Clean stairs from the top

Sunil Seth
The idea crept into my mind after attending the seminar on “Ethics in Public Administration” organised by “Indian Institute of Public Administration”, Regional Centre, Jammu. Deliberations were thought provoking, informative but needed introspection at every level. Topic reflected need of the hour, as efforts to make India “Ethics Centric” being a buzz for the Govt. in Power. Orators moved from topics varying from “Citizen’s Centric Governance” to “Role of Technology for Ethical & Moral Dispensation in Administration” to “A Accountability in Public Administration”. The platform was showered by plethora of experiences, observations and efforts put in at different levels by the dignitaries having great concern for “Ethics in Public Administration”. The point which really moved me from the “Inside” was the concept of “Inner Call” which was in turn connected with our ancient system of “Samskara”; the roots for the “Ethical & Moral Dispensation”. Unethical practices have mingled with the DNA of the Indian Psyche, and to cleanse that is the “Herculean Task” before the Public Servants.
The Prime Minister of the Country along with his core group may be worth appreciating in their efforts to bring India at the top by bringing reforms in the existing system but the coterie behind him being diametrically opposite is playing on altogether different tunes. “Behavioral Change” takes the front seat while discussing “Ethics in Public Administration” which stands reflected in by Madam Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, the President of Croatia while travelling in “Economy Class” at her own expense; watching world cup Final of Football from the Non-VIP’s stand and foregoing the salaries for the days she was away from her office. Melba Pria, the Mexican Ambassador to India is another exception. Her official vehicle is a beautifully done up auto rickshaw. What she said is worth giving a thought. Millions of Indian use an auto rickshaw; why wouldn’t an Ambassador will not use the same. Compared to gas guzzling Sedans and SUV’s used by most foreign delegates as the auto runs on CNG, a more eco-friendly alternative to fuel; referring to Delhi’s alarming pollution levels. Whereas, in India one can notice a convoy of Luxury Sedans sailing smoothly by, as the small official flag on the cars flutters in the wind, which too reflects the ethics in contradiction to the “Inner Call” or “Samskara”.
Whereas in India the bold act of “Demonetization” by the Centre saw the ugly face due to the Unethical practices followed by few Banker’s leaving no other alternative but putting the very essence of “Ethics” to shame. It was a failure of the “Technology” as was being thought of before by me that “Technology” can be effective tool in curbing “Corruption” which has reinforced my very basic thought that the “Inner Call” or “Conscience” is what needs to be revived first which has entered into a state of Dormancy in the “Indian Psyche”. Failure of the act of “Demonetization” was totally marked by absence of the “Inner Call” or “Conscience” or “Samskara”, which was the basic ingredient of “Gurkul Shiksha” in the ancient times. In contrast, what can be witnessed over here in India is that “Rules or Ethics” are for fools. The strong can bully anything in their favour. The people in power have the rules skewed in their favour.
The last amendment to Salary Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act – 1954 which came into force on August 27 for Lok Sabha & August 31, for Rajya Sabha in 2010 entitles the Pensionary benefits even if one occupies the seat for a day where as Pension System has been scrapped for all other Govt. Services. Also the “RTI” is applicable to even a peon but has no relevance as far as the highest echelons of the society are concerned. One more instance of linking Aadhar even to the poorest of the poor for financial inclusion but not being linked to the “Election Card”, the process which will lay the foundation stone for “Ethical Governance” of one of the biggest democracy of the world puts forth a big question mark before the people in power. Aadhar either not being the true identity or is insufficient to be linked to election process; the reasons well known to them. Recently, a very good gesture from the people in power has come into force i.e. the prevention of corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which seeks to punish both bribe givers and takers, was passed in Parliament on 24th of July 2018.
The bill provides for imprisonment from there to seven years, besides fine, to those taking bribes. Bribe givers have also been included in the Legislation for the first time, liable for imprisonment upto seven years, and / or fine. What the “Technology or Ethics” will mean, if the end user is not ready to receive the benefits of the good governance or who even doesn’t have the insight of what exactly “Ethics” mean. Although the first trip of Tejas Express, high speed train from Mumbai to Goa, started amid much fanfare, but the train came back with fewer headphones, and damaged infotainment screens.
The extent of damage has left all shocked. Ethics hereby refer to well based standards of right and wrong that prescribes what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues or benefits to the society. In fact “Public Administrative Ethics” has to be based both on “Duty Ethics” and “Virtue Ethics”. We in India are “Self” first followed by “Nation” last whereas reverse is the case in the developed world. Here comes the fact which is hidden in the title of this write up that “Cleansing” has to start from the top; only then strong worded lectures will count for the “Ethics” to pour down the ladder. Then “Ethics” need not to be forced but it will be induced automatically among the people at the bottom and will flow like blood in veins. Shift in the DNA of “Unethical Practices” in the shape of “Behavioral Change” will then see cleansing effortlessly.
(The author is an engineer)