Friday, October 26, 2007

Importance of ‘Integrity in Public Life’ in Achieving Good Governance

I had sent this piece of writing as an entry to an essay writing competition on Public Integrity and Good Governance. What i talk about in this essay is something very ideal. It may be difficult to reach this state of idealism but a conscious and deliberate movement in this direction is the only option i see to bring about a positive improvement to our society that is plagued with numerous ailments.

Here goes the essay:

Integrity is something that makes you do what is right even when there is no one watching you. It comes out of ones value system and is something deeply ingrained in us such that it rules out the negative influences of greed or sin wherever it exists. We all worship our gods and goddesses little realizing that all these prayers are fruitless if we cannot follow the very basic principles of social and personal integrity in life.

Intellectual integrity means our intellect does not cheat us with varying situations and circumstances. Our views and opinions on any issue do not change given different situations to suit our own interests. As educated people, we have a lot of responsibility towards our society. We should have an opinion and be able to sift the right from the wrong without seeing our vested interests in matters of public importance. It is we who hold positions in the society and as members of societies or social organizations we should voice our opinions in an unbiased manner. Public pressure has the power to shake governments. Good governance therefore starts from every citizen and not from the governments.

Financial integrity is about not becoming corrupt, not to get sold to others’ mean interests for some amount of money however big or small. Even the little speed money that we use at government offices to quicken any process or to have our work done faster is a failure of our financial integrity.

Public integrity actually stems out of personal integrity because its afterall the same value system which resides in a person that lets him make decisions even in public situations. Public integrity requires us to go and cast our votes, not give bribes, not to do or say anything that may harm the society, pay our taxes regularly etc.

Good governance is not the responsibility of the politicians who design the laws and systems for us. We should not forget that the system is in its present state because we approve of it. True, Governance is about developing good mechanisms in a society by fostering transparency, but this responsibility does not start and end with the policy makers alone. The policy makers do whatever we want them to do. By remaining silent, the politicians take us for granted. Basically we are busy in our own personal lives and our jobs. We are content with what is going on around because it does not bother us or hurt us. The brunt of all wrong policies is borne actually by the poor. And if we think we have nothing to do with them, then we are violating all standards of public integrity.

All public services are the windows to a good governance mechanism in any society. The more transparent they become and the more cordial and receptive they become, more will be the ease with which they can transact with the society. Governments need to understand this. As India gets more and more educated, politicians will realize that they can no longer fool the innocent and ignorant village folk by making false promises. Integrity to ones political ideals will eventually become the competitive edge for any political party. And for this to actually become true, we as a society have some great responsibilities to uphold. There has to be an initial kickstart somewhere to give momentum to this rise of consciousness.

Can we make a promise to ourselves that we will always go and cast our votes? If 100% of the population goes to cast its vote, can the politicians ignore any single section? Can people continue to bask in the warmth of their petty interests? If as a society, we are aware of our basic rights, behave responsibly and turn away unethical practices; these selfish politicians would have to come out in the open and endorse what is right They would have to follow the principles of integrity because we as a society like integrity. That will be the beginning of good governance.

One good idea would be to form pressure groups to reiterate our views again and again. A very significant portion of the educated youth in cities today has internet access. With such a huge educated population base, can we start an online pressure group that continuously mounts pressure on the governments? Through internet its always easy to get connected to a common discussion forum where people can share their views.

In fact schools should take the first step in producing students with integrity. Moral science is one subject that we all were taught as children. Can this course be actually taken to the higher classes and if so in which form? Can we emphasize the need for social ethics and business ethics in the school level itself. Why wait for management institutes to take this role. And can ethics and integrity be taught at the age of mid twenties when our value systems have already got developed- that’s a question we need to answer. In my view, intermediate levels in colleges, all professional education institutes and especially 10th standard classes should start incorporating this course in their curriculum. People should be made to realize that integrity does help build businesses and brand equity for organizations. History tells us that corrupt organizations have not been able to last long.

If we perform our civic duties responsibly, if we voice our opinions whenever things go wrong, if we can form pressure groups, if we do not accept opaque systems and policies, if we allow the press to perform its duty without fear and force, if we can educate each other, then we can definitely build a society that thrives on integrity and then good governance will not be the only result but will be a part of a larger system that thrives on goodness and fairness.


EyesSpeak said...

Speechless !!!

One thing is for sure..I am never ever going to believe you if you say you did a hurried last minute job, and the results came quite accidentally.

Absolute quality work and quality thoughts of the highest order. No, this is not idealism - I believe it is a must to maintain 100% personal integrity - to sustain even personal relationships, even if some people don't consider public life as important.

Actions are nobler than the greatest of ideas, and thats what your essay also re-iterates. Passivity = consent = cowardice = failure. I hope many of us do rise to the occassion and as small drops make the might ocean which Governments will always be wary of.

EyesSpeak said...

By the way, this essay won the 1st prize at a National Essay competition !!! No wonder :)

Sandy said...

I guess a lot of spontaineous thought formation out there from the person I know so closely!I could actually relate the article a lot more closely with the author from a personal perspective.Good governance is such an important part of the "India of my dreams" that I only hope that the brighter days are right ahead!
On the lighter vein I would love to see some humour or personal experiences added though the context in this case was obviously a serious one.

Shreya said...


This is something that makes you feel great. The points highlighted are exceptionably good and moreover, the language is perfect.