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Public or civil service values and ethics in public administration

7 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2019

    1. (a). What are the basic principles of public life? Illustrate any three of these with suitable examples.

    The fundamental principle in a democracy is that all persons holding authority derive it from the people; in other words, all public functionaries are trustees of the people. With the expansion of the role of government, public functionaries exercise considerable influence over the lives of people. The trusteeship relationship between the public and the officials requires that the authority entrusted to the officials be exercised in the best interest of the people or in ‘public interest’.

    One of the most comprehensive statements of what constitutes principles of public life came from the Nolan Committee, which outlined the following seven principles of public life Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty, Leadership.

    • Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support the principles of public life by leadership and example.
    • For eg. Lal Bahadur Shastri used to fast every Monday to save grains for poor people of the country and he gave a call for the nation to follow it. Thus exhibiting a true example of how leaders should lead from the front.
    • Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
    • For eg. Tukaram Omble of Maharashtra police tackled Kasab one of the terrorists of Mumbai attack so that he couldn’t attack his fellow servicemen. Thus showing exemplary courage and the highest degree of selflessness by giving away his life for the cause of his nation.
    • Gita also in one of its shloka- karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachana reiterates the principle of selflessness which means one should only focus on our actions and should not worry about the result.
    • Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
    • For eg. Vikram Sarabhai accepted the failure of ISRO first mission without actually putting it on the mission head (APJ Abdul Kalam). Thus taking full accountability for the failure of his team.
    • Thus it can be established that principles of public life are important for every democracy. Guidelines of public behaviour arising from such principles can play a crucial role in creating trust between the public functionaries and common public. Therefore any person who is privileged to guide the destiny of the people must not only be ethical but must be seen to practice these principles of public life.

  • 2019

    1. (b). What do you understand by the term ‘public servant’? Reflect on the expected role of the public servant.

    A public servant is generally a person who is employed directly or indirectly by the government, either through appointment or election. A public servant values public good over his/her personal interests. Taxpayers and public funds partially or fully fund their wages, which is why they are known as servants of the public. The duties of public servants are as diverse as the duties and responsibilities of the government.

    There are many elements which a public servant can imbibe to bring about a more humane and ethical governance structure. A few of these are:

    • Public Servants have an obligation to protect and promote our constitutional ideals enshrined in the preamble, to uphold the rule of law, dispense administrative justice and ensure administrative facilitation.
    • As an elite segment of society, public servants have an important role in informing and even formulating public opinion and perception on various issues.
    • The public servant should be emphatic as also advised by Mahatma Gandhi’s that if anyone was in doubt if an action was good or not was to put oneself in the situation of the poorest of the poor in the country and see how a particular policy and programme will impact him or her.
    • S/He should also be ‘efficient’ as administrators occupying positions of power and authority, it is their responsibility to translate policies into programmes, to implement schemes on the ground.
    • They need to be agile in their thoughts and actions. For eg. they should be able to access the latest information and knowledge and use them for improving service delivery.
    • They should be impartial and incorruptible as also observed by Sardar Patel and should work for an inclusive national development as mandated by the Constitution.
    • They should behave in a dignified manner and have the ability to patiently listen and take a balanced view. They must eschew arrogance and authoritarianism and be able to approach even the most intractable issues and irritants with a calm demeanour.

    Kautilya in his Arthashastra emphasised on the importance of the common citizens: “It is the people who constitute a kingdom; like a barren cow, a kingdom without people yields nothing”. Thus the success of the administration depends upon the involvement, commitment, dedication and sacrifice with which the public servants put their efforts for the welfare of the teeming millions in the country.

  • 2016

    3. (b) Discuss the Public Services Code as recommended by the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission. (2016)

    The 2nd ARC recommends the preparation of Public Service Code for guiding public service employees and manages their conduct.

    Through the code, the government should promote public service values and a high standard of ethics in Public Service operations, requiring and facilitating every Public Service employee to discharge official duties with:

    1. Competence and loyalty
    2. Care and diligence
    3. Responsibility
    4. Integrity
    5. Honesty
    6. Objectivity and impartiality
    7. Without discrimination
    8. In accordance with the law

    A ‘Public Service Authority’ is also envisaged to oversee the implementation of the code, violation of the code would invite punishments and penalties.

    This code assumes significance since there is no Code of Ethics prescribed for civil servants in India at present, although such codes exist in other countries. The code aims to prevent misuse of official position or information. At the same time, it provides for public servants to serve as instruments of good governance and use public moneys with utmost care.

  • 2016

    4. (a) “Corruption causes misuse of government treasury, administrative inefficiency and obstruction in the path of national development.” Discuss Kautilya’s views. (2016)

    Corruption is not an exclusive feature of modern times alone. In his Arthashastra, Kautilya provided a graphic illustration of corruption by saying that, ‘just as it is impossible not to taste the honey (or the poison) that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government servant not to eat up, atleast, a bit of the king’s revenue’.

    For Kautilya, corruption and administration were integrally linked. He provides a comprehensive list of 40 kinds of embezzlements. Arthashastra states that an increase in expenditure and lower revenue collection was an indication of embezzlement of funds by corrupt officials. He defined self enjoyment by government functionaries as making use of or causing others to enjoy what belongs to the king. This is similar to the current practice of misusing government offices for selfish motives such as unduly benefitting the self, family members, friends and relatives either in monetary or non-monetary form which harms the larger public good.

