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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Culture of Obedience, as opposed to the culture of professionalism...

Those in the government who are watching the TV channels and newspapers unravel the true story of how Union Carbide chairman Anderson got away, after being arrested , should not be surprised...The bureacrats- the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police, the Chief Secretary himself- gets oral orders from the Chief Minister to find "some way of releasing Anderson", and presto, he is released, flown back to Delhi...this is the culture of unquestioned obedience that prevails amongst India's bureaucracy. Most bureaucrats in their position would have acted in the same way.
After all, from day one at the academy, what is taught is obedience to one's seniors, deference to orders, and the
dangers  of "insubordination" in  a civil servant, rather than the need for integrity, honesty, and professionalism.
Edgar Hoover ran the FBI for two decades, never allowing any political interference from any US President; Richard Nixon was brought down trying to cover up a burglary that he had authorized on his political opponents, which was being investigated by the FBI; in India, it is the civil servants who have to run for cover from their political masters..
I know of one IAS officer from the Maharashtra cadre who was implicated in several criminal cases by a spiteful local politician who was angry that his benami companies were not being given contracts.Today, the honest officer, fed up with the corruption in the State, is on deputation to the centre, in some obscure post, but happy nevertheless...
Only when we have real debates within the government, and the replacement of this culture of deference with a culture of professional pride can administration improve. Right now, across various ministries, in every meeting, the senior-most officer/politician speaks, speaks, and goes on speaking through the meeting, and the others listen, listen and nod..and take notes...if any officer brings a problem to the table, or has a different opinion, it is taken as downright misbehaviour, and he is told to shup up and carry out orders.
A real weighing of pros and cons, a real assesment of the situation never takes place. I wonder how much of this is a colonial legacy, how much of this is the "ji, huzoor" culture inherited from the Moghul empire, and how much of it the Hindu fatalism about life....

1 comment:

  1. This is rather an Oriental syndromme. Our cultures do not encourage children to ask questions. Compliance to the orders given by the elders is always expected. You may have noticed, Indian journalists, however brilliant they may be, never ask probing questions, as an average western world journalist would do. We all believe in Confusian diktat :"No nail should stand out. If it does, it should be hammered down". Mera Bharat Mahan !!! Manish Desai