Thursday, Oct 28, 2021

'Credibility Of The Government Is At Its Lowest'

Governance is at its lowest ebb. Morale of the civil servants is low. Decision making has become a casualty. There is an urgent need to change the outlook on accountability initiatives, be it audit or law enforcement agencies

'Credibility Of The Government Is At Its Lowest'
'Credibility Of The Government Is At Its Lowest'

Full text of the speech delivered by the Comptroller and Auditor General to young police officers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad on October 11, 2011.

I am happy to be present today at this premiere training institution to address a group of young officers at the threshold of their careers, as well as senior officers occupying responsible positions in the State Police forces. In a world marked by terrorism, extremism, insurgency, economic and cyber crimes along with traditional crimes, more often than not the presence of a friendly policeman is reassuring and comforting. Whenever hit by crisis or tragedy all of us turn to the police looking to them, as protectors.

This confidence of a citizen stems from the uniform you wear. I am sure that all of you are very proud to wear this uniform and be part of this elite service.

I would like to draw your attention to the words of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel after whom this Academy has been named. Speaking in the Constituent Assembly, he said, “these people (All India Services) are the instruments. Remove them and I see nothing but a picture of chaos all over the country.” I think his words are far more relevant today than they were many decades ago. This of course means much more responsibility for all of us.

I wish to make three propositions before you today and would seek to have your reactions on whether you agree on those and whether you are in a position to be a participant in ensuring that the All India Services regain their past glory and can be counted upon as those who contributed to upgrading the quality of governance and indeed succeeded in restoring the faith in the public of the Police, as defenders of the common man’s freedom.

  1. First: Governance is at its lowest ebb. That morale of the Civil Servants is low. That credibility of the government is at its lowest. That decision making has become a Casualty.
  2. Second: That situation is too deleterious for the Nation. That too much is at stake for too many in such a situation.
  3. Third: On you and officers of the All India Services, among others, rests the onus to remedy the situation. You and I have a part to play. We can make the difference.

The First proposition

Why do I make this statement?

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 also had to vacate their positions again, 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.

These are examples of Law makers and form the highest echelon of administrators. In the Civil Service we have many examples. They are too many to merit counting now! All this compelled a senior cabinet minister in the Union Cabinet to say: There is a deficit of ETHICS in governance.

Does all this not bode very ill for the Nation?

Today, we are facing a testing time in the history of our Nation. The quality of governance is below par and subject to severe criticism. There has been an erosion of people’s faith in government. Their confidence in public institutions has declined.

National trust in bureaucracy including the Police force has collapsed. The integrity and professionalism of the Civil Servants are being questioned. It often provides very poor testimony of our capabilities if members of the All India Services allow themselves to be used if not as facilitators, certainly as a medium for wrong doing, by others. This has brought the credibility of Government to the lowest since Independence. It is a very poor reflection on a service which was once termed as a steel frame in the nation. Any numbers of examples are abound where upright officers have stood in the way of major acts of malfeasance being committed. They have not only been able to withstand the temptation themselves but have had the tact and steadfastness, to thwart the attempts of others.

Can you and I sitting here today, stand up in society and claim that we belong to a service which administers this country — and administers it with probity and efficiency? I am sure 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 probably lies the greatest challenge to the police force 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. Such moral dilemmas have always been a part of the police psyche, but the police force has demonstrated time and again, how these are to be successfully dealt with.

I am sure the police officers of today have been adequately trained to inculcate the values and attitudes that will help our society regain the morality it seems to have lost.

Today in some quarters there is a 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 Police has to be restored. As leaders you must change the mindset of the Police force to be seen as friendly, compassionate and sensitive to the genuine concerns of the people.

This attitude in the Police force will transform our police stations which a significant proportion of the population dread to visit today, to havens of refuge for all, especially the weaker and vulnerable sections of the society. This can happen only if we can substitute the ‘force’ psychology that permeates significant sections of the police organisation with a ‘service’ psychology. This transformation process has to begin with the higher echelons of the Police administration and the nursery for this is the National Police Academy where the fundamentals of efficient policing are inculcated among the officer trainees.

