Honesty in the Indian Civil Services

A senior politician from the state of Uttar Pradesh once remarked, “If you work hard you can steal a little, but stealing should not become loot, you should not commit dacoity,” to civil servants. The fact that a senior politician could get away with saying something like this in a democratic set-up is a telling tale on the sad state of affairs in the civil services in India. Despite the high stature with which private citizens view civil servants in India, the general perception among the people is that most IAS officer are corrupt and inefficient, intent only on filling their kitties. There are some IAS/IPS officers who with their exemplary work have successfully brought about many positive changes in people’s lives. They have done so at the cost of their careers, and sometimes even lives. Despite this, corruption is deep-seated in our bureaucracy. How long can this go on? Will an age come when we can boast of a civil services sector devoid of corruption and nepotism?

Why is it so hard to be honest as an IAS officer? If a few can do it, what about the rest? Is it right to blame the civil services only when corruption and dishonesty are entrenched in almost every facet of Indian civil society? The truism that as long as people give bribes, there will be people to accept them is apt to point out here.  But it would be trivializing the matter if we reduced honesty only to saying ‘no’ to a bribe. You need not accept money for favours to be called dishonest. Dishonesty is condoning the bribes that your junior or senior colleague in service demands or accepts. It could be turning a blind eye to malpractices that take place under your nose. It could also be doing harmless yet unethical ‘favours’ to your friends or relatives using your official power and authority. It could also be giving in to pressure from the top (read ministers) who ask you to bend rules to favour them. A lot of civil servants say that they have never taken a bribe in their lives. But they have had to yield in to pressure from the top to do some unethical or illegal acts. They were intimidated and fear of life or their family’s safety led them to commit such acts.

In such a scenario, is it correct to portray the civil services as a corrupt lot? Perhaps not. It is true that as individuals, they should rise above all sorts of pressure and temptations keeping in mind their oath to serve the country, but in a general atmosphere of corruption and dishonesty, one cannot expect every civil servant to display such qualities like honesty and most importantly, bravery. Unless corruption is rooted out of the country, it would exist even within the civil services.

As a society, it is imperative that we remove this menace from the services as an efficient and upright civil services can lead the country into an era of prosperity and security in every sense.

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