WHAT ARE VALUES?
N Vittal, Central Vigilance Commissioner
(Talk delivered to the Executives of the United India Assurance, Tirupati, 4.2.2002)
WHAT ARE VALUES?
You may all have heard the apocryphal story meeting of Bernard Shaw with an
aristocratic lady in a party. Bernard Shaw with tongue in cheek proposed “Lady, would you like
to sleep with me for a million dollars”. The lady replied, “why not?” The next question of
Bernard Shaw was bolder. “Will you sleep with me for ten dollars?” The lady pulled herself to
her full height and asked, “Do you think I am a prostitute?” Bernard Shaw coolly replied, “We
have already established that fact, what we are doing now is negotiating the rates”.
This anecdote brings out in bold relief what is meant by the word “value”. Values
ultimately are those principles which we hold dear and which determine our course of action.
Values are the fundamental principles, which govern our perceptions and action. For
example the recent terrorist attack on 11
September on the twin towers of the World Trade
Centre at New York and the Pentagon at Washington has shocked in the world. Majority of the
people who love a peaceful life would condemn the action, which has resulted in so much of
damage to life and property. But then those 19 people who were behind the hijacking of the
plane leading to the tragedy apparently also had values of a different type. Those who are
condemning the terrorist attack probably value the peace in a society, respect for life, not causing
harm to any people as important values because it is based on such values that a society can
peacefully progress. On the other hand, those who willfully caused the terrorist attack also had
values; probably they were motivated by a different set where causing such willful damage
served a definite purpose. I am giving this example only to show how every action of individuals
is guided ultimately by the values cherished by them.
Values are formed by a series of process of interaction of individual with his
environment. As we are born, we are subject to the values and concepts of our parents, teachers
and colleagues. Peer pressure probably these days is more important especially since the joint
family has failed.
The commitment to integrity has I think a direct bearing on religion. Religion, if we come
to think of it ultimately has influence in a society because it ensures the smooth and all round
growth of a society. It ensures that the members follow the religious precepts. In our Hindu
religion we talk about the need for speaking the truth and observing Dharma satyam vada,
dharmam chara. In the case of the Christian religion, we have the Ten Commandments.
Religion I think is a very important fact to nurture cultural values. Perhaps it is the decline of
religion in our society, which has also led to erosion of values. In the United States today we
find that six-year-old schoolboys are shooting and killing their friends. This can be explained
only in terms of the erosion of values and the lack of parental guidance supplemented by the gun
culture which perhaps gets an indirect boost from television programmes, video games etc.
which have an element of violence about them.Page 2
In the ultimate analysis valued adopted and practiced by an individual depends on the
After all every one wants to survive and thrive.
Values, which are perceived to be helpful in this effort, will be accepted.
Desire for improvement:
There is an inherent desire for improvement in
everyone's heart. This is the root of jealousy, ambition or keeping up with the Jones'. Role
models help to ingrain values because of this craving for rising towards an ideal.
A variation of (b) is the hierarchy of needs of Abraham Maslow. We adopt values
depending upon where we are in the hierarchy of needs be it basic physical needs, safety/security
needs, self-actualisation or ego needs or social needs.
When we analyse the dynamics of values therefore we should also not forget that there is
always a potential for change in the human behaviour. Probably this explains why suddenly
people change their behaviour. It is well known that every sinner has a future and every saint has
a past. I think that this shows that when it comes to values there could be dramatic changes
depending upon the circumstances. Therefore we come across officers who towards the end of
their career when they are under severe financial strain due to social requirements like dowry for
their daughters etc. become corrupt. It is in such circumstances, I think, a person's mettle is
This is where the second aspect of sustaining of values comes. While the individual
imbibes the values, they can be sustained only if the atmosphere is also conducive for certain
values. Unfortunately today we find a dissonance between the social values as accepted by the
society and the ideals for which everybody pays lip service at the individual level. For instance
we have society, which honours only money power; knowledge and individual achievements are
not honoured. I was once speaking to Prof, Chao of South Korea who built the Pohang steel
plant. He said that in South Korea a professor is more honoured than many others in the society
and as a result Koreans had no difficulty in getting non-resident Koreans to come back and help
in building the Pohang steel plant or other major projects in Korea. Perhaps there is something
in the Confucian ethos, which gives respect to the learned person. We have also in our society
and our Hindu ethos the concept that swadeshe pujyate raja vidwan sarvatre pujyate but when in
practice it is money power and clout that matters. Criminalisation of our politics and society is
the direct consequence of this erosion of values.
The cricketers were great heroes for many particularly the youth in our country. The
match fixing scam I think has shown that these heroes had also feet of clay. The societal values
in a way are the result of the general consensus. Even where a general consensus in terms of
traditions and law lay down certain values depending upon the implementation of the laws and
traditions ultimately the values prevail. We therefore find in this conflict between the de jure an
de facto position on values when it comes to social values de facto ultimately prevails.Page 3
1.10 Having become Central Vigilance Commissioner for the last more than three years, I
have been all the time looking at the seamy side of social life namely corruption, what lies at the
root of corruption and why people are prepared to sell themselves, their organisation or even
their country for as they say “30 piece of silver”? What is the social root of corruption? Why is
that we are like this?
THE SOCIAL ROOTS OF CORRUPTION
We also know that corruption is not a good thing. Why is corruption not good? It is so
because it is anti national, anti economic development and anti poor. But then that brings us to
the larger issue about what are the values by which we live today and how could there be
improvement in values? We may therefore examine the whole issue of the value system first by
exploring our current state of corruption, the social roots for the same and the dynamics of
We are a billion-strong country and we have wide differences in terms of social and
economic development of different parts of the country. From a sociological point of view, the
family is the basis of our society. The joint family and caste are only the extended versions of
the family. The joint family might have been eroded in recent times especially in the urban
areas but kinship, in the form of caste, still prevails. Casteism gets a continuous boost because
this seems to have become the basis of our entire politics. Jawaharlal Nehru used to talk about
building India into a casteless classless society. The classless society never evolved and, instead
of building a casteless society, we have today a highly atomised society where caste defines the
basis of politics. From casting our votes in the first election in 1952 we have come to the stage of
voting our caste in recent elections.
