Monday, 28 March 2016

Ethical challenges in governance

Ethical Challenges in Governance

     Ethics refers to those moral principles which are provided by external sources and govern a person’s conduct. Governance refers to processes of interaction and decision making as well as structures and systems which constitute a state or an organisation. Many of these ethical challenges necessitate non-economic goals. However no code of ethics or ethical policy can bring compliance with law and high ethical standards. Commitment to ethics is inspired by top leadership.

(1) India’s rank in corruption perception
     Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (C.P.I.) measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide. In 2016, India ranked 76th out of 168 countries. In 2015, India ranked 76th out of 175 countries, compared to China (100th), Pakistan (126th), Bangladesh (145th), Sri Lanka (85th), Nepal (126th) and Bhutan (30th). This is the second least corruption rank for India in the whole of South Asia. In 2013, India was ranked 94th out of 175 countries. In 2012, India was 94th ranked out of 174. In 2011, India ranked 95th out of 182 countries.

The above indicates that India has a substantial challenge to governance in terms of high corruption (absence of ethics). In India, corruption has been aggravated by three factors:
1.  There is an enormous asymmetry of power in our society. Nearly 90% of our people are in the unorganised sector and are very poor and not highly literate.
2.  We have inherited a colonial legacy of unchallenged authority. People in power exercise their power arbitrarily.
3.  In the early decades after independence India chose a set of policies which put the citizens at the mercy of the government. There was regulation in all sectors of economy, leading to widespread corruption.

(2) Public Administrators as moral agents
There is a difference between efficient governance and ethically driven governance.  In many countries of European Union, the primary focus is on processes and procedures for improving governance rather than on asserting ethically driven standards of governance. But a government can have political legitimacy only when its legislators and civil servants act professionally and ethically. Public administration has to be a moral/ ethical enterprise. A public administrator has to be a moral agent, with a special moral status. He or she has to take a clear moral position in resolving issues as inequality, poverty, injustice and corruption, in addition to having skills, efficiency and strategies.

Legislators too are moral agents. But they are also expected to act as advocates for specific constituents in seeking government benefits. A public administrator serves best as a model of moral agency in governance (than a legislator).

Therefore the profiles and proficiencies of public officials have to meet the criteria of clear moral position as also of having communication and collaborative and other skills and strategies. In other words, public administrators are the class who have to meet the ethical challenges in governance more than the other classes like political or business people, though the latter also have to give their support.

Chapter 3, verse 21 of Geeta says:
“Whatever deed is done by good people (in public offices), the community follows. Thus public officials have a much heavy moral load on their shoulders to carry.”

Often maintaining professional ethics comes in conflict with desire to maintain career. Sometimes there is a conflict between choosing to serve the best interests of the community and being responsible to the government of the day. This has the danger of development of an unhealthy politician – administrator nexus.

(3) Ethical Principals in Public Life
Nolan Committee of UK, in 1994 gave the following seven principles of public life:
1.   Selflessness
2.   Integrity
3.   Objectivity
4.   Accountability
5.   Openness
6.   Honesty
7.   Leadership

In 2012, Belgian Directors’ Association (GUBERNA) produced a Director’s Tool kit about ethical principles to be followed by individual directors. The details of Toolkit are as below:
1.  Act ethically and with integrity
2.  Have high standards of honesty and loyalty
3.  Have respect for rules
4.  Comply with procedures and avoid and resolve conflict of interest.
5.  Have irreproachable behaviour with regard to law and rules.
6.  Be incorruptible and free of all pressures while taking decisions.
7.  Be faithful to commitments.
8.  Be trustworthy and act in a manner so as to preserve trust and confidence required by office.
9.  Be responsible and act with diligence, caution and reserve, refrain from holding indiscrete and indelicate conversations. Assume consequences for your behaviour. Discharges duties to the best of your abilities and with discernment.