    To check this, he prescribed a strict vigil over the superintendents of government. He suggested professionalism at work to curb the decline in output and corruption. He advocated hefty fines to be imposed apart from the confiscation of ill-earned hordes. Kautilya also proposed that several positions in each department should be made temporary. He favoured the periodic transfer of government servants from one place to another. This was done with the intention of not giving them enough time to pick holes in the system and manipulate it to their advantage. Even today, his thoughts hold merit if corruption as a menace is to be removed from governance.

  • 2019

    3. (b). What is meant by ‘crisis of conscience’ ? How does it manifest itself in the public domain?

    There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts. — Mahatma Gandhi

    Crisis of Conscience

    • It is the dilemma of being ethically unfair or wrong in the decision making process.
    • Sometimes in complex and emotional situations, it is very hard to decide what is the right thing to do. The situation might need a different solution practically which might be immoral but our conscience strongly suggests us a completely different approach.
    • It is ethically proper to violate an ethical principle only when it is clearly necessary to advance another true ethical principle which will create the greatest amount of good and the least amount of harm to the greatest number of people, which is the utilitarian approach.

    How does it manifest in public domain?

    • It manifests in the decision making process by civil servants where the decision can impact a huge number of people. The problem arises when they are pressurised under some ministerial influence to take immoral decisions or implement unethical policies.
    • It manifests in the tussle between ethics and the law. For example, restricting public movement in Kashmir for upholding law and order raised the situation of crisis of conscience. Similarly, despite having a legal status as a third gender, transgenders continue to face oppression, marginalisation, lack of employment opportunities which forces them to resort to beggary, and this failure to ascertain to them life of dignity is a manifestation of the crisis of conscience in public domain.

    It is common to come across such crises of conscience in public domain where lives and decisions overlap and come face to face almost every time. The key to overcome such crisis of conscience for public servant is through keeping all dimensions in mind, freeing himself from desires or pressures and staying calm & true to public service ethical code and legal framework.

  • 2017

    6. (b) Strength, peace and security are considered to be the pillars of international relations. Elucidate. (2017)

    Peace is one of the foremost reasons why we engage in and maintain international relations. This is because, after the two World Wars, the appetite for war and violence decreased dramatically across the world. War became unethical behaviour, unfit for civilisation, hazardous for humanity. We needed to establish peace world over and in order to establish peace we need security. A secure and peaceful world allows us to preserve, protect and create newer solutions to our problems. Peace builds communities, expands trade, aids development, helps sustain the environment, and most importantly, helps us claim our socio-political rights.

    Security is derived from having strength. Strength in international relations is the ability to successfully negotiate in one’s favour. Strength can be sourced from military power, economic strength, a ‘soft-power’ status etc. An ethical use of strength to negotiate for peace and security is ideally what is required in international relations, but such is not always the case. For example, China has been using its strength to claim territories of other countries in the South China Sea, which is nothing but an unethical use of strength, and as such may not lead to peace and security in the region.

  • 2017

    8. (a) Discipline generally implies following the order and subordination. However, it may be counter-productive for the organisation. Discuss. 

    (b) Without commonly shared and widely entrenched moral values and obligations, neither the law, nor democratic government, nor even the market economy will function properly.

    What do you understand by this statement? Explain with illustration in the contemporary times. (2017)

    (a) Discipline in an organization ensures productivity and efficiency. It encourages harmony and co-operation among employees and also act as a morale booster for the employees. Discipline is very essential for a healthy industrial atmosphere and for the achievement of organizational goals. However, the management of workplace discipline remains a key problem in employee relations, and is one of the most discernible sources of conflict at work.

    It may also be counterproductive in an organization because it may create a culture of fear and apprehension, which lowers worker morale and inhibits employee growth. Using negative discipline to punish employees for poor performance is not as effective as helping them to identify their weaknesses and explore how to improve upon their strengths.

    Therefore while discipline is important in ensuring order and subordination, a fine balance needs to be followed so that it does not become counterproductive to the organisational interests. Positive discipline approach, which uses constructive criticism, can be followed to instill correct behaviour. For example explaining to an under performing employee how his/her failure to follow proper protocol is hurting her performance and then offer helpful suggestions for increasing productivity.

    (b) Law, democratic government and market economy can be considered as three pillars of modern civilization. This argument can be tested on touchstone of Gandhian belief that moral values and obligations provide spiritual foundation of any civilization.

    Moral Values and Law – Usually laws are public expression of morality which codifies the basic principle of conduct which a society accepts. Modern society has gradually replaced all those laws which were not in consonance with moral principles of recent times, for example slavery, which was once legal has been outlawed across the globe, respecting human dignity.

    Moral values and Democratic Government – Democracy represents a set of decision-making institutions that embody respect for the equal worth of all citizens. This ensures that even powerless people get the right to express their preferences through democratic means. Values like equality, fraternity, liberty and justice are indispensible for proper functioning of a vibrant democracy.

    It has been seen that whenever moral values and obligations were bypassed by democratic regimes, tyrannical leaders have emerged. This trend could be seen in many African democratic nations that compromise on moral principles in disguise of democracy.

    Moral Values and Market Economy –  Market economy is based upon efficient market functioning and self corrective mechanisms but there are instances when it has been observed that in absence of moral values the market economy created havoc. The global financial crisis (2008-09) was a result of keeping moral principles at an arm’s length. Immoral principles like excessive greed and irrational exuberance where the unsustainable investment behaviour was observed raised a big question mark on basic principle of market economy.

    These observations can be aptly summed up in the words of Gandhi where he contented that commerce without morality and politics without principles are sins.

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