This organisation of our society based on caste and kinship and the differences in the
stages of development between the states provides a very strong rationale for corruption. Caste
and nepotism become the basis for distribution of patronage. One of the Chief Ministers is
reported to have replied when asked why he was favouring his relatives “If I do not favour my
relatives, whose relatives am I supposed to favour?” This concept of standing by one’s caste or
family is also reflected in the sense of tribalism of the corrupt. In addition to the social bond
provided by caste and family ties, the common financial interest is another cementing factor. We
are largely an illiterate society with at least 40% of our people being illiterate. Hence, emotions
dictate politics. Politics is the route to power in a democracy. So when the politics is based on
caste and the voter takes decisions at the emotional level, corruption is probably considered more
One of the social roots of corruption in India can be traced to our Indian culture of
tolerance. Any numbers of examples are given in the Puranas where the sinner having led a life
of sin can get redemption by taking the name of Lord Narayana in his last moments as in the case
of Ajamila. In social terms this has come to be accepted. People who lived a life of sin like the
prodigal son return to the straight and narrow path at some stage, usually late in life.
If we examine the root of corruption, we will find that it arises perhaps from the extreme
attachment of people to their families. Nepotism is natural in this situation. Corruption, asPage 4
defined by the World Bank, is the use of public office for private profit. A person in office feels
that he should earn enough not only for himself and his lifetime but also for his children, grand
children and perhaps seven generations. That is probably the basic motive behind the enormous
accumulation of wealth by the corrupt in our country today.
Equally important is another psychological factor. Power is never demonstrated in a
society unless it is misused. In certain communities being as corrupt as possible and amassing as
much wealth as possible is seen as a macho demonstration of “competence”. If this is the
attitude, those sectors of society that did not have an opportunity to share the power cake in the
past may also rationalise that they must also be able to emulate those who had earlier enjoyed
misuse of their power and amassed wealth by rampant corruption. Thus a vicious cycle of
corruption is launched where a society tolerates amassing of wealth and does not question how
that wealth is accumulated.
There was a time when socially a corrupt person was considered not a desirable person.
Such persons were not held in high esteem. But today we have reached such a cynical stage that
corruption is not only taken for granted but the capacity for making money as much as possible
from one’s position is welcomed. It is said that in France, in the police, those who are corrupt
are socially ostracized. Small measures like social boycott or ostracism of corrupt persons, if
this could be inculcated, can also go a long way in creating an appropriate psychological
atmosphere for promoting a culture of integrity.
This brings us to another important social root for corruption that is probably getting
more accentuated in recent times. This is the spreading cult of consumerism. The electronic
media has had a tremendous impact in creating a desire in the mind of everyone to have the best
of the consumer goods even at the beginning of life. Newspapers regularly report how domestic
servants have been the agents of crime in many cases. Perhaps it is this upstairs-downstairs
syndrome or the ostentatious consumption of the well to do and the sense of jealousy created as a
result among the deprived which leads to crimes. Consumerism and desire for an ostentatious
life style tempts many to make money by hook or crook. Corruption is the result.
There was a time when socially a corrupt person was considered not a desirable person.
Such persons were not held in high esteem. But today we have reached such a cynical stage that
corruption is not only taken for granted but the capacity for making money as much as possible
from one’s position is welcomed. It is said that in France, in the police, those who are corrupt
are socially ostracized. Small measures like social boycott or ostracism of corrupt persons, if
this could be inculcated, can also go a long way in creating an appropriate psychological
atmosphere for promoting a culture of integrity.
2.10 Evil social practices also promote corruption. One major social cause that promotes
corruption is the dowry system. Every public servant wants to see that his daughter is married
off well and there is continuous pressure for having a minimum level of dowry. This may be one
of the reasons why one comes across cases where even public servants who have otherwise led a
clean life become vulnerable to corruption towards the end of their career. Dowry system is
definitely one of the social roots of corruption in our country.Page 5
2.11 Equally important is the social pressure in a competitive society for ensuring that children
get the best possible education. Right from kindergarten in every educational institution, there is
pressure of competition and education has become commercialised. This has been further
accentuated by government policies about affirmative action resulting in a great incentive for
self-financing colleges who charge a lot of donation fee and most of it is collected in black.
Education pressure and corruption in the education sector is another social factor contributing to
corruption in our system.
THE DYNAMICS OF CHANGE IN VALUES
If corruption is to be fought because it is anti national, anti poor and anti economic
development, how can we bring about a change in the value system? We must first understand
the dynamics behind the changes in the value system. We may then examine what should be the
new value system. I believe in the principles of the five eminent men so far as the dynamics of
change is concerned.
Bertrand Russell, the eminent British philosopher observed that “every opinion becomes
respectable if you hold it for a sufficiently long time.” Today it may not be respectable to think
that India can become corruption free. But similar was the situation, at the height of British
imperialism, when it was unthinkable that the sun would ever set on the British Empire.
Nevertheless, the leaders of our freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi made the idea, that
India can become free of colonialism, a reality. Their opinion about a free India, which at one
time might have been considered as a dream or impossibility, became a reality.
This goes to prove the truth of the statement made a French writer Victor Hugo who said
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Perhaps looking to the
extensive corruption in every walk of life that we see in India today, the idea that India must
improve and become a less corrupt country is an idea whose time has come.
The third observation was made by another French thinker Alexis de Toqueville. He said
that “The inevitable becomes intolerable the moment it is perceived to be no more inevitable.”
Today the citizens of India may view corruption as inevitable. The purpose of this Guide is to
make every Indian citizen realise that corruption is not inevitable. The moment the citizens of
the country realise that corruption is not inevitable, then it will become intolerable and we can
see a dramatic change coming up in the country for the better.
