FOUNDATIONAL VALUES FOR CIVIL SERVANTS PART-1

WHAT ARE VALUES?

  • Value are a set of standards, on the basis of which, we judge things as right or wrong. There are many values and these may be arranged in hierarchy. For example, Gandhi regarded truth as the highest value followed by non-violence. Civil service values are contextual to a culture.
  • Democratic cultures, for example, are based on the doctrine of public trust- that the sovereign power lies with the public, who has entrusted it to the State, which must exercise that power through officials (appointed and elected) in the best interest of the public.
  • Values are also contextual to time, i.e. they evolve. For example, civil services have now started focusing on improving business environment, which may not have been the case earlier.

WHY ARE VALUES NEEDED?

  • Civil servants hold important fiduciary (those that involve trust) positions, enjoy several wide-ranging powers and have special obligations because as they are responsible for managing resources entrusted to them by the community. They provide and deliver services to the community and take important decisions that affect all aspects of a community’s life.
  • Consequently, the community has a right to expect that the civil service functions fairly, impartially and efficiently.
  • It is essential that the community must be able to trust and have confidence in the integrity of the civil service decision-making process. Within the civil service itself, it needs to be ensured that the decisions and actions of civil servants reflect the policies of the government of the day and the standards that the community expects from them as government servants.
  • The expectation that the civil service will maintain the same standards of professionalism, responsiveness and impartiality in serving successive political governments is a key element of the way our democratic polity functions.
  • In a democracy, an efficient civil service must have a set of values that distinguishes it from other professions. Integrity, dedication to public service, impartiality, political neutrality, anonymity etc. are said to be the hallmarks of an efficient civil service.
  • Civil Servants have to uphold the constitution and the law, therefore they need certain values to guide their conduct. The constitution, laws, rules and regulation incorporate the values that are expected from a civil servant. The effective implementation of these requires that civil servants themselves believe and practice those values. Moreover, in situations where discretionary decisions have to be taken, it is expected that civil servants are guided by those values. In absence of such values, there are chances of cognitive dissonance as well as possibilities of abuse of power.
  • The issue of ethics in public life, has also been discussed by Justice J.S. Verma in the Vineet Narain judgment wherein he observed, “holders of public office are entrusted with powers to be exercised in public interest alone, and therefore, the office is held by them in trust for the people
  • Any deviation from the path of rectitude by any of them amounts to a breach of trust and must be severely dealt with instead of being pushed under the carpet.”

MAJOR FOUNDATIONAL VALUES FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS

  • In India, the current set of ethical norms are the Conduct Rules, contained in the Central Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and analogous rules applicable to members of the All India Services or employees of various State Governments.
  • The code of behaviour as enunciated in the Conduct Rules, while containing some general norms like ‘maintaining integrity and absolute devotion to duty’ and not indulging in ‘conduct unbecoming of a government servant’ is generally directed towards cataloguing specific activities deemed undesirable for government servants. These conduct rules do not constitute a code of ethics.
  • The Draft Public Services Bill, 2007, proposed a necessary first step in evolving a code of ethics. It states Values of Public Service as a set of values which will guide the Public Servants in the discharge of their functions. These are:
    • Patriotism and upholding national interest
    • Allegiance to the Constitution and the law of the nation
    • Objectivity, impartiality, honesty, diligence, courtesy and transparency
    • Maintain absolute integrity
  • Despite not having a specific code of ethics in public service, there are various sources which contain- explicitly or implicitly, the values expected in a civil servant. The foremost source is the Constitution of India.

