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Updated: October 13, 2011 00:46 IST

How to restore the government's credibility

Vinod Rai
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Rather than paralysing the administration, as some critics say, good policing and auditing are an essential aid to good governance.

I wish to make three propositions today and seek your reactions on whether you agree and whether you are in a position to be a participant in ensuring that the All India Services regain their past glory.

First: That governance is at its lowest ebb. That the morale of the civil servants is low. That credibility of the government is at its lowest. That decision-making has become a casualty. Second: That this situation is deleterious for the nation. That too much is at stake for too many in such a situation. Third: On you and officers of the All India Services, among others, rests the onus to remedy the situation.

Why do I make my first proposition? We have Chief Ministers who have had to vacate their positions allegedly for graft, on whom courts and other judicial bodies have made adverse pronouncements. We have Union Cabinet Ministers who are in prison. We have Union Cabinet Ministers who have had to vacate their positions, allegedly on complaints of ill doing. We have Members of Parliament who are being indicted by the judiciary for various acts, including accepting cash for exercising their vote in Parliament and also seeking cash to ask questions in the House. In the civil service we have many examples. They are too many to merit counting now!

Today, we are facing a testing time in the history of our nation. The quality of governance is below par. There has been an erosion of people's faith in government. Their confidence in public institutions has declined. National trust in the bureaucracy, including the police force has collapsed. The integrity and professionalism of civil servants are being questioned. This has brought the credibility of the government to the lowest since Independence.

Can you and I stand up in the society and claim we belong to a service which administers this country with probity and efficiency? Most of us would not be able to convince ourselves that we are capable of being part of a legacy which provided this nation the foundations on which the edifice of good governance stood. And that is where the greatest challenge to the police force lies today, when the moral fabric of the nation seems to be tearing apart in the absence of an optimal governance system, characterised by a near total absence of accountability; where loyalty takes precedence over the sense of one's duty, and where national interests are often, and with impunity, subjugated to individual gains.

Today in some quarters there is sharp criticism of the police force for being perceived as principal violators of the law, exhibiting rude behaviour, abusive language, lack of professionalism and insensitivity towards victims of violent crimes. This perception has to be reversed. Public confidence in the police has to be restored. As leaders, you must change the mindset of the police force if you want to be seen as friendly, compassionate and sensitive to the genuine concerns of the people. This can happen only if we can substitute the ‘force' psychology that permeates significant sections of the police organisation with a ‘service' psychology.

Including the citizen

Now I come to my second proposition: Why do I say that too much is at stake for too many people? As all of you are aware, we are among the fastest growing economies of the world. This is indeed commendable. But, there is no room for complacency. We have to ensure smooth development and ‘inclusive growth'. Our actions will provide stability in the nation, thereby ensuring rapid economic growth. It is a poor commentary on our attempts to foster growth if 64 years after Independence we still believe Rs.32 defines a poverty line!

We are living in an era in which good governance has assumed primacy in public discourse as it is expected to lead to improvement in the quality of life of citizens. Ironically, the demand for good governance is entwined with the demand for less governance as well. However, it is universally agreed by all those propagating a minimal state approach that ensuring the security of the citizens is a primary duty of the state which cannot be diluted in any manner. The responsibility assigned to the members of the Indian Police Service is to make this a reality.

All of us in government must recognise that the citizen in our democracy has come centre-stage. He has become very discerning, demanding. Governance by use of force is no longer of any consequence.

No instrument or institution of the State can remain immune to the evolutionary process taking place in our society. The public demand for shift of power from bureaucrats to citizens has led to change of governance structures. In fact, there are even demands for sharing of the legislative functions by moving from a representative raj to direct people's raj. All these demands stem from an increased awareness of the citizen to participate in decisions relating to governance, development and welfare entitlements through decentralised governance structures.

In the audit arena, this is recognised through social audits, in which citizens are actively involved in planning and executing the audit and by disseminating the reports to the affected community. In the police force, this finds expression through the concept of community policing. I do not see this merely as a strategy to overcome the human resource shortage in our police forces or as a cost cutting measure. Rather, it is an act of faith in the capabilities of our fellow citizens to govern themselves. Each terrorist attack in our country is yet another grim reminder to us that extremist acts can be tamed only through active involvement of the public in management of security. You cannot find a better force multiplier than the one billion Indians ever willing to render a helping hand. However, this can succeed only if police officers are willing to shed traditional notions of policing and begin to consider the citizen as partners in law enforcement.