The fourth observation is attributed to the British writer George Bernard Shaw. He said
that “An ordinary person accepts the limitations of life in the society in which he lives and leads
a peaceful life. The unreasonable man wants the society to change to his way of thinking and in
the process achieves success.” Today, reasonable citizens in India may come to terms with the
prevailing corruption and try to lead a peaceful life. The morally aware and activist citizens of
the country would be following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and in trying to bring about a
change in the system. It may be recalled that when Gandhiji was in South Africa, he was thrown
out in the middle of the night from the first class compartment of the train in which he was
traveling, even though he had a valid first class ticket, because he was black. Many other Indians
in his position would have accepted the injustice of the system and led a peaceful life. ButPage 6
Gandhiji who was a great moral leader thought this to be an unfair system and rebelled against it.
Satyagraha was born in the mind of Gandhiji on that railway platform that night in South Africa.
The citizens who read and take an activist approach to fighting corruption in our country by
reading this guide will be following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.
Unless there is a plan of action, mere sentiment or unguided action will not bring results.
There is a story about a rat, a cat and an owl. The rat was being harassed by the cat. It went to
the owl for the advice. The owl said that the rat could face the cat if it also became a cat. When
on the next day the rat went and inquired from the owl how it, a rat, could become a cat, the owl
said that he was there to give policy directions but implementation was the rat’s problem! The
very purpose of this Guide is to empower every Indian citizen who wants to fight corruption and
from being weak like the rat to become strong like the cat. For this, the strategy to be followed is
the advice given by Michelangelo Buonarotti, the immensely talented Italian sculptor of the
fifteenth century. Michelangelo was asked how he made beautiful statues out of marble that had
no shape. He replied that the statue was in his mind and he went on removing from the marble
whatever was not part of the statue and the statue emerged. Today every patriotic citizen desires
that India must become a corruption free country. How to go about it and ensure that the
prevailing corruption is tackled is the main theme of this guide. Specific actions have been
indicated so that vision of a corruption free India can be realised.
How does one then bring about changes in the value perceptions of a society? Here I
depend upon five concepts I have described before. I think a combined application of the above
five concepts can help in bringing about a change in the social values. As the Central Vigilance
Commissioner, I have been trying to apply these concepts in the concept of creating a general
consensus against corruption not only at the de jure or the lip service level but also at the de
facto or operational level.
Rajaji, one of the eminent leaders of India, has highlighted that ultimately it is national
character that decides the nation’s progress.
“National character is the keystone on which rests the fate and future of our public affairs, not
this or that ‘ism’.”
“National character, again, depends on and in fact is individual rectitude. Movements for the
encouragement of personal rectitude, for purifying individual character, are therefore not
irrelevant in the context of politics but are vitally connected with our hopes in respect of national
“National character is the keystone of national affairs. It locks the bricks together like the
keystone in the arch. If the keystone is not there, the arch goes to pieces and tumbles down. It is
the improvement of individual character that goes to make the uplift of national character which
in turn becomes the keystone in the arch of national prosperity.
“Gandhiji, it has been often stated, wished to spiritualise politics. He firmly held the view that
we cannot keep politics and morality apart. Indeed he wanted politics to be re-built based on a
true and reliable foundation, viz., individual honesty”.Page 7
“If the parched field of Indian policies and administration has to get fresh green life and grow,
we need the monsoon of purity in national character. And the monsoon consists of little drops
falling and uniting to make the rain. Individual purity of character alone can revive the parched
“When will the people of India wake up, wake up to the need to work hard, to the need to be
honest in all matters and in all walks of life including manufacture and trade? Character, which
includes efficient work and truthfulness and purity of mind, is the keystone of the arch both in
individual life and in national life. Politics, economics, administration, education, health and
hygiene and a score of other things, all call for good character in the individual. Individuals
make or mar the nation”.
We have seen the dynamics of how values are created, how today there is need for
inculcating a sense of values especially relating to integrity, dedication, honesty and so on. In
other words, we must be able to re-establish the values so beautifully articulated in the
Upanishads starting with:
SATYAM VADA, DHARMAM CHARA.
SWAADHYAAN MAA PRAMADA – MAATRU DEVO BHAVA.
PITRU DEVO BHAVA. AACHARYA DEVO BHAVA.
ATITHI DEVO BHAVA.
YAANI ANAVADHYAANI KARMAANI SEVITAVYAANI.
NA ITARAANI – SHRADDHAYA DEYAM.
BHIYAA DEYAM. SAMVIDA DEYAM – TATHA TESHU VARTETHA –
ESHA AADESHA. ESHA UPADESHA.
ESHA VEDOPANISHAD. ETAD ANUSHAASANAM EVAM UPAASITAVYAM.
EVAM UCHAI TAD UPAASAYAM.
VALUE BASED EDUCATION
Ultimately what should be the values we should focus on? The important aspect to be
noticed about values is that they are ingrained in the system. The status of values in any
organisation, system or a society depend upon three factors. The first is the individuals sense of
values. The second is the set of socially accepted values. The third is the system. So far as
inculcating values are concerned, perhaps education can play a very important role. The
question is how do we inculcate in our educational system a sense of values? One of the
problems we face is that right from the admission into the kindergarten, the student notices how
corrupt practices prevail in the educational institutions. Before we talk about value education in
the educational institutions, we must start a systematic campaign to bring in cleanliness in the
Rabindranath Tagore said that the birth of every child shows that God has not lost faith in
mankind. I was reminded of this observation when as Central Vigilance Commissioner, I
suggested that if we want to tackle the issue of corruption, then we would have to catch people
young. We will have to look to the younger generation, the generation in schools and collegesPage 8
and see whether they can be inculcated with the right values of honesty and integrity. I was
promptly reminded that it is impossible for the modern Indian child to imbibe the values of
honesty because right from the moment he joins the kindergarten he notices how his parents have
to operate through the corrupt education system. When the child goes to high school and faces
the challenges of Standard X and XII, he finds that the teachers may not teach in the schools and
he has to pay heavily for private tuition.
When I was young, I was told that teaching was the noblest of professions and the
sorriest of trades. But we find that teaching has become a very paying proposition. In fact, I
remember in Gujarat, when the VCR prices were of the order of Rs.70000 and above in the
seventies, one of the elite set of people who could afford the VCR in addition to the industrialists
of Gujarat were teachers who were running air-conditioned tuition classes.
