Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Three Core Values for Public Service

Three Core Values for Public Service

Dr.Satya Pal Singh

I define ‘value’ as an attribute, which has necessarily two characteristics. Firstly, it is an intangible quality, which is good and beneficial in someone’s personal life. And secondly, for its relevance and commonweal character, it is valued, respected and revered in society. Values can be further classified into two categories (i) Personal values - like purity, contentment, austerity and God-fearing ness and (ii) Social values - like truthfulness, non-violence, non-stealing, celibacy and non-accumulation. Anyone who values the ‘values’ in his or her personal and social (public) life, is valued by the society. The collective name of these values was given to be ‘Dharma’ by our visionary forefathers. Dharma is something higher and deeper to religion. Religion is a mixture of values, beliefs and rituals. Dharma is global, while religion is local in character.
Public service is a service to the society. It may be localised or globalised. Man is considered to be a social being (not an animal, as a few sociologists and anthropologists tried to paint him to be). Because of his acquired knowledge, skill and attitude, man is certainly a class apart, for which Darwin also got confused in his over-enthusiasm for evolving an all-permeating theory.
Public service is a non-profit activity. It caters to the requirements of upholding the principles of equality, unity and justice in the public domain. Generally, all the government functionaries are there to discharge this onerous responsibility. Starting from the village-level (panchayat) functionaries to the Prime Minister (or the President), all are public servants. Revenue, police, medical, education, judiciary, banking, social-welfare etc. all are maintenance and welfare-oriented public services.
In this paper, I would like to emphasize upon those core values, which make a public servant a highly successful and satisfied soul. Values, which carve out order in the midst of chaos. I believe that the following three values i.e. (i) Confidence (ii) Commitment and (iii) Communication are the foundations of an elegant public-service mansion.
(i) Confidence
General public in India, slowly but steadily, is losing confidence in its public services. Public servants are more to be blamed for this state of affairs. Their credibility is deteriorating quite rapidly. A public servant must be confident himself and he must be able to inspire confidence in his or her working environment. Only a physically fit, mentally alert and well-trained public servant can possess self-confidence. A sickly, shabbily dressed and short-tempered person cannot be termed confident. ‘Outbursts of anger’ at trivial things are an indication of a weak-mind and lack of confidence. A pot-belly police officer or a pan/tobacco chewing and drink–loving public servant not only exhibits the signs of his/her weak personality but invites jeers from members of public.
Let us take the example of a medical officer who receives many patients every day. The first and foremost attribute of a good doctor is that he/she should inspire confidence in the minds of the sick as well as his or her attendants. Doctor’s message must be as clean and clear as “Don’t worry, you are in the safe hands, your disease is curable. I have magic medicines. My hands are the godly hands. You will be all right within no time. Just believe in God and godly persons like me in front of you”. With these magic words, mental stress of the patients will vanish. He/she will start experiencing lesser physical pains. Similarly, if a person in distress approaches the police station and if the in-charge police officer is able to inspire same level of confidence in the minds of complainant, the later will certainly feel somewhat relieved of its problems. Assurances given by the officer must be translated by a follow up action. These simple tricks will instill confidence in the minds of community. The police in turn will have better co-operation and involvement of the local people in day-to-day policing of the area.
2. Commitment: -
Commitment means a kind of bonding to a particular cause. The marriage to a mission makes one a missionary. The kind of relationship, the bonding, the unflinching faith, an almost unilateral declaration of love that we expect in traditional marriage, is also demanded in the same degree by a commitment. Commitment defies difficulties and distractions. Unless we are able to inculcate this kind of commitment in the public services we belong to, in the service of the society we come from, and in the laws of the land we are born in, we are not committed.
Any public service in India can boast of about having hundreds of competent officers and officials in its different ranks and files. But the department finds it hard to count the number of committed officers who are so few and far. Our training institutions in the last 50 years or so have not been able to evolve a perfect mechanism by which the mental attitudes of trainees could be moulded in the desirable direction. We have sufficient number of trainers who are imparting knowledge and skills required by particular profession. But, we are surely not comfortable about the number of competent mind-impacting trainers who could induce changes in mental attitudes. This is the weakest link in our so-called chain of training.
Where there is a commitment, competence will follow. A committed public official will pick up the knowledge and skills of a particular job assigned to him or her. The zeal of the mission will subjugate the individual needs and interests to the larger requirements of the service and the community. Where there is a commitment, unfair considerations and corruption will not be able to debase the man and rust the system. Commitment requires courage. In fact, courage and commitment are twins and their separation results in the death of either. Commitment always accompanies the strong. Weak can neither be committed nor courageous.