Broadly there are four sets of ethical principles (ethical framework). These sets are as follows:
1.  Principles of justice and fairness.
2.  Principles of truth
3.  Principles of service to the common good (service in public interest).
4.  Principles of trusteeship (trustworthiness)

We elaborate each of these sets of ethical principles as follows:
(3.1) Principles of justice and fairness:
a.        Rule of Law
b.       Accountability for the proper exercise of authority and use of public resources.
c.        Equity in administrating rewards and punishments.
d.       Equity of rights and opportunities
e.        Participation in the consultative process for collective decision-making
f.         Merit system in contacting personnel.
(3.2) Ethical principles of truth:
a.     Truthfulness in reporting the facts.
b.     Honesty in managing resources
c.      Evidence-based decision making
d.     Transparency of decision-making and resource management for public scrutiny.
e.     Safeguard for whistleblowers.
(3.3) Ethical principles of service to the common good:
   (Service in public interest)
a.   Consensus-building in relation to the common good.
b.  Application of human development indicators
c.   Inclusiveness
d.  Spirit of service
e.   Respect for human dignity
(3.4)Ethical principles of Trusteeship (trustworthiness):
a. Legal contract between government and public servant.
b.     Responsible stewardship
c. Efficient and effective service of the public interest.
d.     Transparency regarding possible conflict of interest.
e. Recognition of merit and adequate remuneration.

(4) India’s Political System and Corruption
In India, political system suffers from many ills and inadequacies which pose major ethical challenges to governance. Some of the challenges are as below:
(i)      Nexus between politics and crime.
(ii)    Immunity of members of parliament and members of State legislatives from proceedings in a court.
(iii)  Funding, Donations and gifts to political persons and parties by industry.
(iv) Weak anti-defection law.
(v)   No code of conduct for ministers.
(vi) Crony capitalism.
(vii)                        Appointment in high posts on considerations other than merit (like Lokayukt).

(4.1) Findings of Vohra Committee Report on nexus between crime and politics in India.
(i)      On the basis of the extensive experience gained by our various concerned intelligence, investigative and enforcement agencies, it is apparent that crime Syndicates and Mafia organizations have established themselves in various parts of the country.
(ii)    The various crimes Syndicates/Mafia organizations have developed significant muscle and money power and established linkages with the governmental functionaries, political leaders and others to be able to operate with impunity (as recently exemplified by the activities of the Memon Brothers and Dawood Ibrahim)
(iii)                                        While the CBI and IB and the various agencies under the department of revenue in their normal course of functioning, came across information relating to the linkages of the Crime Syndicate/Mafia Organizations there is presently no system under which they are expected to pass on such information to an identified nodal agency. Sharing of such information is presently of an occasional nature and no evidence is available of the same having been put to any operational use.

(4.2) Immunity enjoyed by Legislators in Parliament and State Legislatures Article  105 (2)
No Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament or any Committee thereof and no person shall be so liable in respect of the publication by or under the authority of either House of Parliament of any reports, paper, votes or proceedings.

Similar provisions exist in Article 194(2) for members of State legislatures.
Immunity covers corrupt acts committed by MPs in connection with duties in the House or otherwise.

(4.3)Other Ethical challenges:
(i)      Bribery
(ii)    Coercion
(iii)  Insider trading by leakage of confidential data.
(iv)  Discrimination
(v)    Nepotism
(vi)  False returns of income, false statements of accounts.
(vii)                        Accumulation of profits by illegal means.

(4.4)Diversity, equality (especially of genders), eradication of poverty, environment are increasingly occupying attention in ethical governance. Corruption in judiciary is another complex area for governance.

(4.5)The security provided to government employees under article 311 of the Constitution results in long delays in punishing the officials for corruption and other charges. Often the delay is compounded when a criminal case for corruption is also investigated by police against a government official, because there is a delay in sanction for prosecution.

There is also an inordinate delay in taking up the cases of irregularities pointed at by audit reports, as public Accounts Committee is overloaded with work.

Employees unions and teachers Unions also oppose when serious disciplinary is taken against their members:

(5)Ethical Corporate Governance
In addition to government, governance also includes corporate governance. On 29th October, 2007, Central Vigilance Committee, Government of India circulated a note on “Corporate Government and Ethics challenges and Imperatives”. Kumar Mangalam Birla Committee constituted by Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) expressed concerns about standards of financial reporting and accountability by some of companies. As a result, some companies raised capital from the market and investors suffered because managements performed much worse than past reported figures. Bad corporate governance was also highlighted when promoters share were allotted at prices much below the market value. Many companies did not pay heed to investors’ grievances.