We then go further to the university and find that student politics attracts a lot of
attention. Perhaps the students learn all the practical aspects of corruption and politics as the
union leaders. Many student leaders later on even blossom into leading political personalities.
While this is probably the trajectory of an Indian child through the education process, if
we look at the educational institutions themselves and the people behind them, we see another
dimension of corruption. Affirmative action is an important element of the educational
philosophy and policies in post Independent India. As a result we find that profitable self-
financing colleges have come up and education has become commerce. The success of
educational institutions also depends upon their getting the appropriate licences. The dirigist
philosophy which we adopted after Independence let to the growth of what Rajaji called "the
permit licence raj". This in turn has resulted in the setting up of bodies with powers to grant
accreditation and approvals for the private institutions. I have heard very respectable people
complain to me that getting a recognition from bodies like AICTE or Medical Council of India,
involve some time actions which border on corruption. I have been very cautious in mentioning
this as immediately questions will be raised whether the CVC has received corruption complaints
about these institutions and if so what action has been taken.
In short, our entire education system is riddled with corruption from the kindergarten to
the highest levels. Is it possible to think of corruption free education? A corrupt education
system is like the polluted Ganga. If Gangotri itself becomes polluted, how can Ganga be
purified? The sources of the values we imbibe in life apart form our parents and religion is the
education system. In fact the significance of education is visualised in the shloka Gurur
bramham gurur vishnum gurur devo maheshwara guru sakshat para brahmam tasmai shri
guruve namaha. The guru has been given a very high place among the people to be worshipped.
Matru devo bhava, pitru devo bhava, acharya devo bhava is what we teach. But is today's
educational system such that these ancient values can really be practised?
I think a systematic effort at fighting corruption should be made. Probably the best
starting point would be the education system. If we analyse the causes for corruption in the
education system, we will find that there are three causes. The first cause is the scarcity of good
educational institutions be it the schools, colleges or technical institutions. The second cause is
the scarcity of good schools in the English medium. The third cause is lack of transparency inPage 9
the system. We may examine each one of these by turn. Once we identify the causes, the
remedies will automatically be suggested. We can then evolve strategies to practice them.
The main cause for corruption in the education system is that good educational
institutions are very rare. It is true that at any given point of time, the good education institutions
would be in short supply. But the issue is that the acuteness of the short supply is artificially
created. Every person in this country wants his children to have better education than what he
had. Contrary to what policymakers may think, many people even below the poverty line and
definitely the middle class want their children to have education in the English medium
institutions. The myth that people below the poverty line do not want education for their
children and want them to work has been already exploded. My own experience shows that even
the lowest paid employees in government want their children to have English medium education.
But by policy we do not allow English medium schools to come up so easily and as a result,
there is always a scarcity for English medium schools. This is where the policy has to be
reviewed. I have seen leaders who lay down policies for education in the local medium send
their own children to English medium convent schools. This hypocrisy must be given up. Let us
recognise that we are in the age of the knowledge economy and in the age of the Internet,
knowledge of English is one advantage which India has and which it should exploit to the hilt.
On the contrary there seem to be some times debates going on about the need for sliding back
and giving up English. I am reminded of what Rajaji said when I was a student in the college in
the context of English not being an official language but only a library language. He said
keeping English not as an official language but as a library language is like keeping a cow not for
the milk value but for the manure value. If we want to rid education of corruption, therefore, the
first thing is to give up the hypocrisy in policy making and allow good schools to come up both
in English medium and in the Indian languages.
The second reason why there is scarcity of good schools or educational institutions is that
the best brains are not attracted to teaching. Take for example IITs and IIMs. Everybody would
like to go and study there but how many are willing to go and teach there? What is true of IIT
and IIMs is equally true of the entire educational system. I would like to know how many of the
teachers in the schools and colleges have chosen teaching as a career by choice and how many
have come to the profession as the last resort.
4.10 This poses the challenge of the quality of education. Apart from the medium issue, the
issue is also about good teaching and training. In the context of higher education, I have been
advocating what I would call a "free-lunch strategy". Perhaps the free-lunch concept has to be
extended right through the education spectrum from the primary, secondary also as well as
college education. In the context of higher education, this is what I had advocated.
4.11 The condemnation which the decision of the government to give rent-free telephones to
the employees of the Department of Telecom attracted was based on the current conventional
wisdom of the liberalised economy that when it comes to economic activities, there is no free
lunch. Subsidies are passé.
4.12 Even though free lunch belongs to the unfashionable past, a little reflection will show that
in the knowledge economy that we are entering, free lunch has a very important role to play. OnePage 10
cannot tar with the same black brush any decision which smacks of giving something free.
Education perhaps is the best way of enhancing human capital. The critical role played by
scholarships in the life of many eminent people who started very poor in life is well known. The
present director general of CSIR, Dr Mashelkar, one of the eminent scientists of this country, has
recognised the critical role played by the Tata scholarship which helped him in his studies at a
critical stage in his life. Many eminent people who distinguished themselves in science, politics,
law and so on had the benefit of a critical financial assistance by way of scholarship at certain
stage in their lives. The significance of the free lunch of scholarship is well recognised so far as
the ``knowledge’’ part of the knowledge economy is concerned.
4.13 When it comes to the ``economy’’ part also, the freebie element has a critical role to play.
Look at the cable TV revolution in our country. This would not have been possible but for the
fact that a lot of good quality content by way of entertainment, education and news programmes
were available through a number of free channels like CNN, STAR and BBC as well as the
Discovery Channel at certain stage of development. As the content was freely available from the
air, entrepreneurs practically in every street corner could string the cables and bring the cable TV
revolution to the 30 million homes in the country.
