[Solved] “Non-performance of duty by a public servant is a form of corruption”. Do you agree with this view? Justify your answer. ( UPSC GS-4 Mains 2019)

[Solved] “Non-performance of duty by a public servant is a form of corruption”. Do you agree with this view? Justify your answer. ( UPSC GS-4 Mains  2019)

Here, we need to see that corruption has to be interpreted in a broader way than ordinary meaning in terms of use of public office for private gains. Here, we will mean that any deviation from ideal role and duties of a public servant may be deemed to be corruption. Ordinarily, corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. But, corruption is a general term covering misuse of authority as a result of consideration of personal gains which need not be monetary. It leads to a behaviour which deviate public officials from the normal duties. This includes behaviour such as bribery, nepotism and misappropriation.

 Different forms of deviation from duty where personal interests are involved:

 • Embezzlement: It is theft of resources by people who are put to administer it. It occurs when unfaithful employees steal from their employers. This is a serious offence when public officials are misappropriating public resources, when state official steals from the public institution in which he or she is employed and from resources he is supposed to administer on behalf of the public.

 • Nepotism: Nepotism is typical favouritism, in which an officer prefers his proper kinfolk and family members (wife, brothers and sisters, children, nephews, cousins, in-laws). Many unrestricted presidents have tried to secure their (precarious) power position by nominating family members to key political, economic and military/security positions in the state apparatus.

 • Conflict of Interest: It is small but significant part of wider problem of police ethics and corruption.

 • Favouritism: Favouritism is a tool of power abuse implying “privatisation” and a highly biased distribution of state resources, no matter how these resources have been amassed in the first place. Favouritism is the natural human tendency to favour friends, family. Favouritism is closely related to corruption so far as it implies a corrupted distribution of resources. It can be said that this is the other side of the coin where corruption is the accumulation of resources.

 • Fraud: Fraud is a financial crime that involves some kind of deception, swindle or deceit. Fraud involves a manipulation or distortion of information, facts and expertise, by public officials positioned between politicians and inhabitants, who seek to draw a private profit. Fraud is when a public official, who is responsible for carrying out the orders or tasks assigned by his superiors (principal), manipulates the flow of information to his private profit, hence the widely used principalagent or incentive theory employed by economists to study this phenomenon (Eskeland and Thiele 1999).

 • Bribery: This form of corruption is the payment (in money or kind) that is given or taken in a corrupt relationship. A bribe is a fixed sum, a certain percentage of a contract, or any other favour in money of kind, usually paid to a state official who can make contracts on behalf of the state or otherwise distribute benefits to companies or individuals, businessmen and clients.

Non-performance of duty by a public servant as a form of corruption:

  • Ideally, a public servant should use his office that derives legitimacy from the public and utilizes public resources to serve public interests only. This is the essence of public service or the ‘nature and character’ of public service. Now, there can be various ways to deviate from this ideal type. There may be unaccountable but right use of public resources, there may be abuse of resources by duty elected democratic government, there may be accountable use of resource for sectional interest etc. What one needs to see that there may be occasions where a person who deviates from principles and values of public services is not gaining any benefits in material terms. Still, this doesn’t render that act less corrupt. This is the sum and substance of our discussion.
  • It is not only action but inaction also that may be corrupt. A public servant should be dedicated to serve public interest and should be transparent and accountable in conduct. They must act selflessly.
  • They should be impartial as well. If a police officer is mute at the time of a riot and allows onecommunity to slaughter another community, he will be deemed to be corrupt because he is not performing his duty adequately. If a policy maker allows certain sections of society to reap benefits of that policy without personally gaining from it, he will be deemed to be corrupt. If a decision is taken on non-objective considerations to give someone some benefit without bringing personal benefits, this decision will make one corrupt.
  • Hence, we see that whenever public servants act in ways that violates set standards for public servants, they violate their dharma i.e. natural order of things that hold everything together. In ancient Indian texts, going against dharma makes one bhrast. Bhrast basically means deviation and that deviation is from a pre-determined right course of action. That deviation itself is what is enough to make one corrupt and not what fruits or pains that deviations brings to one.
  • From this paradigm, being non-corrupt is not only an act of omission but a positive act of commission where simply not doing wrong isn’t enough but one needs to do the right thing one is supposed to do.
  • Non-performing duty- Act of corruption
  • Misleading public
  • Not doing duty is like hiding something from public domain. By non performance one is creating a sense of misleading acts that is equal to corruption.
  • Ex: A public official fails to clear pension of a citizen leading to failure to perform his duty.
  • Going against the order
  • A public official is expected to follow the rules and regulations according to the government. It is necessary to do as instructed in order to keep the sanctity of the institution intact. Failure to follow instructions can be compared to corrupt practice.
  • Ex: A public official is ordered to evict illegal construction and failure to do so will create a perception that the official has taken bribe to avoid eviction.
  • Unprofessionalism
  • Professionalism is one of the major feature of a public official and he/she needs to maintain it at all levels. Not keeping up with work expectations can be considered to be corrupt./performance/
  • Ex: A police official fails to reach the site of the crime deliberately.