(6)Architecture to meet ethical challenges
Along with their ethical framework of four sets of principles, we need the following to complete the architecture of our ethics, relevant for governance.
1)       A code of conduct.
2)       A set of established anti-corruption laws.
3)       Established administrative procedures, including procedures for sanction on reprehensible acts.
4)       Mechanism for whistle-blowing (Ombudsman)
5)       Mechanisms for collaboration and coordination between existing and anti corruption agencies also for evaluation.

(7)Socialisation of ethical framework
To meet ethical challenges effectively, we also need socialization of ethical framework and code of conduct through:
1)  Consciousness raising activities.
2)  Transforming dysfunctional mental models.
3)  Development of intensive motivation to apply an ethical framework
4)  Advocacy through moral leadership.

(8) Some steps recently taken in India to meet ethical challenges to governance
In India some recent anti-corruption steps have been taken in the right direction. The Right to Information Act has been enacted. The introduction of e-governance in many areas of public administration has resulted in reduced corruption. Thirdly the Supreme Court has ordered electoral reforms on seven occasions since 2003.
1.  March 2003: A voter has a fundamental right to know candidates’ qualifications, assets, liabilities and criminal antecedents, if any.
2.  July 5, 2013: Freebies in poll manifestos vitiate electoral process; EC to frame guidelines after consulting with political parties.
3.  July 10, 2013: Automatic disqualification of MPs/ MLAs convicted by crimes attracting punishment of two years or above.
     Section 8(4) of Representation of the People Act that allowed a convicted MP/MLA to continue in office, declared unconstitutional.
4.  September 13, 2013: Knowing about a voter’s natural right and candidatures will be rejected if they refuse to disclose any information on their election affidavit.
5.  September 27, 2013: Voters have right to not back any candidate. The none of the above (NOTA) option to be enabled in voting machines.
6.  March 10, 2014: One year deadline set for lower courts to complete trial in cases involving MPs, MLAs.
7.  February 5, 2015: A candidates’ election can be declared null and void due to non-disclosure of criminal antecedents.

(9)Other important steps to help in meeting ethical challenges
Free press (Media) and Vigilant Civil Society can also contribute to put pressure on the government to meet ethical challenges. This requires a closer interaction between public services, civil society and other sections of intelligentsia.

Social and religious organisations can also play a part. Strict enforcement of penal provisions can act as deterrent.

Moral education must be separated from the start of life, and to this end, a restructuring of the educational syllabus is imperative. Value based learning and teaching is essential and should be brought in by reorienting our formal education system.

