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Ethics in Administration 2
|by Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya|
The Administrative Staff College of India conducted a series of programs, which brought out very forcefully the IAS Officers' major concern regarding their utter dependence on political executives for their performance. Therefore, in September 1986, the ASCI organized a politician-administrator interface in which four Ministers, eight Secretaries and eight Additional Secretaries participated. Some of these civil servants were technocrats. Some members of public, selected at random, were also involved. This program projected some revealing images of politicians and bureaucrats.
Some of the impressions gathered from the discussions were
These images and impressions were more or less substantiated by a Values Survey conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, of Civil servants vis-'-vis corporate Sector. It revealed that,
Generally speaking in practically all critical surveys, opinions, etc. of the Civil Service, some common trends can be discerned. It is commonly believed that civil servants have no vision beyond self'advancement. They have no self-control and depend entirely on external control. They have no self-generating strategy of change for oneself and for shaping the environment. The file is a personal zamindari. And finally, they are presently staring at total intellectual, emotional and spiritual stagnation. The value- base of the service has consequently become quite hollow.
But there is a problem. And that problem has been posed by an eminent trainer of our time. Is it at all possible to inculcate 'correct' values? Preaching flops because of the chasm between precept and practice in our country. Secondly, Is 'our' values system better than 'theirs' (the new generation)?
In UK the Cabinet Secretary sees his main job as making sure that civil servants do what the Ministers want, not as guarantors of government propriety, ensuring that ministers did not use the civil service for party-political ends. Permanent Secretaries sign agreements with their Ministers regarding their personal objectives taking into account government's collective interests, not just that of their own departments. The relationship is of a CEO to a ministerial Chairman. And finally, does a good, workable, culture-neutral value module exist? If not, then how do we create one?
The 1996 conference of Chief Ministers initiated a change in policy stressing charters of citizens' rights, accountability of public servants, transparency in administration, etc. This was followed by a workshop, held on 20 Nov 1996, on effective and responsive administration in which all Chief Secretaries of states participated and decisions were taken which would have transformed the negative image of the bureaucracy. Most importantly, it was decided that a Charter of Ethics and a Civil Service Code must be promulgated based on secularism, equality, impartiality, social justice and rule of law. Some of the other major conclusions of the Chief Secretary's conference were:
However, all were forgotten with the change of government at the centre. The Bible puts the entire matter in a striking eidetic image without need of the buzz words, like, 'transparency', 'accountability', etc.: A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.
The Judiciary also framed a similar resolution on 7 May 1997. A Five Judge Committee of the Supreme Court issued a 16-point Restatement of Values of Judicial Life focusing on ensuring credibility: be above criticism, be free and impartial. The aftermath of that resolution is not known, except that it does not appear to have received wide circulation in the judiciary itself.
In 1997, the officers of the 1961 batch of the Indian Administrative Service met at Mussoorie and drew up another set of resolutions which the Cabinet Secretary circulated to all Chief Secretaries on 21 Nov 1997. This Mussoorie Resolution called upon the civil service to consecrate itself to the sacred endeavour to foster India's spirit of harmony, tolerance and respect for diversity, strengthen its civilizational uniqueness by cultivating:
On the one hand, we have the Cabinet Secretary circulating the platitudes of Mussoorie Resolution self-consciously and self-righteously adopted by the officers of the 1961 batch of the IAS during what is termed, not very serendipitously and with telling naivet', a 'retreat'. It might have been instructive if, while retreating, they had taken a look at what a ruler merely twenty years old, had to say when swearing in the Principal Secretary of the State, if familiarity with Sardar Patel's advice had produced its usual consequence ('Today my Secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given that freedom to all my Secretaries. I have told them, 'If you do not give your honest opinion for fear that it will displease your Minister, please then, you had better go.' I will never be displeased over a frank expression of opinion.'). Queen Elizabeth I, swearing in Sir William Cecil, stated, 'This judgment I have of you that you will not be corrupted by any manner of gift and that you will be faithful to the state and that without respect for my private will you will give me that counsel that you think best.' That probably says it all!
Bureaucracy is a bad word. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in a marvellously perceptive passage on the Customs House officer in The Scarlet Letter, called salary drawn from the government 'the Devil's Wages.' He wrote, 'Whoever touches it should look well to himself, or he may find the bargain to go hard against him involving, if not his soul, yet many of its better attributes; its sturdy force, its courage and constancy, its truth, its self-reliance and all that gives emphasis to manly character.' It thus becomes obvious that all is not well with the civil service. The ambience is negative, the attitude is indifferent and the morale is down in the dumps.
The question, 'How to handle the 'intrepid' politician?' always pops up like a jack-in-the-box. Indifference, abdication or surrender seem to be the ruling characteristics of the service. A lot of effort has been made to identify the causes of the failure of the bureaucracy and to find out ways and means of improving the performance of the civil servants. But nothing seems to have made any impression and the negative image and performance continue. Is there therefore anything that we are overlooking?
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