A) Major Constitutional Values

Our constitution is committed towards certain values/principles to its people as prescribed by the preamble. A civil servant is expected to uphold these values while discharging his official duties. They are:

  • Sovereignty: It essentially means the people of country are sovereign & elect their representatives to govern them in the best possible manner.
  • Socialism: It means government controlling the means of production in an economy with the goal of developing an equal society.
  • Secularism: State should not discriminate negatively or positively towards any religion
  • Democracy: Rule by people
  • Republic: It means that supreme power lies in the body of citizens. Head of the state is elected & not a hereditary institution likes the monarchy.
  • Justice: Social, economic & political. Which essentially means the society progress together without any sections left unattended to & rule of law prevail throughout the country.
  • Equality: of status & opportunity seeks to empower the marginalized sections of the society with certain affirmative action.
  • Fraternity: means common brotherhood of all Indians, assuring the dignity of all individuals

B) Civil Service values as recommended by the Nolan Committee (UK)

  • Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties
  • Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
  • 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.
  • Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest
  • Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example

INTEGRITY

A) What is Integrity?

  • The word integrity evolved from the Latin word integer, meaning whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. One may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
  • Integrity means following your moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, even if no one is watching you. Having integrity means you are true to yourself and would do nothing that demeans or dishonors you.
  • If one would have to teach only one value to live by, it should be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so one should never allow oneself to ever do anything that would damage one’s integrity.
  • Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with the standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue.

B) Following quotes explain Integrity:

  • “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” – W. Clement Stone
  • “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey
  • “One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised.” – Chinua Achebe
  • “You are in integrity when the life you are living on the outside matches who you are on the inside.” – Alan Cohen
  • “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.” -Warren Buffet

C) How to Have Everyday Integrity?

  • Keep your promises even if it takes extra effort.
  • Never betray a friend’s trust even if you get in trouble.
  • Return money that you noticed someone dropped without expecting a reward.
  • Ignore someone’s advice on how to cheat on your taxes and not get caught.
  • Do not let someone else take the blame for something you did.
  • If someone gives you confidential information, never tell anyone what you know.
  • When it is obvious to you a relationship is over, don’t drag it out but discuss it openly.
  • For a person with integrity, the end does not justify the means.

D) Integrity in the Workplace:

  • Work when you are supposed to and save socializing, snacking, searching the Internet and personal phone calls for break time.
  • Show respect to coworkers with appropriate conversation and empathy.
  • If you are in management, keep your employees informed so they will know what is coming and what needs to be done.
  • Be responsible. Do what you say you will do.
  • Use materials for work and not personal use.
  • If you make a mistake and a team’s project gets messed up or you miss a deadline, own up to your mistake. Don’t let teammates take the fall.
  • Work together as a team. This builds trust and shows integrity.
  • If you find yourself in a conflict of interest, get out of it as soon as possible.
  • Don’t accept praise of acclaim for someone else’s work. That includes stealing someone’s idea or pretending to have worked on a successful project.
  • If your company asks you to do something against your personal code of conduct, refuse. If it means losing a good paying job, so be it. Find a more ethical company to work for.

E) What is difference between Integrity and Honesty?

  • Honesty is “truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness; freedom from deceit or fraud.”  Integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”  The difference, therefore, is that honesty simply means telling the truth, while integrity means having high moral character and living by a strict set of ethics and principals (i.e., doing the right thing, whether it benefits you or not). You can have honesty without integrity, but you cannot have integrity without honesty.
  • But although integrity needs honesty, it does not mean you always have to be absolutely honest to others. It just means you have to be absolutely honest to your self.
  • While honesty can also be defined in negative terms as the absence of deceit, integrity has to be defined in positive terms. Integrity is an active adherence to principles, to values.
  • Honesty is certainly a virtue, but the demands of honesty are not necessarily as rigorous as those of integrity. For instance, a person might honestly sell a product that has not been thoroughly tested under the premise that the product has not been shown to be unsafe. However, to act with integrity a person would have to either (A) explicitly warn a consumer that the product is untested or (B) refrain from selling the product entirely if there was any possibility of harm for the consumer. The difference here is between a necessary course of action (integrity) and a passive adherence to the truth (honesty).
  • If honesty only requires that a person avoid telling lies or intentionally deceiving others, it leaves open many possibilities to act immorally. One can be honest and immoral at the same time (as in above example).
  • Honesty is defined by a person’s relationship to truth and deception, but integrity is defined by a person’s relationship to principles, to codes of conduct and/or to morality. Integrity stands as a more broadly demanding concept, morally, in comparison to honesty.
  • Depending on one’s values, integrity may sometimes demand action (politically in form of protest or socially in the form of aiding those in need). Honesty, to the contrary, only demands that a person refrain from lying.