4.14 The freebie element is even more true of the life blood of the emerging world of e-
commerce, namely the Internet. In a fascinating book called ``A Brief History of the Future’’,
John Naughton has highlighted how ultimately the Internet grew based on values. ``What are
they? The first is, it is better to be open than closed. Lessig makes the point that there have been
electronic networks since late 19th century but there were predominantly proprietary built on the
idea that protocol should be private property. As a result, they `chunked along at a tiny growth
rate’. He contrasts this with the web where the source code of every single page is open — for
anyone to copy, steal or modify simply by using the View: Source button on their browser —
and which is the fastest growing network in human history. Non-proprietary, public domain,
dedicated to the commons indeed some might think attacking the very idea of property yet
generating the greatest growth of our economy has seen. It is the ultimate paradox of the
4.15 There is a lot of focus on protecting intellectual property rights but while they are
important, spectacular growth has been achieved in the knowledge economy because certain
invaluable assets were free. So we should not underestimate the critical role of the free lunch in
ensuring economic development in the knowledge economy. It is fashionable these days to talk
about a target of $87 billion for the Indian software industry by the year 2008 based on
McKenzie study organised by NASSCOM from the present level of about $5 billion. The basic
issue is how are we going to achieve this target unless we are able to produce a very large
number of software engineers and technocrats? We need three million software experts per year.
We produce only 65000 and there is shortage of 2.35 million experts.
4.16 The approach to producing software manpower is based on glamourous and highly
capital intensive strategies like the Indian Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad and
Bangalore. These will produce high-end software engineers. Prof Narasimhan, one of the
eminent computer experts has recently identified four different levels of expertise needed for
developing human capital for software. We need Generals and Brigadiers for our IT army, andPage 11
we also need a lot of foot soldiers. Where are they to come from? We are witnessing the growth
of a lot of hole-in-the-wall teaching shops. But what about the quality of training? It is here, I
think we should systematically provide for a free lunch on the lines of the contents of satellite
television broadcasts. NASSCOM or for that matter anybody else concerned with the growth of
the human capital in software should come up with free teaching material in multimedia format
for different levels of software training courses.
4.17 Prof Narasimhan’s report can be taken as a starting point. Leading professors and experts
should grade the contents into lessons and teach them. These must be recorded on video tapes
and CDs and even put on the web site of NASSCOM, for example, so that just as the cable TV
operators downloaded the contents from the satellites and served the customers, a massive
number of training institutions could be built on the excellent quality, graded training material
which should be available free in the multimedia form. Throughout the country, our young boys
and girls can then get the best of training. The challenges of developing the human capital to
meet the demands of the emerging knowledge economy can be effectively met.
4.18 The basic fact is that while everybody would like to go to IIM or IIT, undertake a course
and then jump on to the high paying jobs in the Indian software industry or the multinationals,
how many are willing to go and teach there? This is the great weakness and a dark area which is
never highlighted in all the current hype about the India’s information technology industry. If we
can only provide the free lunch of excellent course content which will be readily available
through the Web or other media for the aspiring youngsters of India, we would have resolved the
catch 22 situation arising out of lack of good course content and quality teachers in adequate
numbers. Will NASSCOM and the drum beaters for the IT rise to this challenge?
4.19 What I am recommending for higher education in electronics can be applied mutatis
mutandis throughout the educational system. Unless we tackle this issue, we will never be able
to tackle the issue of corruption because the primary cause of corruption in the education system
is scarcity of good quality institutions. The scarcity of good institutions leads to tremendous
pressure on the institutions. The temptation and opportunity for corruption in the educational
institutions is naturally immense.
4.20 The next cause of corruption is the shortage of professional institutions like engineering
and medical colleges where the pressure for the seats becomes higher also because of the policies
of affirmative action adopted by the policy makers. I am not at all against affirmative action.
Perhaps in the last 53 years after independence, the policy of reservation has brought a lot of
benefits especially to the exploited weaker sections and the backward classes. A whole
generation of professionals in engineering and medicine have come up in these sections of
society because of the government policies. But the fact remains that there is acute shortage of
professional colleges. For example are mere six IITs adequate for a billion strong country? Of
course, we have also seen the weaknesses of third-rate engineering colleges multiplying and their
students not getting jobs. Years ago there were reports about how engineering graduates from
Bihar were running tea shops to earn a living. We face one of the critical problems in policy and
strategy so far as education is concerned, especially in the context of fighting corruption. While
we have to tackle the issue of scarcity by increasing the seats and the number of educational
institutions available, there is no point in compromising on quality because by compromising onPage 12
quality we are going to produce a large number of unemployable graduates. That is why I would
strongly recommend ideas like free-lunch education content available in the form of CD ROMS,
video films etc.
4.21 We then come to another type of corruption connected with the education institutions.
These arise due to lack of transparency in educational administration. There are complaints
about getting accreditation and so on. People are being cheated also of their funds by dubious
institutions claiming accreditation when they have got only the approval of AICTE. What we
need is a look at the systems and bring greater transparency and speed. The CVC's experience in
putting the names of charged officers on its web site showed that corruption in our system
flourishes because of lack of transparency and delay. By using information technology right
through the education administration, we should be able to tackle both the issues of transparency
and delay. Then we will be able to tackle the issues of corruption more effectively.
DHARMA: THE BASIS FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE
When it comes to our day to day life, what are the values that are going to affect us. Here
we come to the concept of dharma. Justice M Rama Jois in his Shri Bhau Rao Deoras Lecture
Series gave a talk entitled "Reforming our polity on the basis of Dharma". In this talk he has
provided valuable insights into the concept of Dharma. This is what he says:
From most ancient times, as a part of Dharma, one of the ideals placed before individuals was
that for a higher or greater interest, lower or personal interest should be subordinated. This
idealism is incorporated in a verse in Hitopadesha; It reads "Sub ordinate the interest of an
individual for the sake of the family, of the family to sub-serve the interest of the village, of the
village in the interest of the state, of all wordly interest in order to attain eternal bliss".
Tyajedekam kulasyarthe gramasyarthe kulam tyajet
gramam janapadasyarthe aatmarthe prithivim tyajet
Replacing the last which is concerned with the other world by the words, "Rashtrarthe Swartham
Tyajet" brings forth the ideas to be followed in the nation's interest.