Not adversaries

My third proposition: The earlier we accept the need to promote change and innovation, the earlier we would have established the efficacy of the police service and, thereby, the credibility of government. This would restore public confidence in the state. And that is why I stand before you to request that you become the change agent.

All attempts to improve governance will come to naught if the agencies responsible for governance do not consider probity in public life and ethical behaviour as cardinal principles in their official dealings. In this, the police force and audit have a twin role to play. While we must ourselves maintain the highest standards of probity, both these agencies are also mandated to enforce such standards on those involved in public administration. Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Watchful, efficient and effective vigilance and auditing structures similarly minimise, if not prevent, threats to accountable administration of public funds. Internal decay is sometimes more dangerous to the prosperity of the nation than external aggression. The decay can emanate from the cancer of corruption, criminalisation of society or neglect of responsibilities. The police forces have a critical role in creating a national ethos that promotes public order and zero tolerance for corruption and criminal activities through discharge of their duties without fear or favour.

One of the oft-repeated criticisms against enforcement and accountability institutions is that they paralyse administration, kill initiative and reward votaries of the status quo. Such debates are common in our country today more than ever with a number of recently released reports by the Indian Audit and Accounts Department pointing out irregularities and the follow up action taken thereon by other law enforcement agencies.

These criticisms emanate from a mind-set that views accountability agencies as an adversary than as an aid to good governance and better management. While the primary responsibility of the audit institution is to report to Parliament about the proper utilisation of public funds, it is also conscious of the need for adding value to the audited organisation through its reports. Similarly, the restraining influence of the police forces on those elements of the society indulging in unethical and unlawful behaviour is also a critical factor for good governance.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to change the outlook on accountability initiatives, be it audit or law enforcement agencies, and respond to them as partners in ensuring orderly and efficient use of public funds, development of sound financial management and orderly execution of administrative and developmental activities.

(Vinod Rai is the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. This article is an edited excerpt, prepared by The Hindu, of the speech he delivered to young police officers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad on October 11, 2011.)

More In: Comment | Opinion

Thank God. At long last and at least, things are looking up. A small stream cleanse stagnant pond.

from:  L.N.Dash
Posted on: Oct 18, 2011 at 12:03 IST

In India there is no ethics so only a fool would expect a change. Things are easier said than done. I for myself I do not hope much from the country. Even Gandhi could not change this country so why should one bother about the country. Mind your own business and transform oneself should be the motto rather than to conform with society.

from:  Vijay Agnihotri
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 14:02 IST

No doubt it is a good lecture but there is no real solution ,it is mere wishful thinking. Somehow all ills are attributed to government and its institutions,there is no acceptance of malaise and corruption in the society as a whole and there is increasing degrees of lawlessness and and cavalier attitude in our masses. they seem to think that governments should do what any section of society thinks is the right thing to do and many times this is motivated by what political outfit they belong to.THE solution is simple. educate masses to vote in good people and then accept their leadership till another election. We must prevent anarchy engulfing the whole nation.

from:  Akhtar Hussain Tak
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 05:44 IST

It was Mr. Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner that transformed the EC from a
toothless body to a virile organization. It is now Mr Vinod Rai,as CAG that has shown
courage to change the body from a routine post mortem examiner to a scientific investigator
taking on the powerful criminals. We should salute him.
Of course, we hear the usual cries from interested parties that he is communal. This
nonsense can be ignored, as the last refuge of such scoundrels in this country is the so
called secularism that is in danger.

from:  S Srinivasan
Posted on: Oct 15, 2011 at 18:13 IST

A teacher asks his student if he had the choice to choose between wisdom and wealth what he would choose? The Student replied wealth. The teacher told him: “I would choose wisdom”. The student replied, Sir everyone chooses a thing he doesn't have. Being the oldest civilization we had wisdom of Millennia. We were prospering with it in peace in spite of being pillaged by foreign rule. After independence when we embarked upon material growth without caring for our cultural ethos we became the fastest growing economy through a cut throat, dishonest and inequitable system, we lost the wisdom to rule and manage our affluence responsibly. Mulk Raj Anand some forty years back gave a lecture at Ravindra Kalakshetra on the topic of Public Relations in which he emphasized without Human Relation Public Relation is meaningless. Unfortunately we are still not teaching Human Relations at our universities for our rulers to become better humans beings to rid of the problems listed in this article.

