What is Integrity and why it is so Important for Civil Servants?

  • by Manoj K. Jha

Integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles. Integrity compels us to be socially conscious and to welcome both personal and professional responsibility. Its values encourage us to be honest in all our dealings and committed to a lifelong search for truth and justice.

Integrity requires a self discipline and will power capable of resisting the temptation. Its priceless reward is peace of mind and true dignity. There’s one proviso, no one can guarantee that his or her particular version of integrity is actually sound and true, and not misguided.

It is a fact that we are not born with integrity. How well it is ingrained into our character depends upon the healthy development of certain key personality traits, especially during the critical stages of early childhood. How well we maintain personal integrity once it develops depends thereafter on the strength of our values and the moral choice we make.

Public service is a ‘vocation’ and only on this foundation upon which a moral and responsible government can be based. The civil servants need to be people of absolute integrity because only then they can take the civil service as a ‘vocation’. It strengthens the sense of mission which a civil servant is supposed to undertake to serve the public; perform duties and fulfill obligations. A similar doctrine of vocation was enunciated several thousand years ago by Lord Krishna in Bhagwad Gita (chapter III, verse20). It has been mentioned there, that ”Securing” universal welfare by one’s action is the ultimate measure of a human being but more so of those who hold the public office”.

Civil servants have to set out highest standards of integrity and morality. This requires self sacrifice a concept that rises above individualism and ‘hedonism’ to create an environment of public duty among the civil servants. An exemplary civil servant is not simply one who obeys the laws and behaves within the confines of law but is also one who strives for a moral government.

Integrity requires in a civil servant to incorporate the values of honesty, sympathy empathy, compassion, fairness, self control and duty so that a civil servant will be able to uphold high personal and professional standards in all circumstances. ‘Honesty’ requires ‘truthfulness’, freedom from deception and fraud, fair and straight forward conduct. Sympathy enables a person to be deeply affected and concerned about the well beings of others, to imagine their suffering and be moved by their experience of others especially people who need assistance compassion is a form of spirituality, a way of living and walking through life.

‘Civil Service Conduct Rules’ recommends ‘absolute integrity’ for civil servants, whether they are IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS etc. Also every civil servant is supposed to take all possible steps to ensure the integrity of all government servants for the time being under his/her control and not only be honest but should also have the reputation of being so. Integrity has been considerably widened by declaring that a civil servant must keep himself within bounds of administrative decency. Breach of trust is termed as lack of integrity and the apex court has ruled that in such matter the civil servant should be removed from service. Possession of disproportionate assets, even temporary defalcation of public money is termed as lack of integrity. Honesty and faithful discharge of duty, promptness and courtesy, observance of government policies, general good conduct strengthen ‘integrity’ in civil services.