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How much Ethics and Integrity play a role in the conduct of Public servants in India?

Oracle of Ethics and Integrity.

'No responsibility of a government is more fundamental than the responsibility of maintaining higher standards of ethical behaviour.'- Jawaharlal Nehru. This is a postulate that ethical standards for Public Servants should be clear and ethical standards should be reflected in the legal framework. Yet let us step onto the grounds of reality through few case studies and analyse how much ethics and integrity play a role in the conduct of public servants in India.

The 'Roshni Project' of 2013 or the 'UDAAN' scheme of 2005 both were envisaged towards the upliftment of the least-facilitated youth of the country. The in-situ slum upgradation through 'JNNURM' in 2005; all these schemes welfare works are the exemplaries of how ethics or ethical values play a role in the conduct of Public Servants in India. The above portraits of ethics have covered the dilemma, 'how to live a good life and our rights and responsibilities.'For a country like India, development of material source and raising the standards of life for all classes are indeed imperative. 'Good governance for the betterment of people should be the primary goal of civil service'- Jawaharlal Nehru.

Now throwing light on the political administrative nexus and the dynamics of this nexus it reminds of the age old famous characters 'Chanakya and Chandragupta'. Under the government standing orders, the general office, the ministers of various governmental department are not authorized to issue any operational order on their own. For the fulfillment of their desire, to help or harm anyone, they need administrative associates. Hence these are the platforms where ethical values come hand in hand with the conduct of a Public Servant. But today in India the scenario has changed. Some great philosophers had said, 'Corruption has been injected in the veins of bureaupathology.' Until 1970s the image of the Indian Public Servants were generally 'aloof' and it was believed that 'bureaucracy is rigid'. Today unfortunately only quite a few Public Servants are viewed as approachable. It does not mean politicians alone are to be blamed for massive and frequent transfers taking place in civil service.

Interestingly a section of bureaucrats feel that they themselves are responsible for the politicization of bureaucracy. 'Officers' keenness to get key posts and willingness to obey the ruling party in return has spoilt the bureaucracy.'- B.K. Mishra. 'Inducements for subordination to the will of the politician are plum appointments, well-located, carrying special allowances or perquisites and prospects of accelerated promotion', as per B.K. Mishra, a retired bureaucrat. Many a times, to avoid harassment at the hands of their political masters, civil servants are compelled to accede to their whims and wishes. Thus the principle 'Public Service employment conditions for managing ethics in Public Service' gets violated.

A few honest administrators who have shown the courage of conviction and have challenged the mighty forces of wealth and power have generally been marginalized and even punished through suspensions. G.R. Khairnar of Mumbai Municipal Corporation was one such individual who refused to bow before the political powers while taking drastic action against the land mafia. And he accepted to suffer ungrudgingly for his fortitude. Khairnar was suspended from service but strong public opinion and media support in his favour brought him back to the forefront. Thus honest and firm civil servants, known for their hard work and idealism, might get sidelined when they prove to be uncomfortable to the ruling political elite, yet their rehabilitation gets facilitated on account of the awe that hard-core integrity still commands in certain sections of Indian society. Public servants are the oracles of ethics and integrity. To keep that up we must ensure that dishonest officers receive no mercy. Civil servants should honour the dignity of a common man. People of this country have long waited for good governance. Let's not test their patience anymore.

-Atrayee Banerjee

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