Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Be proud as Indians



Of late, many incidences reported through the media stress the importance to assert our identity as proud Indians.

The media are languishing on the news about the attacks on Indian students in Australia apparently on racial grounds. Then there was the news item on the US Embassy in India warning the US citizens visiting India that all the country is susceptible for terrorist strikes and as such there is great risk on their lives. I could also see a report mentioning that Indian bureaucracy is the most corrupt among twelve north and south Asian nations in a study by a Hong Kong-based Consultancy.

All these disturbing and disparaging news call for better vigil and governance by the law makers of the country to develop a young generation of citizens who could excel themselves and who could be role models to the rest of the world.

While those of the rich could go to foreign universities for prestige and sometimes for pursuing higher studies in institutes with better facilities, the Indian government should develop centers of excellence in education. We have to throw away the remnants of intellectual slavery acquired during the times of our subordination by foreign powers. We have our IITs, IIMs and a few other fine examples of our academic brilliance. Modeling on these institutions, there is ample scope for developing centres of superior learning in all the states. Let us be gracious in making tie-ups with renowned Universities from abroad and in inviting good faculty from all over the globe wherever required. For example, we could always invite teachers for English, French or Spanish from the native speakers of those languages. This should be a priority of the talented human resources minister Kapil Sibal, a learned man who had left the IAS to join the judiciary, before entering politics.

Our rich and ancient culture should be the subjects of learning through which every Indian should feel proud to be an Indian. Modern science has taught mankind that discriminations based on religion, caste, race, creed and gender are stupid and that equality and freedom are the birth right of every child. We need to cast away the false notion that everything foreign denotes better quality. We should also be open minded in respecting quality and wisdom found all over the world.

The government should also reiterate our sovereignty and keep our dignity among all nations of the world. While following a policy of neutrality in world affairs we could be assertive in areas about which we have clarity. When we are confident of our security systems and arrangements we could always assert it with greater force and maintain it.

The government should be stern in tackling corruption in the bureaucracy. It should not be an area for negotiations in the name of democracy. Stringent punishments could come as a deterrent to route out this evil. The clean-up operation should start from the top echelons of the bureaucracy.

The history of the Indian Civil Service dates back to AD 1800 when Lord Wellesley established the College of Fort William and employees were selected through a competitive examination-and of course by the nomination of Directors of the East India Company- on the standards of the of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. They were sent for 3 year training and subjects like Ethics, International law, Indian history and Oriental languages were taught. The Indian Civil Service ("ICS") was responsible, under the Viceroy, for the civil administration of India from 1858. It was the backbone of the administration of the Indian empire and the quality of men selected was immaculate by any standard. ICS was reputed to be the most incorruptible administrative machinery of those days in comparison to any in the world.

After independence, the ICS was replaced by the IAS and allied services. The IAS/IPS officers indeed get the best of trainings and are equipped to handle the complicated issues of the present times. However, the character building of these officers should be a subject of concern to the government and the people.

John Kennedy and Indian Ambassador B.K. Nehru in the oval office, 1962

Braj Kumar Nehru ICS, the outstanding diplomat and statesman who was a cousin of Indira Gandhi, in his reminiscences had mentioned the following incident about an Indian bureaucrat who could not be influenced. (By the way, B.K.Nehru, Indian ambassador to Washington in 1961 was to succeed Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, supported by west European countries. They preferred a diplomat from a non-aligned country and preferred Mr. Nehru to V. K. Krishna Menon, the Defence minister. Before Shashi Tharoor’s attempt, that was the close an Indian came nearest to the post of UN Secretary General.)

In 1930, the then Finance Member, equivalent to the present day cabinet minister, ordered a new carpet for his office and the cost was beyond his eligibility for such a purpose. Ganga Ram Kaula, then Accountant General, ordered that the excess amount be recovered from the member's salary. Infuriated, the Finance Member wrote to the Auditor General telling that he was not fit for the post he occupied. Yet no action was taken against Ganga Ram Kaula and in fact he was promoted as the first Indian Auditor General. Later he was also honoured with a knighthood by the government.

In the present context, we can not be certain about the action that might follow.

While we do have men and women of exceptional courage, integrity and honesty in our civil services we have to admit that we witness instances of eroding values and a number of personnel in the present day IAS/IPS have been found lacking the courage of conviction when faced with pressures or temptations. It is also a matter of shame to note that there are many corrupt officials in the services enjoying the political patronage and indulging in flamboyant lifestyles at the expenses of the common man of this country.

The government and the people should awake before these realities and take the country forward so that every Indian should feel proud to be one who considers himself an Indian and who is on equal terms with our brethren of other countries of the world.

Dubai, 9th June 2009.