The kind of commitment I am talking about, must find an expression in day-to-day life. It has to be reflected. It has to be seen by others. It is not a show business or an aspect of arrogance but this kind of value-based behavior has a sobering effect in the environment. It gives confidence to others to emulate and to follow the right path. Justice should not only be done but it should appear to others to have been done.
The expression of a committed police officer must find a way in taking care of his people, in keeping the place of work clean and tidy, preparing meticulous records and building the bridges with his community. His actions have to speak that he is committed to the protection and encouragement of good people and simultaneously the bad and wicked ones are restrained and repressed.
A medical doctor should be seen not only enquiring about the condition of the patients but chiding and firing the medical attendants if cleanliness, devotion etc. is lacking.
3. Communication
The third core value of genuine public service is the art of communication. This stream of communication has to continuously flow. It is not always verbal, requiring a language. All sense organs communicate. Eyes and sense of touch communicate superbly and yet no word is spoken.
One has to talk to oneself – about one’s strengths and weaknesses. The confidence and commitment have to go up. Our weaknesses have to be scaled down and ultimately won over. Self-study is the other name of self-communication. Indian wisdom of many centuries has found that in the morning, when one gets up, and in the night, at the time of retiring one should evaluate himself or herself. The daily self-teaching and training makes one confident and strong enough to overcome the defects and the ill habits. The continuous self-evaluation is a pre-requisite for self-realization and advancement.
I do not want to discuss here the usual management jargons on communications. Of course, the secret of effective communication is to get a response and so the language, level and pitch should be on the same wavelength between the sender and receiver. It has to flow both ways – upward and downward like a free flow of wind depending on the atmospheric pressure.
In the public service like police, if the senior officer wants to be successful, he has to know the problems, potentials and prospects of his juniors. In fact, one should also learn the art of communicating with departmental seniors and public representatives. If one is able to fathom the likes and dislikes, powers and potentials of his/her seniors and perform accordingly, one shall not get professional fever.
In public services like Police, the officers should have continuous communication with their customers especially – the complainants. If the police are able to apprise the complainants about the stages of their cases – detection, investigation and trial etc. the complainant will certainly be happy and more satisfied. And a happy and satisfied person will tell nine more persons about the response he got from the police. The same is true with doctors and other professionals.
A good communicator will be able to move (mentally) his audience, a better communicator to motivate and the best communicator to master his listeners. We have to move from the art of moving to the art of mastering through the stage of motivation. A master communicator can hypnotize his target group.
In this age of communications’ super highways, information is power. In fact, information has always been a power. Relationships are woven, maintained and strengthened through good communication. Communication brings in and inspires confidence.
There is a famous historical parable about the art of communication. It is said that after carving out an empire and crowning the king Chandragupta, his mentor and famous prime minister Chanakya advised the emperor, “Always remember that crown stays on the speech, not on the head”. “Take care of your speech. If speech were bad, faulty and arrogant, friends would turn into foes. And with fine speech, the adversaries will slowly and surely turn into admirers”. The omniscient God has given us the faculty of speech between our head and heart. Therefore, if we would like to have a fine speech and an impactful master communication we must couple the reason (head) and love (heart) together. The world will be ours.
At the end, I would like to mention that there should not be any excuse for staying away or straying from either of the three core values, - confidence, commitment and communication. The rule of law must prevail. Law, like death, should spare no one as Manu in Vedic times, Bharvi in Gupta Age and Montesquieu in recent times wrote in different phrases. In the present age remaining upright and one’s conscious keeper is like moving on a razor’s edge.
Generally we may take shelter under any of the four types of excuses for bending our rules, forgetting our principles or having some soft corners when we encounter persons or places pertaining to (i) our ‘jati’ or personal status or own community (ii) desh or place and habitation like every one behaves like this here (iii) kala or age or time . This is a materialistic age and money is the real god so emphasis should be to make money legally or illegally and finally to (iv) samaya or circumstances like I am the victim of circumstances or a honest person can not survive in the system (Jatideshkala samaya). Only those public servants who steadfastly oppose and obviate the above given four risks come out as shining and successful public figures. Such officers or officials are real public servants and do write inspiring lessons in history.
-Commissioner of Police, Pune


  1. Nice Article Sir with a lot of insight

  2. very enlitening article sir,............mcbnaidu

  3. As simple as it should be to understand public service , a service

  4. Simply superb motivational write up for aspiring public servants , since I am one of them.. Thank you sir.. :-)

  5. Nice one sir, you have shown new dimensions of values. Thank you for this

  6. Nice one sir, you have shown new dimensions of values. Thank you for this