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

In a 2014 survey, India has been ranked 79th out of 176 countries in the Corruption Index. Its largest contributors to corruption being social spending schemes and other social welfare projects. Since its birth, India has been haunted by some unscrupulous and deceitful public servants who have sneaked away lakhs of public money. Massive infrastructural projects, industrialization, and construction undertakings have been scarred by charges of fraud and misconduct; more often than not, on the part of the public officials involved in them. Scams and fraudulent schemes have risen dramatically. How then can a young, vibrant and diverse country of one billion people envision itself a global superpower in the coming years?

Ethics are a set of values and principles of right conduct; it guides behavior. Integrity, on the other hand, is the quality of moral uprightness and ethical standards. These standards ensure a consistent, just and fair approach to decision-making; the Indian Constitution lays down the conduct of civil servants in several parts. For example; Article 14 prohibits civil servants from denying equality to any citizen as it stands for equality before the law, Article 38 makes it obligatory for public servants to behave ethically but the brutal truth behind all these articles is that an unethical state cannot ensure equality or fair play. The Centre, based on consultations with the state governments three years ago issued the All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014 which states that member of the service shall take decisions solely based on merit and in public interest.

Every civil servant of the state carries the torch of protecting, preserving and efficiently allocating public resources. Honesty and Integrity are of paramount importance. A public servant takes decisions on growth and development, day to day administration which affect the poor, illiterates, marginal and at times elite too. The people trust their government to take the right steps and work for the betterment of the society as a whole. This trust is not tangible; it's not demarcated or written in paper, it is an implied value meant to be an inherent part of the system. It is not uncommon in a position of power to get dissuaded, to fall prey to bribery and ethical concerns. Ethical dilemmas faced by public servants in India range from administrative discretion, corruption, nepotism and information leak. What is really needed here is a re-sensitization of the code of conduct for all levels of public officials, strong action for those guilty and more transparencies in the system. Other ways, especially for the political executive, includes improving accountability through government procedures of questions, debates, increasing responsibility through transparency in public matters with RTI, Media, public forums, and voluntary sections discussions in daily life. Strengthening ombudsman institutions like Lokpal, Lokayukta, Vigilance teams etc.

One could argue about the importance of a code of conduct and the need for our civil servants to adhere to them however these principles are self-taught. They should come from within the individual i.e. officials should be motivated enough to walk on the path of truth. This will come when they understand the importance of their job; one that could change or break lives of those scores of Indians in their immediate jurisdiction.

-Anupama Guha