Date: 28.03.2016 

Monday, 21 March 2016

An Indian for All Seasons (The many lives of R.C.Dutt) by Meenakshi Mukherjee

                      RC DUTT was  second Indian to get into Indian Civil Service(ICS).Meenakshi Mukherjee  calls him an Indian  for  all seasons": a novelist,administrator,scholar of Sanskrit,translator, Anglophone moderniser,,economist,political agitator,public figure, and also,basically ,as an individual , who enjoyed the company of his family and friends but was forced to spend a  great deal of his time alone"He took early retirement from  government service  in 1897 and  in the same year ,was offered a chair in Indian history by the University College , London.
                                In May , 1899,he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.He translated Rig Veda Samhita  from Sanskrit  into Bengali , knowing fully well that in the late nineteenth century, he was not supposed to translate such holy Sanskrit texts  because he was not a Brahman(But a Kayastha) by caste  Meenakshi writes extensively about Dutt's book "The Economic History of India" ,published in 1902,in which he claims that in 1750,India supplied nearly a quarter of the world's manufacturing output, and by 1900,it had declined to less than 2 per cent."After his retirement , Dutt wrote abridged English verse translations of Mahabharata and Ramayana.He wrote six novels in Bengali,two in English.In his  several essays published in Bangadarshan and Prachar,he argued that we need to know our history to understand who we are."No subject,not even poetry, had such a hold upon me as history"  said  Dutt in an essay he wrote in 1905.He had a frequent exchange of letters with his children.
              He became the President of Indian National Congress in  December ,1899 and presided over its session in Lucknow..He wrote  a literary history of Bengal.
About his postings ,he wrote to his brother:"They have treated me on the whole fairly, but not with any special favour.The doors of the Secretariat have been kept closed to me".
                                             He served Baroda state service  twice , first as Amatya(Finance Minister) and later , in June 1909, as Dewan(Prime Minister)."It is curious that he(Dutt) hardly ever complained of loneliness when he was in England, even though after 1898 , his family hardly ever joined him there", though he complained of loneliness  when he was in Baroda.He was nominated as a member of The Royal Commission on Decentralization(RDC) in November , 1907.His last assignment was as Dewan (Prime minister) of Baroda , which he joined in June , 1909.He died , while on this job, on 30th November,1909.
Dutt's life is marked by many contradictions ,in his attitudes to language(Bengali,English),to colonialism,to religion(Casteism) and to tradition.Meenakshi Mukherjee does not gloss over them.
"He agitated all his life against the injustices  of the British rule in India but proclaimed his loyalty to the Queen at the same time. . . . .Till the end of his life, he remained undecided whether his true vocation  was literature or politics." He turned to Bengali  for his novels, though he was himself  born into one of the most anglicized families of Calcutta.His historical novels  idealized the caste-based  values of Hindu society and glorified Sati and 3Jauhar, his daughters were married outside caste and linguistic boundaries.In the beginning of his career ,when he wrote The Peasantry of Bengal, he was a fierce critic of Lord Cornwallis's Permanent Settlement, on the ground that it  it allowed the landlords to oppress the farmers.27 years later,in his letters to Lord Curzon , he took exactly the opposite view"It is difficult to ignore this visible shift in R.C.Dutt's sympathy towards the landowning sector of Bengal society" writes Meenakshi.

"Biography is an impure genre, flanked on one side by the factual demands of history and on the other by the narrativity of fiction which gains in depth if there are glimpses of the private individual.Between these poles of expectation ., random traces of politics, sociology, philosophy, literary criticism, psychoanalysis,journalism and gossip , make their appearance".Meenakshi has been able to successfully meld these elements  in a manner  that made the man and the milieu come alive in an interactive way.
Meenakshi Mukherjee was a sound scholar of English literature and a Sahitya Akademi Award winner,passed away in Hyderabad on  Wednesday,September16,2009,at the age of 72.She was then travelling alone and was going to board an Indigo Airlines flight to Delhi.She fainted and collapsed at Gate 22 of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport and was rushed to Apollo Medical Centre at the airport itself where she was declared dead.She was on her way to Delhi to release her new book, An Indian for All Seasons, a biography of famous historian  R.C. Dutt , published by Penguin India.The book was slated to be released on Thursday,September 17,2009.
              Meenakshi Mukherjee has brought out  a truth, through this biography which touched me to my depths.A civil servant  may be an Indian for all seasons  but  lives and dies in contradictions.That is the fate he or she chooses for himself or herself.This was true in the times of R.C.Dutt.This is true  even today(2016).A truly great book .I recommend that this book should be read by every  one  who is interested in the history  and contradictions  of civil service in India.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Climate change and sustainable development