 Reasons for not performing duty

  • Inner consciousness
  • Sometimes the duty a public official is expected to perform may not be ethically right. In such case the official may decide against doing his duty.
  • Technical problems
  • Unintentional situations may arise that may prevent official from performing his duty. This does not mean that he/she is practicing corruption.
  • Ex: Weather conditions may prevent official from doing his/her duty.

 Arguments in support:

  • Misleading public: Not doing duty is like hiding something from the public domain. By non performance one is creating a sense of misleading acts that is equal to corruption.For example, A public official fails to clear pension of a citizen leading to failure to perform his duty.
  • Going against the order: A public official is expected to follow the rules and regulations according to the government. It is necessary to do as instructed in order to keep the sanctity of the institution intact. Failure to follow instructions can be compared to corrupt practice. For example, A public official is ordered to evict illegal construction and failure to do so will create a perception that the official has taken a bribe to avoid eviction.
  • Unprofessionalism: Professionalism is one of the major features of a public official and he/she needs to maintain it at all levels. Not keeping up with work expectations can be considered to be corrupt. For example, A police official failing to reach the site of the crime deliberately.
  • Against basic rights: All civil servants are entrusted with public duty for the welfare of the masses. Negligence to the public duty cost masses by loss of their freedom, health, education, rights and even life sometimes, and hence, nonperformance of duty by a public servant is also a form of corruption. For example, A doctor not reaching hospital on time threatens the life of the patients or a teacher not performing his duty not only endangers the future of children but of society as a whole.
  • Illegal: Prevention to the Corruption Act considers non-performance of public duty as an offence. Thus, non-performance of duty by public servants for which they are morally, legally and constitutionally mandated to do, is a form of corruption.
  • Wastage of resources: It is the duty of all public servants to ensure that the public’s money is spent as efficiently as possible and that programs are provided effectively, without discrimination or prejudice, with transparency and without waste of money or resources./performance/

 Arguments against:

  • Inner consciousness: Sometimes the duty a public official is expected to perform may not be ethically right. In such case the official may decide against doing his duty. For example, public servant may reject to follow some orders as it may harm community interests.
  • Technical problems: Unintentional situations may arise that may prevent official from performing his duty. This does not mean that he/she is practicing corruption. For example, connectivity problems may prevent official from doing his/her duty.
  • Other bottlenecks: Non-performance of duty by a public servant may be due to lack of coordination, lack of human power and budget./performance/

 Thus, we can conclude that in all cases not performing duty doesn’t translate to corruption. But not performing them deliberately without a valid reason can be considered a grave offence. Therefore, it is essential for every civil servant to perform their duty as mandated in order to uphold the constitutional values and become a vehicle for change in the life of masses, so that common public can enjoy what they are entitled to.

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