI had a sanctioned strength of just 641, of which 276 posts were vacant. In other words, the ECI conducts the world's largest democratic elections, perhaps one of the largest logistical exercises in the world, with a mere 365 people! And this number has hardly changed over time - 327 and 319 respectively in January 2006 and 2010.
Yes, it relies on the entire central and state government machinery to conduct the electoral process. But given the highest fidelity in execution required, zero-defect as they say, this is truly a staggering achievement. And the electoral process is not just about holding the elections itself, it is about the always-on preparatory process like updation of electoral rolls.
This is perhaps the most efficient leveraging of bureaucratic resources.
It is an example of the paradox of India's state capacity that it can execute well-defined tasks like elections, census, disaster relief etc with unparalleled proficiency and do the simplest things like running mid-day meal kitchens in the most appalling manner.