Climate is changing in the whole world. One of the causes is the way the world is  developing .The world is developing because  we have to produce for more numbers, also because our per capita consumption  needs to rise.This development  results in emission of greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change.Climate change can pose several problems  like sub-mergence of islands under water, untimely and excessive rains and floods,  deficit rainfall and drought in other parts.It can make agriculture  vulnerable to  vagaries of nature and is bound to affect life  and  health.This kind of development is not sustainable.Keeping  the above in view,the UNO  decided to keep  one sustainable goal(SDG) devoted to climate change.This is goal number 13 :Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
                  What urgent action can we take to combat climate change and its impacts.There are two types of action, one is  the action to  eliminate the causes of climate change,the other  is the action to reduce or mitigate the effects or impacts  of climate change.We shall take them up one by one .
                       The causes of climate change lie in increasing consumption levels and  increasing  human  population.Thirdly  the way we are developing  , or producing goods and services for our consumption so as to lead a better quality of life.The important  factors responsible for climate change are:1.Greenhouse gases.
3.Land Use Change.
4.Energy Usage.
5.Vehicular Usage.
The way we are developing can be  green , eco-friendly or it can be  such as to destroy  ecology and  environment around us.For example, electricity  can be produced  in a green way as Solar energy , and it can be produced in a polluting way  as Thermal energy.If we opt for Solar energy , or Wind energy or Nuclear energy,  we can have less global warming and less climate change.But why don’t we do this way?The first is  that Sloar energy per unit is much more costly than  Thermal energy. Why should any buyer buy Solar energy when cheaper energy is available?If there are no buyers, why should any producer prodce Solar energy when there are no buyers?This brings in the role of Public Policy , which can be formulated in such a way as to encourage  both producers and consumers.One way is to grant subsidy to  producers  or consumers or both so that  they produce and consume Solar energy  as compared to thermal energy , despite Sloar enegy production costs per unit being higher.The second  part of policy should be to  make public in general aware of the  beneficial effects of Solar energy on  climate change.
 India’s share of CO2 in the total emissions in the world is very insignificant in per capita terms.The per capita emission of an Indian citizen is 1.2 tons of Carbon dioxide where his counterpart in USA is  contributing 20.6 tons as per UNDP Human Development Report 2007-2008.The per capita emissions of UK and Japan are 8 and of USA 17 times higher than that of India.India’s contribution to the world total  is only is only 4.6% when compared to  USA’s contribution of 20.9%  followed by 17.3% of China.(Statistics related to Climate change in India , Ministry of  Statistics and Programme Implementation , Government of India , Nov,2013.)
        You may ask , if it were so simple , why it has not been done so far? Why is it that most of our energy still comes from  thermal sources(which use fossil fuels) and very little fron Solar  sources.The reason is the failure of public policy and governance , technology  and vested interests embedded in thermal energy sources.It is here that the role of  UNO as a  voice of the world comes in picture.It  has to impress on its member states to  adopt the SDGs and also achieve these goals.Before SDGs were approved for 2030 , we had MDGs(Millenium Development Goals) for 2015.But the performance in MDGs was not satisfactory, again due to political   and other reasons.SDGs were approved by the UN General Aassembly in 2015.
                           The stand of India on SDGs has been  to accept and support them .But if we are really serious to achieve SDGs , we need to not only bring our policies in line with these goals , but also  improve  the working of governments , both at centre and at states level so that  a conducive  environment is built in the  whole country  for achievement of these goals.
                          The key word is Urgent.Do we see any urgency  to combat climate change? Is there any evidence in place that the Union  government and various State governments are showing any urgency  in combating climate change?It is too early to say.But there are some  really critical areas which need reforms if this combat has to to be taken forward.One critical area  is   to create a mechanism  for educating  all the concerned departments  on the need to  take steps to combat climate change.This itself is a very big challenge.Where are the people who have the knowledge about climate change ,and how to put them in place  for education the departments? Secondly , there is a need to develop capacities and skills of the civil servants  to formulate evidence based policies.This in turn requires political leaders who themselves see the need for policies based on evidence , and not on political expediency or  ideology.This begs a big question  as to how to get such political leaders.At present , we produce political leaders who believe in vote banks , casteism , nepotism , and encourage only those policies which can bring them votes.Such short sighted political leaders will never be able to bring out policies aimed at combating  climate change and its impacts . 
    Finally ,it is the effort made by every citizen  for combating climate change that matters the most.In our daily lives,we need to consume less, buy eco-friendly products, plant and encourage planting of trees,contribute  in every possible way  to make the deal on climate change a success.This will ensure a cleaner and healthier world with a promise of sustainable development with better control on climate change and its impact.
(This article was published  in the February issue of the magazine Tree Take ,Lucknow,U.P.,India)