from:  Dr. Basheer A Khan
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 22:53 IST

The Senior bureacrats should change their mindset and they should work as a roll model to the new IAS and IPS officers of our country. It is the top bureacrates who actually frame the policies of oyr country,these policies should not be based on political motives. Even powers given to the CAG is very limited in our cosntitution and he should be given the power to act as a quasi judicial body , so that the financial propriety of our country can taken care.

from:  Thimmaraju
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 21:29 IST

This piece is absolutely fantastic. In this (perceived) darkest hour for governance, that there are sections of government which share this bleak assessment of the common man, is refreshing. That there are people like Rai still in the Indian civil services, which have been reduced to being perceived as facilitators of the self-enrichment schemes of their political masters and without any duties to the Constitution, is a silver lining on this cloud. He could not have chosen a better audience than future IPS officers, who should print a copy of this as a motivation tool. The political parties, mainly the Congress/UPA, should realize that in this connected web 2.0 world, the same tactics of governance used in the last fifty years cannot be used. Openness and transparency are here to stay, so the political establishment has to accept this or sign out.

from:  Vishwas
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 19:49 IST

Main cause of the corruption is election. Every political party needs money.

from:  Daljeet Singh
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 17:19 IST

But for Vinod Rai as CAG and Shri Kapadia as CJI , India would not have known how it got looted by the criminal and looting nexus of Politicians , Beurocrats and the Corporates . This is the Divine Intervention, the people are waiting for to fight this unholy nexus . What ever , he had told is like Bhagawadh Gita of modern times and the people must come forward without fear to fight this nexus which is making the poor into poorer . The greed of the rich could not spare even American citizens agitating in front of Wall street .

from:  N.Radha Krishna
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 15:22 IST

I think if civil servants do their without any fear, they could change India's present scene. so i want to say to upper burocracy that they should play fare role in governance because lower beurocracy follow them if it may happen then our country be diciplined.

from:  akhilesh singh
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 11:04 IST

Sir,I thank you very much and The Hindu news paper for the editing of the complete text of the full speech of the present CAG of GOI as appeared on the 13th october 2011. In the Times of India of 11th oct'11, a brief of the CAG's speech was already read by me! I took it as a slur on the present working of GOI of which he is also a part.Now I,as an ordinary retd govt officer and pensioner from that office in Delhi,am very happy and appreciative the manner in which the CAG seeks to improve the present ills and impress this on young police officers. This speech shd be read by all the young probationers of all other services( IAS & IFS,etc).

from:  C G Venkatesan
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 06:41 IST

Mr.Vinod Rai's speech is thought-provoking and to the point.Undersecretaries and senior executives working for leading Politicians MUST insist on the Integrity and honesty towards whatever acts they do to improve the country. In most cases, they join hands with Policy Makers to make MONEY. It is only this kind of acts, that pulls India down. When a Senior Executive extends his/her hand when Bribe is offered, naturally his subordinates follow-suit. We cannot, rather do not, find a subordinate trying to fight with his Senior Executives on Bribery for the main reason that the person who fights, will be shunted elsewhere or his promotion will be kept in abeyance for some reason or other! Just as the Software Industry took India to greater heights in the past 2 decades or more, the Honest and straight forward executives should come forward to mend/amend rules to bring back glorious days to the advantage of Ordinary Citizen.

from:  K. Sankaranarayanan.
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 03:54 IST

This is an era of great transition in the evolution of public administration where weakened and grafted political leadership is rotting the very roots of the government. The constitutional flow of policy towards actions is marred at source level itself and implementation of a policy depends on its character, value and spirit in a great degree. This is the right time for civil services activism with a blend of positivism and constructive ideology. Civil Servants, in a way, have an opportunity of experimenting with a comprehensive citizen-centric administration by making governance pro-active, accountable and responsive to the people.An aware society only, can be expected of electing mature leadership to parliament.

from:  Mayank Shakya
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 02:20 IST

In my opinion hurriedly India adopted a centuries old constitution from its ruler at its formation. The fundamentals of our constitution were never reviewed. The babus and netas all around the country changed it to continue to loot the country by making decisions just for vote. The country needs to do away with burden of quotas and total inability of the system to chose the correct leader. Our prime minister in my opinion is still capable of achieving progress for the country. His post, power and intellect is being hijacked by other people who only wish to loot the country further. For some decades I strongly wish some honest dictator takes full control of the country and cleanse the system. In fact, I am sure majority of our country still believes in the legacy and honestly of our forefathers. It is becoming too difficult to all of us to carry the burden of the corrupt system. Without any choice many chose to become part of the system.

