Indian Civil Services Examination Handbook/Probity in Governance


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Probity in GovernanceEdit

Probity in governance is an essential and vital requirement for an efficient and effective system of governance and for socio-economic development. An important requisite for ensuring probity in governance is absence of corruption. The other requirements are effective laws, rules and regulations governing every aspect of public life and, more important, an effective and fair implementation of those laws, etc. Indeed, a proper, fair and effective enforcement of law is a facet of discipline. Unfortunately for India, discipline is disappearing fast from public life and without discipline, as the Scandinavian economist- sociologist, Gunnyar Myrdal, has pointed out, no real progress is possible. Discipline implies inter alia public and private morality and a sense of honesty. While in the West a man who rises to positions of higher authority develops greater respect for laws, the opposite is true in our country. Here, the mark of a person holding high position is the ease with which he can ignore the laws and regulations. We are being swamped by a culture of indiscipline and untruth; morality, both public and private, is at a premium.

Menace of corruption in public life : Corruption is an abuse of public resources or position in public life for private gain.  The scope for corruption increases when control on the public administrators is fragile and the division of power between political, executive and bureaucracy is ambiguous.  Political corruption which is sometimes inseparable from bureaucratic corruption tends to be more widespread in authoritarian regimes where the public opinion and the Press are unable to denounce corruption.  

The paradox of India, however, is that in spite of a vigilant press and public opinion, the level of corruption is exceptionally high. This may be attributed to the utter insensitivity, lack of shame and the absence of any sense of public morality among the bribe-takers. Indeed, they wear their badge of corruption and shamelessness with equal élan and brazenness. The increase in opportunities of State intervention in economic and social life has vastly increased the opportunity for political and bureaucratic corruption, more particularly since politics has also become professionalized. We have professional politicians who are politicians on a full time basis, even when out of office. There seems to be a nexus between terrorism, drugs, smuggling, and politicians, a fact which was emphasized in the Vohra Committee Report.

Corruption has flourished because one does not see adequately successful examples of effectively prosecuted cases of corruption.  Cases, poorly founded upon, half-hearted and incomplete investigation, followed by a tardy and delayed trial confluence a morally ill-deserved but a legally inevitable acquittal.  The acceptance of corruption as an inexorable reality has led to silent reconciliation and resignation to such wrongs.  There needs to be a vital stimulation in the social consciousness of our citizens – that is neither has a place in the personal nor social.

It is true that the present process of withdrawing the State from various sectors in which it should have never entered or in which it is not capable of performing efficiently may reduce the chances of corruption to some extent but even if we migrate to a free market economy, there has to be regulation of economy as distinct from restrictions upon the industrial activity. The requirements of governance would yet call for entering into contracts, purchases and so on.

The Scandinavian economist-sociologist, Gunnyar Myrdal, had described the Indian society as a ‘soft society’. He also clarified what the expression ‘soft society’ means.  According to him, a soft society is: (a) one which does not have the political will to enact the laws necessary for its progress and development and/or does not possess the political will to implement the laws, even when made, and (b) where there is no discipline.   In fact, he has stressed the second aspect more than the first. According to him, if there is no discipline in the society, no real or meaningful development or progress is possible.  It is the lack of discipline in the society - which expression includes the administration and structures of governance at all levels - that is contributing to corruption.  Corruption and indiscipline feed upon each other.  One way of instilling the discipline among the society may be to reduce the chances of corruption and to deal with it sternly and mercilessly wherever it is found.   For this purpose, the inadequacies in the criminal judicial system have to be redressed. 
Corruption is also anti-poor. Take, for example, the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the welfare schemes for the poor including Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).  It is well-known that a substantial portion of grain, sugar and kerosene oil meant for PDS goes into black-market and that hardly 16% of the funds meant for STs and SCs reach them – all the rest is misappropriated by some of the members of the political and official class and unscrupulous dealers and businessmen.

The famous economist, Late Mehbub-Ul-Haq succinctly and poignantly set out the ill-effects of corruption in a South Asian country like ours. He said:

“Corruption happens everywhere.  It has been at the center of election campaigns in Italy and the United Kingdom, led to the fall of governments in Japan and Indonesia, and resulted in legislative action in Russia and the United States.  But, if corruption exists in rich, economically successful countries, why should South Asia be worried about it?  The answer is simple: South Asian corruption has four key characteristics that make it far more damaging than corruption in any other parts of the world.

First, corruption in South Asia occurs up-stream, not down-stream. Corruption at the top distorts fundamental decisions about development priorities, policies, and projects. In industrial countries, these core decisions are taken through transparent competition and on merit, even though petty corruption may occur down-stream.

Second, corruption money in South Asia has wings, not wheels. Most of the corrupt gains made in the region are immediately smuggled out to safe havens abroad. Third, corruption in South Asia often leads to promotion, not prison. The big fish – unless they belong to the opposition – rarely fry. Fourth, corruption in South Asia occurs with 515 million people in poverty, not with per capita incomes above twenty thousand dollars. In the case of Vineet Narain vs. Union of India (AIR 1998) the Supreme Court referred with approval the recommendations of Lord Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life in the United Kingdom. The following principles of public life, of general application, were commended by the court: “Principles of public life: The general principles of conduct which underpin public life need to be restated. We have done this. The seven principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are set out (later on). Codes of conduct: All public bodies should draw up codes of conduct incorporating these principles.

Independent scrutiny: Internal systems for maintaining standards should be supported by independent scrutiny.

Education: More needs to be done to promote and reinforce standards of conduct in public bodies, in particular through guidance and training, including induction training.” The Seven Principles of Public Life are stated in the Report by Nolan Committee, thus -

“The Seven Principles of Public Life:

· Selflessness · Integrity · Objectivity · Accountability · Openness · Honesty · Leadership

Certain measures required to be taken for ensuring probity in governance: · Need for enforcing section 5 of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988 · Misfeasance in Public Office – A Remedy · Necessity for a law providing for confiscation of illegally acquired assets of public servants · Enactment of a Public Interest Disclosure Act · Enactment of a Freedom of Information Act · Necessity for enacting a Lok Pal Bill in addition to the Central Vigilance Commission Act · Strengthening of the Criminal Judicial System

Concept of public serviceEdit

Philosophical basis of governance and probityEdit

Information sharing and transparency in governmentEdit

  • Democratisation of Information, Yojana, May 2013

Right to InformationEdit

Codes of EthicsEdit

Codes of ConductEdit

Citizen’s ChartersEdit

Work cultureEdit

Quality of service deliveryEdit

  • "Ensuring Service-Quality In Government Sector", Yojana, June 2011

Utilization of public fundsEdit

Challenges of corruptionEdit

Previous years' questionsEdit


“The good of an individual is contained in the good of all.” What do you understand by this statement? How can this principle be implemented in public life? (150 words)