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Mains Answer Writing

13-March-2024

Q1) “Integrity is the cornerstone of effective governance.” Discuss the importance of integrity for good governance. Why is it so difficult to achieve high level of integrity in public life?

(250 Words/15 Marks)

ANSWER

Integrity is the consistent and unfailing adherence to moral principles. In governance, it implies probity in governance through adherence to principles of ethics in the conduct of public affairs.

 The importance of integrity for good governance is as follows:

  1. Transparency and accountability: The willingness of public officials to be held accountable for their actions creates openness in decision-making processes.
  2. It ensures compliance with due process and protects against misconduct. It contains corruption and fraud.

E.g., officials like IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who exposed irregularities in land deals, showcase the role of integrity in combatting corruption.

  1. Justice: Integrity promotes ethical decision-making. Decisions are based on constitutional morality and rule of law instead of personal biases.
  2. It promotes good work culture in public offices which is necessary for efficient delivery of public services. It improves public participation.
  3. It preserves public trust in the government and the administration. It protects against alienation of marginalized sections which is critical to build consensus on policies and implementation of projects.

 

While integrity is vital for good governance, achieving high level of integrity in public governance can be challenging due to the following reasons:

  1. Bureaucratic culture
  2. a) It incentivizes status-quo and penalises dynamic actions on account of diversion from established norms.

E.g., cases of corruption against officials who designed Vande Bharat in record time.

  1. b) It results in condoning of corruption. Many officers maintain personal honesty, but compromise integrity for self-preservation.

E.g., not reporting departmental corruption.

  1. Demanding Responsibilities: The public governance landscape is complex and demanding, with numerous competing interests, limited resources, and public expectations. It entails tolerance for corruption in short-term to effectively perform the roles and responsibilities for public. In such environment, honest officers are considered incompetent.
  2. Complex and ambiguous legal framework creates loopholes and opportunities for unethical practices. Inconsistent regulations, vague laws, and inadequate enforcement mechanisms create low-deterrence effect.

E.g., weak whistleblower protection mechanism.

  1. Politicization of bureaucracy: Corruption is facilitated through political patronisation of bureaucracy and collusive bribery. The political use of anti-corruption bodies like CVC, CBI etc. compromises their integrity.
  2. Social reasons: There is decline in societal values due amidst rise of materialistic culture. Status is measured in terms of wealth and influence.

 

Following measures can help create the culture of integrity in public governance:

  1. Create a code of ethics for civil servants as recommended by the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC).
  2. Create a Central Civil Services Authority to insulate civil services from political interferences and associated compulsions.

E.g., the National Capital Civil Services Authority (NCCSA) in Delhi.

  1. Judicial reforms are needed to make the legal safeguards against corruption effective and decisive.

E.g., quick resolution of cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

  1. Lateral entry can help address issues of bureaucratic work-culture and improve professionalism.
  2. Technology and digital tools can reduce the scope for corruption and rent-seeking behaviour.

E.g., online public services, project monitoring through drones etc.

 

Integrity is key to good governance. But issues in achieving high level of integrity in public governance require substantive reforms in civil services, judiciary, politics and most importantly society to incentivize high standards of integrity and personal conduct

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