Mission Mains 2021: GS 4 Ethics Discussion - ForumIAS

Mission Mains 2021: GS 4 Ethics Discussion

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Q: Non-performance of duty by a public servant is a form of corruption”. Do you agree with this view? Justify your answer. (150 words) 10

A public servant is one who occupies an office that is connected with matters that have a direct or indirect bearing on public rights both at the individual as well as the community level. Non-performance of duty by public servants is inconsistent with public justice, and those indulging in it are often not only corrupt, but also ethically and morally bankrupt. When public justice is frustrated, democracy becomes meaningless, and those directly responsible for the same are, by all definitions, corrupt. 

Consider a government doctor for example. In "Everybody loves a good drought", P Sainath refers to the pitiable condition of PHCs in the country. As per his account, in rural areas, Government doctors who are legally obligated to provide service free of cost are often found running their own private practice right next to the PHCs. The effect of this is:

1. The Government Doctor earns both from the government (salary) and fees from his patients

2. The poor/illiterate patient does not realize his deserved right. 

3. Loss is caused both to the exchequer and to the rural economy. 

4. On account of absence of free service, public health suffers greatly. 

5. Conditions normalising such behaviour are fostered. 

A public official is said to be corrupt if his/her actions are such that they lead to an erosion of faith in the institutions they represent. If an institution is ineffective, it serves no use in a democracy that the people have established. 

Freedom means nothing to a person who does not have the means to be truly free. If Public servants, who exist as a vehicle to realising fundamental freedoms, voluntarily and willingly shirk off their responsibility, what else are they but corrupt?

Formed an opinion in the starting sentence itself! Give arguments first, evaluate and then form your opinion later in the end based on this


What about non-performance of duty due extraneous situations like lack of funds, resources, manpower, lack of cooperation from higher authorities?


What about non-performance because of improper training / capacity building given to the public official? 


What about a case where there is conflict between 2 equally important duties? Giving preference to one over other will naturally lead to non-performance in other duty.

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@Ethereal Thanks for your response. Valid points. 

But I understood the question as asking about a public servant who is wilfully neglecting his duties. And his duty would be to fulfil his role to the best of his abilities and capacity. I understood the question as relating more to the intent of the servant rather than the results he produces. 

Does the question require us to investigate the cause of non-performance? If I investigated that, how do I take a view and justify my answer? Also, if I did that, how would I be answering the question? The quote isn't "Non-Performance of duty is *always* corruption." It's a general statement. Must I overthink and find possible excuses for a fictitious public servant?
Generally, ceterus paribus, non performance of duty by a public servant is corruption. 

Also, wrt your specific points:
1. Lack of funds, resources etc are factors which inhibit someone from performing his duties. Unless his duties are to obtain such funds, he is not being derelict in his duties. Similarly, if higher authorities arent cooperating when they are supposed to, aren't they the ones who are not doing their duties? He would be doing his duties to the maximum of his ability, which is the duty of every employee everywhere. 
2. Again, I understood it as wilful non-performance. I didnt think the question related to an employee lacking in performance because of improper training. If he is improperly trained, he may be lacking in performance, but he would be performing his duty to the best of his ability. 
3. Same as above. If he willingly shirks off his responsibility, he is corrupt. If he makes a decision prioritising one over the other, he must explain why he did so. 


I was just trying to say that as a comment it's okay but as an ethics answer, your whole argument can be condensed to a simple sentence like.....a public official is paid salary which is charged on the tax payers. Hence, any willful non-performance of duty is essentially a form of corruption and a burden on exchequer which erodes trusts and hinders developmental process.

Everything else you have written is based around this. So for an examiner it is just noise however beautifully you have made that noise.

You are using 150 words for one single idea. 

As an answer, 

- one has to mention about why non-performance is form of corruption

- specific situations and cases where it should not be seen as so

- conclusion - as to how we should distinguish between willful and unintentional non-performance and not make sweeping generalizations. 

Atleast, that would have covered 150 words with multiple dimensions

Anyways, ethics is subjective. Everyone has different interpretations of the same question.

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