from:  Darshan Khedekar
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 01:24 IST

Credibility of govt. can be restored only by strong leadership. Vested interests have made sure that we have a prime minister who confesses to be an accidental politician.Irony of Indian democracy is that person who holds the office of most powerful executive of country has never won election.He claims that he was overruled by his minister in decision which led to biggest scam in somewhat similar way as a roudy student disobeys a teacher. Greed does not only include money, but also when someone wants to stick to chair at any cost; when someone closes eyes to overlook looting. In democracy a powerful leader who is honest not only in pecuniary terms but also free from other considerations will some day restored the tarnished image of government. Till that fortuitous day we can contribute in awakening of our fellow citizens.

from:  Vivek singh malik
Posted on: Oct 14, 2011 at 00:32 IST

Notwithstanding the recent CAG report over 2G scam overblown and CAG himself doing some course correction, the institution of CAG has recently caught people's attention battered by rampant corruption in many public qaurters. Though the institution of CAG has been lying dormant for past many years, the institution has dramatically revived itself as an effective watchdog of government's purses. There is still scope for widening the role of CAG for better realisation of the social and democratic ideals embodied in the constitution. Care should be taken that it does not involve itself in judicial excesses in due process.

from:  Basant Kumar
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 20:51 IST

The inspiring speech delivered by the CAG is interesting and thought provoking. It is a national interest as guiding light to rework the bristles that may have crept in the administrative services. Government after Government the bureaucrats has become 'I Agree Sir' (IAS) and the Police Officers become 'I Promise Sir' (IPS). It is the duty of the Government to come with a strong policy to rescue and to mitigate the hardships that people would face on account of bad administration run out since independence. The efficacy in administration and law enforcement on which the edifice of good governance stood. God alone can save this great nation.

from:  Parapurath Radhakrishnan
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 19:48 IST

Exceptional speech!! Given a chance all our IAS/IPS officers will deliver much better speeches but when it comes to work (action), they come has a cropper!!

from:  Ravi K
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 19:19 IST

One effective way by which corruption by lower level bureaucrats can be brought down will be to provide internet contact sites to the section/department heads dealing with the public, on the web-sites created for them.Their E'mail addresses and the standard,mandatory forms or applications for addressing citizens' requirements,are to be provided in the site.This will enable submission of applications by the public through internet. Even if a person does not have a computer or is not conversant with using a computer, printouts can be obtained from cyber-cafes and their services availed of,for a pre-mandated tariff. Presently,there is over crowding at the counters of the bureaucrats, even for getting the necessary  forms/ applications.The corruption starts at the level of issuance of the forms and applications,as quite often the required forms ARE NOT issued,without a payment.Many a time,after waiting for a longtime,people are told forms are exhausted and that they should visit again.

from:  MSVenkataraman
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 18:08 IST

Thanks to 'the Hindu' for presenting the words of Mr. Vinod Rai.I must say whatever propositions Mr. Rai has said ,all propositions are pervasive and congruent with the constitutional words laid down in constitution for administrating the day to day functioning of a 'real democracy'.It is rightly emphasized that prerequisites of a real democracy such as a)independent administration b)Accountability c)credibility and most important d) protection of fundamental rights of the citizens have taken a steep dive.Even if the principle of selecting the people's representative is followed but it will be of no use if Good Accountable Governance and enforcing administration is not employed.I hope sincerely that Mr. Rai's words and works may sincerely inspire the young executives and may try to fulfill the commitments that have been laid in the constitution of India.

from:  Sumit
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 14:57 IST

Superb speech!!But most important thing is how to come over it.Their should be constructive soluton n strong determination to extract the corruption by root.

from:  satendra
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 14:10 IST

A good thought provoking speech, coming as it does from a constitutionally empowered authority. To make any meaningful impact it has to reach our Political Parties, politicians, the rank and file and above all the entire spectrum of civil servants. To avoid that the message is not lost through the misuse of selective extracts by politicians as well as by the media, it must be made clear that the message is applicable to ALL with no exceptions. All of us are guilty for what is happening and no one can claim that they are less guilty than others. There is need for recognition and acceptance that the problem is universal and not in selected sections. With out going into the reason of who or why, how or when, the issues listed must be accepted as a common national challenge that requires the attention of all and action by all. If we descend into do finger pointing as is our national characteristics we will just end up where we are and that is not good for anyone.