It is pertinent to note here, that the mission of this august institution, also states that the Academy will endeavour to inculcate in all trainees such values and norms as would help them serve the people better. In particular, it will try to inculcate integrity of the highest order, sensitivity to aspirations of people in a fast changing social and economic milieu, respect for human rights, broad liberal perspective of law and justice, high standard of professionalism, physical fitness and mental alertness. I am certain that a generation of police officers who have imbibed these values from this Alma Mater will be the pride and hope of this nation.

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. From contributing to 6.2 percent of GDP of the world today, by 2040 we would be contributing about 8.8 percent. This is indeed commendable. But, there is no room for complacency for the simple reason that countries like China would leap from 13.7 percent to 19.4 percent over the same time frame perhaps replacing USA, Japan and Germany. We have to ensure smooth economic development. We have to ensure ‘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! You are seen, not only as a facilitator of this development process, but also a catalyst of change that creates an environment which is conducive to inclusive growth and good governance. The future of 1.2 billion people is at stake.
We are living in an era where good governance has assumed primacy in public discourse as it is expected to lead to improvement in quality of life of citizens by reinforcing the legitimacy and credibility of our institutions and improving quality of public service. Ironically, the demand for good?governance is entwined with 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. There cannot be a better crucible for achieving this objective than the National Police Academy with its mission of training officers who will lead the force with courage, uprightness, dedication and a strong sense of service to the people.

All of us in Government must recognize that the citizen in our democracy has come centre-stage. He has become very discerning. He has become very demanding. Governance by use of force is no longer of any consequence. Age old methods of policing have fallen by the way side. Sustained citizen centric and voluntary movements have compelled successive governments to rethink their approach to different issues. Hitherto followed models of governance are proving to be ineffective. We need to rethink our entire approach towards citizens.

I do not stand before you to merely remind you of the need to be steadfast in your commitment to the core values of Indian Police Service. I do not stand before you to preach about the need for each of you to commit yourself to your task with sincerity, probity and transparency.

I stand before you to remind you to introspect and recognize the changes of values in society and recognize the need to change the hitherto followed models of governance and become the change agent. No instrument of state, or institution of the State, can remain immune to the evolutionary process taking place in our society.

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 representative?raj to direct peoples?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 audit in which the 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 the police officers are willing to shed traditional notions of policing and policing methodologies and begin to consider the citizen as partners in law enforcement. Such an attitudinal change will not only result in the forces emerging as guardians of the citizens, sensitive to their needs but also in better management of law and order problems particularly extremism.

My third proposition

The representatives in this Hall today are one set of officers who stand at the portal of entering the All India Services. Another set of officers are those who have already spent about 15 years in Government and have formed opinions about how best to deal with situations as they arise. The earlier that both sets of officers accept that there is need to promote change and thereby introduce innovation, the earlier we would have established the efficacy of the police service and thereby credibility of government. This would restore public confidence in the state.

And that is why I reiterate that I stand before you to request that you become the change agent. Nobody is going to administer classes, deliver lectures or subject you to class room instructions on this. The initiative and dynamism has to come from within. I only request that you rise up to the challenge and ensure that posterity does not find you wanting when you were called upon to shoulder this responsibility.

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 have ourselves to maintain highest standards of probity in public life, 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 the 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 status?quo. Such debates are common place 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 in the country is to report to the 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.

Each one of you stand at the threshold of your career today after great effort and cherish an employment with the government. I am sure you would want to be more proud of rendering service on behalf of the government to the citizenry who look up to the administration that you and I provide.

Hence, is it not our moral duty to ensure that the credibility, the respect and the ability of the government in the eyes of the common man is uplifted to glorious heights where we can be proud of belonging to such a government? That is the call of the hour and you and I would be found wanting in our duty if we cannot contribute our might to reclaim the lost glory of the All India Service.

I would like to conclude with the advice of the father of our nation to the bureaucrats who face dilemmas in decision making to recall the face of the poorest Indian and to examine whether the action to be taken will make his life better and to go ahead if it does so. May, this suggestion be a beacon for your long official life ahead.

I wish you all success in your careers.


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