Dharma is a Sanskrit expression of widest import. There is no corresponding word in any other
language. It would also be futile to attempt to give any definition to that word. It can only be
explained. Mahabharata, the great epic which is acclaimed as "Manava Kartavya Sastra (code
of duties of human beings) contains a discussion on this topic. On being asked by Yudhisthira to
explain the meaning an scope of dharma, Bhishma, who had mastered the knowledge of Dharma
Tadrisho ayam anuprashno yatra dharmaha sudurlabaha
Dushkaraha pratisankhyatum tatkenatra vysvasyathi
Prabhavarthaya bhutanam dharmapravachanam kritam
Yasyat prabhavasamyuktaha sa dharma iti nischayaha
Shanti Parva, 109-9-11Page 13
It is most difficult to define Dharma. Dharma has been explained to be that which helps the
upliftment of living beings. Therefore, that which ensures welfare (of living beings) is surely
Dharma. The learned rishis have declared: that which sustains is Dharma.
Karna Parva Ch 59, Verse 58 eulogises Dharma in the following words:
Dharanat dharma mityahu dharmo dharayate prajaha
Yat syad dharanasamyuktam sa dharma iti nischayaha
Dharma Sustains the society, Dharma maintains social order, Dharma ensures well being and
progress of humanity, Dharma is surely that which fulfils these objectives.
Jaimini, the author of celebrated Purvamimamsa and Utharamimamsa explains Dharma thus:
Dharma is that which is indicated by the Vedas as conducive to the highest good".
Sa hi nisreyasena purushamsamyunaktiti pratijaneemahe
tadabhidhiyate chodanalakshno artho dharmaha
Madhavacharya, the Minister to Hakka and Bukka, founder kings of Vijayanagar Empire, in is
commentary on Parashara Smiriti, has briefly and precisely explained the meaning of Dharma
Abhyudaya nisreyase sadhanatvena dharayati iti dharmaha
Sa ha lakshana pramanaabhyam chodana sutrair vyavasthapitaha
Dharma is that which sustains and ensures progress and welfare of all in this world and eternal
bliss in the other world. Dharma is promulgated in the form of commands - positive and
negative Vidhi and Nishedha).
Therefore Dharma embraces every type of righteous conduct covering every aspect of life
essential for the sustenance and welfare of the individual and society and includes those rules
which guide and enable those who believe in God and heaven to attain moksha (eternal bliss).
The Upanishads say very clearly that there is nothing beyond dharma. The same concept
of dharma is also reflected by Tiruvalluvar. Irai kakkum vayyakam ellam avanai murai kakkum
muttacheyim. The king protects the world and if he acts according to justice or dharma, then the
justice itself will protect him. Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha again reflects the same principle that
if a person rules according to dharma, that dharma itself will protect him.
If we explore the roots of ethics in public administration, we find that we have a rich
tradition. From our literature we find that there is a harmony between the individual and social
goals in our tradition. It is this harmony that provides a meaningful basis for ethics in public
administration. Every individual has to strive to achieve moksha. Aatmano mokshartham. But
at the same his other responsibility is the well being of the many - Jagat hitayacha. In fact the
goal in life for the individual as well as society has been ultimately distilled in the concept of
dharma through thousands of years of our rich cultural tradition.Page 14
The Bhagawad Gita is in fact the quintessence of Indian thinking on the spiritual front. It
also is an eminently practical guide for our secular life. The centrality of the dharma is also
emphasised by Lord Krishna in his famous observation in the third chapter of the Gita.
Swadharme nidhanam shreya para dharmo bhayapaha. Each person has his own dharma and he
has to live up to his dharma. It is better to die rather than give up one's dharma. If everybody
practices the concept of dharma, then that in itself brings a sense of self-discipline. In a society
where there is self-discipline, automatically there will be peace and prosperity. Unfortunately
this is an ideal situation and does not exist. There are people who are bad and we have to punish
the bad people if we want to maintain the peace and prosperity of the society.
Manu is very clear on this subject. Everybody has a tendency to enjoy the material goods
in life. It is only the fear of punishment that ensures order. There is hardly an individual in this
world who on his own is pure in his conduct. The King (Sovereign)'s power to punish and teach
the people in the righteous path, and the fear of punishment by the king yields worldly happiness
Sarvo dandajitho lokohdurlabho hi suchirjanaha
Dandasya hi bhayat bheeetobhoghayaiva pravartate
Tiruvalluvar has also described the same concept of punishment beautifully. The process
of the King removing the bad elements from the society, is like the farmer removing the weeds
from the field to protect the crops. Kolayil kodiyarai venduruthal pain kuzh kalai kathathanodu
ther. The concepts of dharma as the foundation for public administration is obvious.
Shri B K Nehru ICS perhaps looked at the whole issue of our value system in the area of
governance, as a case of our going back to the concept of the ruler being the source of the law.
According to him, the British had given us the concept of the rule of law but then in our
tradition it is the king who can do no wrong and is the source of all rules. With great respect of
Shri B K Nehru, it should be pointed out that what we had in the concept of rule of law
crystallised in our concept of dharma, dharmo rakshati rakshitaha. The king was there to
uphold the dharma. Nevertheless it is a fact that we have had a number of autocratic kings who
did not uphold the dharma. When the British came, so long as India was a colony, the ruler
could maintain a certain neutrality so far as the natives are concerned. In democratic India
today perhaps every elected representative feels that so long as he is in power his will must
prevail. This erosion of the concept of the rule of law has continued perhaps because of
collusion between the permanent bureaucracy and the political executive.
How can this trend be arrested? I have been suggesting that if the civil servants
remember what I call the Vittal amendment to Franklin principle, it should be possible for them
to arrest further deterioration. Benjamin Franklin said that nothing was more certain in life than
death and taxes. “For the civil servant, nothing is more certain than death, taxes, transfer and
retirement.” Perhaps this is easier said than done because the political executive can use the
weapon of transfer and sometime even worse, action like suspension to ruin the career and the
life of civil servants. The system could improve if some the measures I had suggested in the
context of manning sensitive posts to break the nexus between the corrupt public servants and
the bureaucrats could be put into practice. After all what we must aim at is a system whichPage 15
automatically regulates itself and ensures that ultimately justice is done to everyone in the
society or in the organisation.