from:  V. Ramamrutham
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 12:10 IST

The suggestions of the CAG,welcome as they are,need to be examined in perspective. At a time,when the general credibility of institutions - be it the Government,the Judiciary,the Media are on the ebb,we need to understand that this 'season of distrust' is apparently quite a world-wide phenomenon of the day. The reasons may vary individually,but one senses a certain "human factor" in these deeply restive times.
While one does not dispute the CAG's role in unearthing graft, recently,also, in my opinion,the CAG should not be passing such sweeping judgements on incumbent governments. That,certainly,is not desirable. The recent request of the CAG to "audit the Padma Awards" is also a clear example of exceeding its own brief. How long before CAG asks for an audit of bilateral-ties/agreements signed between sovereign nations? Over-reach must be avoided in all cases to maintain credibility.

from:  Smit Maheshwari
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 11:44 IST

It takes courage to speak the truth specially when it concerns to the mighty governments and undoubtedly Mr.Rai has done a wonderful job till now. The credit for making CAG a 'functional' body and fulfilling its constitutional mandate goes to him, very similar to the way Mr. Seshan changed our outlooks about Election Commission. Infact Mr. Ambedkar had remarked that CAG will be the most important constitutional body as the guardian of public purse but due to various reasons it was not able to fulfill its mandate. It is recently that CAG reports have started getting media coverage and actions have been taken against the culprit. Inspite of all the criticisms, it's because of officials like him that common man still have faith in the system. I hope the institution of CAG will continue on the reformist path which Mr.Rai has laid down.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 11:11 IST

An Inspiring Speech!. Hope our young officers who have just started their journey in the civil services take this note seriously and come out and show that Yes, we can surely make a difference and certainly bring in accountability and efficacy in administration and law enforcement.

from:  bharath
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 11:03 IST

Very good message from CAG which help us to keep faith in our governing system.powerful and positive thinking mesage.

from:  Jibin Jose
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 10:41 IST

I must compliment 'The Hindu' for publishing such a purposeful and pertinent exhortation by Mr. Vinod Rai,CAG to IPS probationers at Hyderabad. Young probationers of IAS and IPS have noble ideals initially on selection and get lost during time by greater interaction with politicians and powerful lobbys of all sorts.In this process they lost respect to the cadre and reduced to babus. To revive the glory of the cadre they should understand the true meaning of 'integrity' and imbibe the quality to say 'NO' to things they do not concur on any matter in national interest. Hope civil servants work on ICS lines for better India.

from:  Vyas K Susarla
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 09:37 IST

This is not a lone voice.It is the echo of the voice of a seriously agitated India over the deliberate sacrifice of probity and integrity in public life in the last few decades, at the altar of ' development ' . Will the powers that be, listen to the wake up call at least now and do an immediate course correction, instead of handing out familiar alibis ,negative and vindictive reactions, by sending the right signals of good governance,after a quick clean up of accumulated dirt?

from:  Shekar
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 08:01 IST

I agree with the view that there is all round deterioration- for which the Govt. is largely responsible. There is no respect for law.The moment one lands in the city, the cab driver will refuse to take you by the meter - though there are policemen present there. Why can't the police ensure help to the passengers? There is common experience that FIR;s are not registered. Why can't the policemen who refuse to register FIR's are punished? The cabinet is supposed to represent the best minds - yet the Govt. has so many advisers who have their own ideologies to promote. Do we need such advisers and are they competent to advise? We have 100% tolerance to corruption. With corruption taking place, the people in Govt, cannot perceive it . The procedures are made in such a way that it helps corrupt. Earlier there was a rule that if police verification for passport was not received within 60 days passport was issued. If no bribe is given now, blank berifacation report is sent.

from:  K K Sharma
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 06:29 IST

Excellent analysis.Concept of of the larger public awareness & participation in all activities of governance will create the climate for change.The question is 'how to do it'. While I agree with the role of audit, the impression it has created so far is it has functioned as a post-mortem rather than as a tool of change.Secondly all India civil service has till now did not allow professionals freedom of actions which they want. They are interested in grabbing every opportunity for their own selfish interests.I am sorry I have not offered any solution.In the present environment I would be very unhappy to function/ to serve with a clear conscience in the larger interest of the nation.

from:  K B Ganesan
Posted on: Oct 13, 2011 at 06:27 IST
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