Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine
Ethics & Morality in Administration
Ethics in Administration
Ethics means moral codes of conduct. Any society when it
develops has to observe certain codes of conduct. Otherwise a society cannot
progress. If everybody was killing everybody else there will no peaceful society
to speak about. If everybody was stealing there will be no normal growth of the
economy. We find that societies develop certain codes of conduct like the Ten
Commandments – Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not kill etc. As the society
further develops religion provides the sanction apart from that of tradition.
When regular governments are set up to govern the state, they make laws that
give in addition to the tradition and religious sanction the sanction of the law
for proper peaceful society conduct of every citizen.
India is governed by the Constitution. The legislature makes
the law, the judiciary interprets the law and the executive consisting of both
the permanent bureaucracy and political executive implement the law. Where does
ethics come in all these? One can have the law, which does not take into account
ethics. For example, the Government’s decision in the Voluntary Disclosure of
Income Scheme was definitely unethical.
Those who are honest had paid tax at 40% and those who
cheated the Government and did not pay taxes were rewarded by the Government for
30%. We come across many cases like this where the laws are in a way unethical.
This brings us to the basic question, “what is ethical? How
to consider an ethical decision? In this I would draw attention to the
observation and comments of Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard on “The
Power of Ethical Management”. The authors have articulated what has been called
the three way ethical check. The ethical check questions are as follows:
- Is it legal? Will it be violating either civil or company policy?
- Is it balanced? Is it fair to all concerned in the short term as well as
in long term? Does it promote win-win relationship?
- How will it make me feel about myself? Will it make me proud? Would I
feel good if my decision was published in the newspaper? Would I feel good
if my family knew about it?
These ethical check questions provide a good reference point
to decide on ethical issues, which arise in the contemporary Indian Management.
The authors have also provided the following five principles of ethical power
- Purpose: The mission of our organization is communicated from the top.
Our organization is guided by the values, hopes and a vision that helps us
to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
- Pride: We feel proud of ourselves and of our organization. We know that
when we feel this way, we can resist temptations to behave unethically.
- Patience: We believe that holding to our ethical values will lead us to
success in the long term. This involves maintaining a balance between
obtaining results and caring how we achieve these results.
- Persistence: We have commitment to live by ethical principles. We are
committed to our commitment. We make sure our actions are consistent with
- Perspective: Our managers and employees take time to pause and reflect,
take stock of where we are, evaluate where we are going and determine how we
are going to get there.
Ethics also are conditioned by the culture of the society. In India, we have
an old culture where the ethics of administration was summed up in the concept
If we explore the roots of ethics in public administration,
we find that we have a rich tradition. From our literature we find that there is
a harmony between the individual and social goals in our tradition. It is this
harmony that provides a meaningful basis for ethics in public administration.
Every individual has to strive to achieve Moksha. Aatmano Mokshartham. But at
the same his other responsibility is the well being of the many – Jagat
hitayacha. In fact the goal in life for the individual as well as society has
been ultimately distilled in the concept of dharma through thousands of years of
our rich cultural tradition.
The Bhagawad Gita is in fact the quintessence of Indian
thinking on the spiritual front. It also is an eminently practical guide for our
secular life. Lord Krishna also emphasizes the centrality of the dharma in his
famous observation in the third chapter of the Gita. Swadharme nidhanam shreya
para dharmo bhayapaha. Each person has his own dharma and he has to live up to
his dharma. It is better to die rather than give up one’s dharma. If everybody
practices the concept of dharma, then that in it brings a sense of
self-discipline. In a society where there is self discipline, automatically
there will be peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately this is an ideal situation and does not exist. There are people
who are bad and we have to punish the bad people if we want to maintain the
peace and prosperity of the society.
Manu is very clear on this subject. Everybody has a tendency
to enjoy the material goods in life. It is only the fear of punishment that
ensures order. There is hardly an individual in this world who on his own is
pure in his conduct. The King (Sovereign)’s power to punish and teach the people
in the righteous path, and the fear of punishment by the king yields worldly
happiness and enjoyment. Sarvo dandajitho lokohdurlabho hi suchirjanaha Dandasya
hi bhayat bheeetobhoghayaiva pravartate Manu. Tiruvalluvar has also described
the same concept of punishment beautifully. The process of the King removing the
bad elements from the society is like the farmer removing the weeds from the
field to protect the crops. Kolayil kodiyarai venduruthal pain kuzh kalai
kathathanodu ther. The concepts of dharma as the foundation for public
administration are obvious.
We are bound to ask that when it comes to ethics in
administration in the Indian context, who will remember these cultural aspects
or the ethical discussions by Norman Vincent Peale and Kenneth Blanchard? That
brings me to another basic question: why should there be ethics in
administration and what should be done to promote ethics? We need ethics in
administration because unless we have moral principles we cannot have good
governance. That brings us to the next question: what is good governance. Good
governance involves, as I see it, three things. The first is the equality before
law and the rule of law. We have seen how the laws evolved in order to ensure
that society progresses. One basic requirement of good governance is equality
before law and equal treatment before law, which is enshrined in Article 14 of
our Constitution. The second requirement of good governance is respect for the
individual. Respect for the individual must be translated in terms of
opportunity given to every individual to rise to his full potential. The third
aspect of good governance is that there should not be wastage of resources. We
may look at the second and third aspects quickly before we go into the more
serious first aspect of Rule of Law. In our country, we waste a lot of
resources. 10% of food grains are lost because of poor storage, 22% is lost in
transmission of power systems. If we look at the plan documents of irrigation
projects we will find that the potential area for irrigation created is nearly
double of what is actual area that is irrigated. All this shows loss of
productivity. The very fact that the Indians do well abroad compared to within
the country means that we do not give enough opportunity in our country for
people to come up based on their talent. There is a well-known apocryphal story
about Dr. Kurien. He was asked when he went to Kerala why he did not do any
development work in Kerala and went all the way to Gujarat and wrought the Amul
revolution. Dr. Kurien is supposed to have replied that the problem in Kerala
was that there were too many Malayalees. The same thing may be true of Indians.
So much about the aspects of not allowing Indians to develop and also ensuring
that there is no wastage, which are of good governance. This can be tackled by
applying the principles of important aspects of, perhaps, industrial engineering
or business process engineering or computerization and so on. Every process has
got what I would call the software aspect and the hardware aspect. The hardware
aspect is the pure procedure or the algorithm for taking action. The software
aspect includes the principles and the ethical values, which underlie the
system. For instance, I had mentioned that allowing people to rise to their full
potential means respect for the human dignity and giving equal opportunity to
all. That brings us to the lingering third aspect of equality before law. In our
country, there is very poor governance because we do not implement the laws
effectively. In fact, in criminal courts, the percentage of conviction is hardly
6%. In any society if we consider the number of people with integrity, we are
bound to find a bell curve. 10 per cent will be honest whatever we do and 10%
will dishonest and 80% depend on the system. The system means punishing those
who violate the law or who are corrupt or who are indulging in anti-social
activities. This is where we are failing.
Why government shall promote the Public Service Values
and a standard of ethics in the Public Service operations ?
Ethics and values are important component of Good
(With inputs from Government of India reports)
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