So far as society values are concerned, I think we will have to depend on the civil society
itself to realise the need for dharma or effective operation. In fact in a talk in Marathi entitled
rashtradharma ani bhrashtachar by Vidya Vachaspati Shankar Abhayankar, he pointed out that
in the past when the king did not maintain his dharma the rishis were able to correct him and if
necessary even replace him. Who will play the role of rishis in today’s India. He points out that
perhaps the retired public servants can play that role. After all they know how the system works
and they are spread all over the country. They in turn can also play an effective role in utilising
the four institutions and four techniques mentioned in the citizens guide to fighting corruption.
The four institutions are the judiciary, agencies in government for fighting corruption like CVC,
electronic and print media and last, direct action. The technique they can adopt and the agenda
for them could be the following four items – (a) creating vigilance awareness by celebrating
vigilance awareness week every year starting with Sardar Patel’s birthday on 31
making suggestions about how rules and systems can be modified and simplified; (c) give
information under the Benami Black Money Scheme of the CVC so the corrupt are raided and
brought to book by Income Tax and CBI if necessary; and (d) help in actual tapping of the
IMPACT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE VALUESON ADMINISTRATION
Another important aspect of our democratic society has been the concern for social
justice. The concept of social justice has led to reservations. While this is a welcome measure
so far as the society’s development is concerned, it also creates sensitive problems in
administration. A regular departmental action taken for violation of rules can be interpreted as
reflecting a hostile attitude to the welfare of the weaker sections if the person against whom the
action is taken belongs to a weaker section. The concept of merit as something wholesome and
welcome has been diluted because of the focus on social justice and the court judgments. Arun
Shourie in his book COURTS AND JUDGMENTS has brought this our very eloquently.
In building our present culture of inefficiency and non-implementation of policies, the
role played by the judiciary also needs to be taken note of. In his book ‘Courts and their
Judgements’, Shri Arun Shourie has made certain incisive observations which are worth noting.
After discussing the judgement of the Supreme Court especially in the context of emergency and
the ex-post changes in the electoral laws made by the Parliament during the emergency, he
In a word, just as the Supreme Court was a legitimizer of ex-post changes in electoral laws to
overturn an electoral judgement against the ruler, just as it was a legitimizer of cruel
arbitrariness in ADM, Jabalpur, it became just as much a goad to, just as culpable a legitimizer
of the socialist rhetoric, of the tax regimes and other regulations whose consequences we rue to
As far as administration is concerned, the consequences have been two-fold, each fatal even by
In practice, all those admonitions for ensuring “fairness”, “non-discrimination”, for eschewing
“arbitrariness” have reinforced the tendency in the civil service to play safe. They have led the
administration to tie itself firmly to rules of thumb. Pay increase? “Parity across the board.”
Promotions go strictly by years the man has put in – the consequence was put to me graphically
by a person who has himself held senior positions in Government. “This is the only place in
which by the sheer efflux of time an ass becomes a horse.” Eve when evidence is staring you in
the face that the bidder will not be able to complete the contract within the artificially low rate
he has quoted in his tender document, go by H1, L1 rules of thumb – lest someone take you to
court, lest someone put the CBI on your tail.
Once again, the point is not that the judiciary has been solely responsible for bringing
administration to this pass; courts have not interfered with allocations that the Planning
Commission makes to the States for their Annual Plans; yet, more than 95 per cent of the
amounts allocated each year are formula-based. The point is that the courts, instead of helping
lift a weak political class out of the morass of mechanical rules, have contributed to pushing it
deeper into the swamp.
Second, the courts have helped drive merit completely out of governance. By straining so much
in favour of “equality”, “fairness”, “non-discrimination”, courts, as much as our politicians
and intellectuals, have helped make mediocrity – indeed, non-performance – the norm. Merit,
excellence have become dirty words – words that prove that the interlocutor is an elitist, one
who has no sympathy for the downtrodden, one who is bent upon perpetuating privilege and
The consequence of this denigration of merit and excellence, as of rights-mongering, the
consequence of reducing administrators to regurgitating rules of thumb has been to paralyse
governance, to induce administrators to spend their days going through the motions of doing
things rather than actually doing them.
Many a time the implementation especially of policies relating to maintenance of law and
order lead to very bizarre consequences. In his book ‘Courts and their Judgements’ Shri Arun
Shourie has drawn attention to this aspect.
Mr. Jagmohan, who saved the Valley for India at a critical time, was soon put in the dock. In
Assam, the Army is repeatedly asked to step in as the negligence and worse of politicians give
the terrorists the upper hand. The situation has but to be brought in hand, and that very Army is
made the butt of condemnation by the politicians. A policeman in that state who is killed by the
terrorists is soon forgotten, his family is packed off with a compensation of Rs.25,000, while the
terrorists who have killed that very policeman are given a lakh each if they “surrender”, they
are given a Maruti each, they are assured jobs, they are allowed to retain their weapons.
And where our forces have defeated the terrorists most decisively, the Punjab, the situation is the
worst. Mr. K.P.S. Gill, who rebuilt a shattered and infiltrated Punjab Police and who, by
personal example as much as by anything else, led that force to defeat terrorism in Punjab and
thereby saved Punjab for the country, is today beleaguered and set upon. The Punjab PolicePage 17
itself, rather the officers and men in that force who fought the terrorists, are just as much in the
dock; almost 1500 cases and writs are being heard against them; about 50 of them are in jail or
have been suspended from service – not because they have been convicted, but because
investigations are yet to be completed and their trials are yet to begin; scores of them have to
troop every other day offering explanations to courts where authorities scold them, and hurl
pejoratives at them.
Do you remember the young officer who was gunned down in the stadium in Patiala when he
was out for his morning run? What were these assassinations – “genuine encounters” as
distinct from the “false encounters” in which terrorists are alleged to have been killed? But not
one “human rights organization” talks of the killings of those officers. Not one “human rights
organization” files a writ requesting the courts to direct the CBI to trace the murderers of these
officers and men, and have been prosecuted. No court does in this regards what courts do so
routinely on other matters – that is, take cognisance of these killings suo moto.