EMPATHY

  • It is about understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. Simply put, empathy means putting yourself in their shoes & feel what they must be feeling in the circumstances they are faced with.
  • It is sometimes confused with sympathy, but is different from it in that sympathy is instinctive and largely involves cognitive aspect. For example, seeing a poor man at raining winter night you would think to do something for him, but may not necessarily do anything. You can sympathize with his situation by expressing pity or remorse. But empathy is deeper than this as it includes emotions as well, apart from that cognitive aspect.
  • Empathizing with the person means that you are able to view the situation from his perspective and have knowledge of his circumstances and hardships. You cannot empathize with an abstract or detached feeling- you need to have knowledge about who he is, what is he trying to do and why.
  • Therefore, it would make you feel to understand his problems, causes and consequences thereof. Thus, it is a step ahead of sympathy. Empathy is stronger attitude than sympathy, hence it’s better indicator of behavior.
  • Consider climate change. Developed countries may well sympathize with developing countries which face immediate threats because of rising sea levels and temperatures. However, their lack of ability to put themselves in the shoes of developing countries struggling to meet multiple conflicting objectives (poverty alleviation v/s environmental protection) has led to slow progress in implementing measures needed to counter climate change and providing adequate climate finance.

A) Why is it needed?

  • The bureaucratic system has become so complex that adhering to rules has become an end in itself rather than pursuit of the end which was to be achieved by those rules. More time is spent in transactional business rather than working for welfare of people.
  • Empathy helps us understand others’ emotions, therefore empathy is required to increase one’s emotional intelligence.
  • Lack of empathy may lead to social unrest and intolerance towards women/minorities/ children/disabled as we can’t understand their actual problems and specific needs.
  • An empathetic civil service is the need of the hour to usher in inclusive growth.

B) How to inculcate it?

  • Sensitivity training: Role playing games, put yourself in the shoes of other people.
  • Open conversation: When members of different sections interact with each in open environment then the long held prejudiced are dismantled, and thereby empathy is inculcated.
  • Sarvadharma Sambhav: When members of different cultural groups participate in each other’s cultural festivals then tolerance is developed for each other and empathy is inculcated.
  • Art and literature: They can also sensitize people about the conditions of some specific group of people.
  • Cultivation of interest in other cultures.

COMPASSION

  • It is a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another which include the desire to alleviate it. Thus, unlike empathy, it not merely entails effort to understand the problems of others but also the active desire to alleviate them. Thus, it is a step further of that of empathy, because it also includes strong action component.

A) Why is it needed?

  • To reduce disconnect between the people and public servants. As without compassion, the civil servants would find it difficult to do something for weaker and downtrodden.
  • Indian society, generally, believes in law of Karma. So if a person is poor or physically disabled, we believe it is the result of his own karma. Without compassion, we may not be tempted to help him out of his current situation.

B) How to develop it?

  • Getting firsthand information of the downtrodden sections by visiting their homes, slums etc.
  • Sensitivity training.
  • Religious teachings such as Buddhism’s 4 Noble Truths (Existence of suffering, its cause, its end, Path that leads to its end), etc.

