Thursday, August 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



How to morally recharge civil services

There is no reason to disagree with Mr B.R. Malhotra (“Managing civil services: observations and suggestions”, August 2) that like much else in India, the bureaucracy has carried forward certain features of the colonial past. It continues to be based on the colonial legacy and draws its sustenance from it — in its structure, love for precedents, excessive reliance on file work and, above all, an admirable penchant for pleasing the political masters.

Consequently, there exists an urgent need to inject dynamism and a sense of purpose into the post-Independence look of the famed “steel frame”. At present no one needs to be in doubt that the bureaucracy is insensitive to the needs of the public and not sufficiently management-oriented.

The politico-bureaucratic set-up has emerged through several stages since Independence. Over a period of time the tribe of politicians has transformed itself from a scrupulously honest section to a venal group. Bureaucrats were also made to the line through a combination of bullying and placating tactics. Those who opposed were isolated and those who were willing to play the ball with the new masters — and their number was on the increase — were forgiven and welcomed with open arms into the new triumvirate of political clout, executive authority and money power.

Gradually, the politician succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in reducing the good administration to impotence while breeding the unscrupulous and ambitious type he wanted. In the process the civil servants who are hardworking, honest and conscientious but are not proficient in the art of genuflexion and adulation lose heart because recognition and promotion seldom comes their way. On the other hand, politically-oriented civil servants have a field day with better postings and quicker promotions.

Needless to emphasise, the responsibility for good administration rests on the services themselves. Let them not forget that if they have a negative public image today, this is due so much to their own unscrupulous, callous, slothful, selfish and over-ambitious ways in the past as to any external circumstances. Let them not forget that their ultimate paymaster is not the politician under whom they happen to be serving at the moment, but the poor common man of the country.

It goes without saying that any crusade in favour of honesty among civil servants pre-supposes that corrupt and self-serving politicians are not allowed to bend them to serve their own ends. Considerable weight, therefore, needs to be thrown behind the demand to depoliticise the executive wing and to insulate the administration from political interference so that we have morally recharged civil services.


The new Army Chief

For once the Central government has shown some sign of good governance by nominating the new Army Chief well in time following the laid-down norms. This has put paid to unfounded speculations, manipulations and political hobnobbing. Well done.

Congratulations to the incoming Chief, General “Paddy”, who will be taking over during a period full of internal and external delicate challenges. I am certain that there could have been no better choice to face these issues.

I know “Paddy” personally, professionally, socially and as a friend. He is a highly honest, God-fearing, loyal and a forthright person. He can be no one’s “yesman” either. Professionally, he is much above the over-rated “strategic thinking” General. He brings a vast operational experience with him. I am sure he will not let the enemy surprise the country and the Army. Kargil was neither a war nor a battle. It was more of a “media hype” Yet he will not let it happen again.

We ex-servicemen expect much more from him in the form of “one rank one pension” and improved medical care.

One word of advice. Look after the men you command, and improve the living conditions of officers and men in peace time and in war.

BRIG K.S. KANG (retd) 

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Teachers who torture

“Teacher held for ‘torturing’ pupil” (August 4) was a shocking report.

As mentioned in it, a teacher working in a panchayat primary school at Koltayur in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu received a complaint that a five-year-old pupil had beaten up a girl in his class. Enraged on his denial, he asked the child to hold a burning camphor on his palms and swear his innocence.

In view of the fact that the pupil was just five-year old, the teacher should have asked him in a tender and loving way if he had done the wrong and advised him not to quarrel with other students. But he subjected him to a harsh, gruelling treatment to force a confession, as if he were a hard core criminal. The burning camphor could have caused a serious permanent defect in the hands of the pupil.

Teaching is a pious profession. Therefore, the teachers should be kind, gracious and patient human beings. They should not flare up on trivial matters. I am reminded of a couplet of Tilok Chand Mahroom, who himself was a teacher:

Jo ik nigaah sey kartey they khaak ko akseer.

Kahaan gaye voh mo’allim voh mehrbaan ustaad.

(Where have gone those kind of pedagogues and teachers who transformed dust into elixir with a single look at it?)



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