What can a good man do in government?

Is is no dearth of honest and competent people in the country. We have seen how Indian companies have hopped so many milestones, we have seen he spirit of entrepreneurship.  A large number has left this country and left a mark of their own in their respective fields.

However, when it comes to government the picture is inverted. There is no trace of efficiency and competence in any government system. It might appear that government has hand-picked the worst kind of people from the society and have appointed them at important position with the sole aim of humiliating the rest of his countryman.

Given the truism, no honest man today wants to join the government. Such a person is scared that he wont be able to continue in the office with efficiency if he takes an uncompromising stand on his integrity. Such a person would fear that the rest of the system might force him to become a corrupt government servant.

How can a good person be in government and still demonstrate both competence and integrity ?

I turn to Arun Shourie for advice and he has the right one.

Given that truism, what can a good person in government do? Three things at the least. First, he should ensure that he himself does not wrong. He will be greatly helped in this if he has a “bad reputation”- that is, if he is known to be so stubborn, and so likely to burst out with the facts that no one will even suggest to him that he do the wrong thing! Second, in th work that has been assigned to him, for instance in the ministries which have been put in his charge, he can strive to establish such structures and procedures that ti would be more difficult for any wrong to be done— by anyone.

He further elaborates on the qualities that a leader in government must posses

Third, if information does come one’s way or erupts in the press about wrong that has been done, the good person will as a duty convey his views and assessment to those who can take a decision on the matter. The head of the government, of course, has a much more delicate, and therefore much more formidable task, He has to set the highest standards. He has to ensure that every colleague knows that he will act — swiftly, severely — at the slightest hint of wrong-doing. And he will have to watch himself. For at every turn, he will be faced with a choice: “Should I jeopardise the government and get to the root of the matter? Or should I doge and deflect?” The trouble is that it is so easy to find rationalisations for dodging and deflecting. “Only if the government survives will I be able to do the other vital things that are crying to be done,” he will tell himself, and others will tell him.

Arun Shourie speaks about the 30 years of his life which he spent in the government and watching government.

But having watched government for thirty years, I have been driven to two conclusions. Not enough good persons in government speak their mind to top leaders — so, the few who do, do not have the effect they would. And the top leaders too underestimate the authority they have — not just the institutional authority, the moral weight.

Shourie quotes Gandhiji in fact reproduces and entire article from Hareejan where Gandhiji explains his own thoughts about the matter.

The interesting part however is when Shourie writes about the Petrol Pump scam that happened during NDA’s regime.  When the news papers started writing about how BJP government has given petrol pumps to it’s own workers some people approached Shourie.

“You have been in media,” friends would say. “Why don’t you do something about it?”

Is the media the problem? Or the facts ?

“But then what should be done?”

Dont distribute petrol pumps, I said. Dont distribute plots….

“Easy for you to say such things. The congress has kept its workers happy with such small things for fifty years. Our workers can not understand why they should not get what Congress has been giving its workers for all these years. And how will you run a party without workers?”

That is a real problem, but then why complain when the facts are brought out by the press ?

India needs leaders with the kind of character Shourie is talking about. His insights also explain why men like Manmohan Singh are failing at his duty and what exactly is wrong with Dr. Manmohan Singh’s own character.

Knowing fully that Dr. MMS is incapable of acting swiftly and severely against their misdeeds everyone under him is taking him for granted. That his personal integrity is of no value to the nation, his ineptitude is perhaps very dangerous for all of us.

3 thoughts on “What can a good man do in government?

  1. The honest upright persons never are in good books of their corrupt bosses! When you dont support the corrupt activities of the Boss- you have to be prepared to suffer humiliation without any reason and many times too many responsibilities are thrust on you! But you get respect from the subordinates and colleagues and the corrupt boss is scared to bring any fishy proposals to you! But living like a round peg in a square hole affects you mentally and you are stressed out and seek the opportunity to come out of the system as early as possible!

  2. May be that is why good people don’t enter the system and if they enter they leave after the harassment. The corrupt people always work in cohesive groups where as the honest man has to fight his battle alone.

    We need to change this one way or other.

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