IMPARTIALITY

  • Impartiality is a broad concept founded on law that is commonly understood as a principle of justice. It refers to the fact of not supporting one person or a group more than the other.It simply means not taking any sides.
  • Synonymous with fair-mindedness, impartiality holds that decisions should be based on objective standards, instead of on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the advantage to one person over another for unsuitable reasons.
  • Being impartial, though, is very difficult. People have their biases about most of the things. For civil servants, politicians and judiciary, who most commonly deal with taking decisions which may benefit one person or group of persons, being impartial becomes very important.
  • For example, a judge cannot presume a person to be guilty only because he/she belongs to a certain community. That would compromise the whole due process of law.
  • Similarly, a civil servant cannot prioritize one person over another just because of his personal preference. There has to be a reasonable, intelligent criterion.
  • Consider acquisition of land for ‘public purpose’. Who are the people whose land will be acquired? They can be farmers cultivating land on the outskirts of the city, or a hamlet comprising of scheduled caste population, or land lying with a religious body, etc. The District Magistrate may have his/her own concerns or preference towards any of the group, but the decision will have to be taken based on objective criteria and most importantly, project requirements – he/she cannot be partial in evaluation of facts or application of rules based on the owner only. The views of the people affected will be ascertained and their objections disposed-off as per the procedure established under the Land Acquisition Act.

For civil servants, impartiality works at two different levels:

A) Political Impartiality

  • Since, impartiality is acting solely according to the merits of the case, therefore it implies serving equally well governments of different political persuasions, irrespective of the civil servant’s own personal opinion.
  • A civil servant has to act in a way which deserves and retains the confidence of ministers. It also means that civil servants will comply with any restrictions that have been laid down on him in regard to political activity.
  • At the same time, civil servants are under no obligation to defend the ‘views’ of the ministers but they must implement the ‘decisions’ with utmost objectivity, impartiality and to the best of their abilities.

B) Public Impartiality

  • Impartiality vis-à-vis public means that, a civil servant carries out his responsibilities in fair, just, objective and equitable manner. He must not act in a way which is unjustifiably favors or discriminate against a particular individuals or interest.
  • The principle of public impartiality can be seen to be derived from the values of merit, equality, justice, which are enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
  • In other words, impartiality means that civil servants in carrying out their official work, including functions like procurement, recruitment, delivery of services etc., should take decisions based on merit alone.

NON-PARTISANSHIP

  • Non-partisanship can also be called political neutrality. Non partisanship infers that the officer is to do his task without any fear of, or favour to any political party, even if he has strong faith in any political thought. The values of the administrator will flow from the constitution not from the philosophy of any political party. It would ensure that civil servants would serve equally well to the political executives, irrespective of political changes.

A ) What is the difference between impartiality & non partisanship?

  • Neutrality is a narrow concept, as it deals with relation of public officials only with the political executive, and is also called as non-partisanship. Whereas, impartiality is a broader term and deals with public officials’ relation with their entire ecology, consisting not only of political executive but also the stakeholders i.e. the people. Practically, it may be said that non partisanship is a kind of attitude, while impartiality has more to do with behaviour in a particular situation.

B) Why are they needed?

  1. It brings credibility and trust in the public with respect to the functioning of the public service.
  2. It makes the civil servants gutsy, rather than merely capable, so that they can ask relevant questions with respect to the policy, law etc. The difference between the two is that, capability ensures that a civil servant does things correctly, but gutsiness would ensure that he does the right things.
  3. It ensures equality, justice among different sections of the society.
  4. It ensures the morale, effectiveness and efficiency of civil services, as the transfer, posting etc. are expected to be based on merit alone rather than any extraneous factors.

C) How are they ensured?

  1. The Central Civil Services Conduct Rules, 1964 and The All India Services Conduct Rules 1968: To maintain integrity in public service the conduct rules were notified in 1964, which stipulate certain guidelines for the Civil servant to perform the duty with full devotion; and shall not adopt dilatory tactics in their dealings with the public & the likes that are uncalled for like accepting bribe etc. from a civil servant.
  2. Though we have these Conduct Rules for the Civil Servants in the form of certain guidelines to follow while discharging of one’s duty, however they do not lay down the values & morals in the form of a Code of Ethics that they should imbibe in their persona to do justice with public service.
  3. Code of Ethics, 1997: It was the first initiative to introduce the code of ethics for public servants in India, which was considered a step towards better governance. The salient features of the code were as follows:
    • Uphold the rule of law & respect human rights
    • Maintain objectivity & transparency in their conduct with the public & in discharge of their duties
    • Maintain utmost impartiality in respect of service matter
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