But there is more than just double standards, much more than mere forgetfulness. There is a
hankering to forget, an induced amnesia. When the country was faced with terrorism, so many
were prepared to countenance anything anyone did: “Just get rid of them,” they said, “Do
whatever you have to.” Now that the forces have made the place safe for us, they have erased
from their minds every memory of the beast that they had clamoured the forces vanquish. They
have erased from their minds what these brave men have done for the country at the risk, nay the
cost of their very lives.
There are several reasons for this induced amnesia. First of course is our addiction – to money,
to goods and the rest; now that the danger has been pushed aside, we again have no time from
our pursuits. Next, we exorcise memory of the sacrifices of these valiant men so that we may not
have to do anything for them in return. Most of all, we erase their sacrifices and the risks they
have borne so that we do not have to do anything comparable for the country. In fact, to ensure
that we do not have to follow their example we convince ourselves that what they did was
actually wrong, that it ought not to have been done. The writs and all, the readiness with which
sections of the media and others believe everything that even the most questionable source puts
out so long as it is against the persons who saved our country, the fact that we accept as normal
a policy under which, while the family of the policeman who has been killed should get
Rs.25,000, the ones who have killed him should get a lakh each – all this fits a pattern.
The paralysis in administration sometimes is also encouraged by the decisions of courts.
When I was Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in Gujarat, one of the peculiar situations I faced
was in the Nadiad Police Station. There were two SHOs, one who was considered to be pro-
Muslim and one pro-Hindu in one police station. This came about because the government
transferred one of SHOs and he went and got a stay. The government posted another person
against the same post. As a result the whole discipline suffers and when discipline suffers,
implementation becomes the first casualty. Shri Arun Shourie has also drawn attention in his
book ‘Courts and their Judgements’ to this aspect.
Delays in courts, as well as the punctilious standards that the courts have laid down for natural
justice, etc., for what is required in obedience to Articles 14 and 21 disable governments just asPage 18
much. As is the case on matters we have encountered earlier, the courts are not the only ones
that are responsible for the resultant torpor. They are not even primarily responsible. The
Executive is. But I do wonder whether judges today are even aware of what the cumulative
effects of their progressive rulings has been on the functioning of the governmental apparatus –
there is just one word that describes it precisely paralysis. That cases in which governments get
entangled take as long as the generality of cases is just a part of the problem. Over the years
judgements have added one requirement after another that must be fulfilled while doing
something. Each requirement can be justified in itself, I have little doubt. But the cumulative
result has to be lived to be realised. Nor has the result come about only from specific criteria
that the courts have prescribed. The general tenor of rulings, and their tilt have helped create
an environment in which it is safer to pass files around than to take a decision, in which it is
prudent to go through the motions of doing things than to actually do them.
It is almost impossible to describe how palsied the structure has become. Only when one is
thrown into the process does one realize the state to which affairs have fallen.
The Central Administrative Tribunal and its Benches were meant to be a substitute for the
courts. Appeals from their decisions were to lie only to the Supreme Court. They were not to be
bound by the Code of Civil Procedure; they were to be guided by the general principles of
natural justice. The idea was that government servants and governments would swiftly settle the
matter, that both would shun lawyers and legalistic stratagems and dodges: the petitioner was
given the freedom to appear in person, governments were given freedom to be represented by
officers rather than legal counsel. The Tribunals were specifically given the authority to decline
requests for that plague of Indian courts – adjournments. The cases were to be settled within six
Step by step the Tribunals have become clones of courts. In L. Chandra Kumar, the Supreme
Court declared that, the specific provision of the law notwithstanding, appeals against rulings of
Tribunals would be heard by High Courts. Adjournments have become the order of the day.
Both governments and employees routinely engage legal counsel. The counsel proceed as is
their wont…. The Committee on Service Litigation reported, “Apart from delay that generally
occurs in the Ministry and Department in filing counter-reply to the applications filed by the
government employees in the Central Administrative Tribunal, to a great extent the delay is
attributable to the inefficiency of the Government Counsels. It is found that they do not take
enough interest in handling Government cases. The Ministries and Departments have generally
to pursue the matters vigorously with the Government Counsels to ensure timely filing of the
replies, etc., in the court and the Counsels on their part in most cases are largely
The familiar tale. Step after familiar step. Each contributing his accustomed bit. The familiar
It will be wrong to consider the entire Indian administration as action shy because there
have been exceptional officers who have performed under very difficult conditions. Even if we
take a macro view of the Indian bureaucracy we will find that it met the massive challenge of
rehabilitation of the large mass of refugees arising after the partition in 1947. It was able toPage 19
handle the daunting refugee problem when 10 million refugees from Bangladesh rushed to India
on the eve of the Bangladesh war and emergence of Bangladesh as a separate country. In many
states we find that when it comes to an emergency, the administration rises to the occasion. One
classic example repeatedly demonstrated is the conducting of general elections all over the
country. There are natural calamities like flood or earthquake or cyclone or scarcity and
administrations at least in some states have risen to the occasion and handled the situation
The reason why the administration performs during a crisis is because the objectives are
clear and there is a general awareness that the results are more important than procedures. It is
quite possible that this is also misused for indulging in massive cases of corruption which are
later highlighted in the audit reports of the CAG. Nevertheless, the fact remains that if the
objectives are clear and there is a general awareness about the broad approach to be adopted
which is result oriented, the bureaucracy and the administration will perform.
We have seen above how the values ultimately guide our action and values themselves are
determined by the individual’s inculcation, teaching and education, the values cherished in a
society and finally the implementation of these values with a reward and punishment system in
organisations. It is a fact that even though our tradition speaks of the highest values our society
today is one of the most corrupt societies. We can go back to the age of better values if we are
able to make the large majority of the people in our country who are basically honest to make
them remain no longer silent. The tragedy in India today is that the minority is corrupt and the
majority is silent. If we can make the majority motivated probably we can then make this country
a great country. After all when vision and action are combined, there is success, wealth and
justice as the last shloka of Bhagavad Gita reminds us for all time.
Yatra yogeshwara krishno
yatra partho dhanurdharaha
tatra shreer vijayo bhuthir
dhruvo nithir mathir mamaha