Home » Editorials – Role of Integrity in Public Life !!!

Editorials – Role of Integrity in Public Life !!!

Note :- This was given as part of our essay series and publishing for all to benefit.


Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know, whether you did or not.


Integrity is a firm adherence to a code of moral values which go hand-in-hand with character and honesty. It also has some hidden connotation such as those including uprightness, purity, probity, sincerity, decency, fidelity, trustworthiness, etc. It is something which has to be measured from within as we are faced with various situations. Integrity is the backbone of our conscience.

Integrity begins with how we get to our ends. Do we take advantage of opportunities or do we manipulate circumstance to arrive at a destination?

“Integrity can be neither lost nor concealed nor faked nor quenched nor artificially come by nor outlived, nor, I believe, in the long run, denied”, said Eudora Welty. This show of respect was not pretence, but genuine accolades for honest achievers.

Richard Buckminster Fuller said, “Integrity is the essence of everything successful”. The only key to our country attaining the status of developed nation is integrity. Integrity instils in one the idea of basic civic sense, the thought to take it upon oneself to change the society for the good.

Integrity also means to have high moral principles, but also the key to the growth of our nation, the ability to make ethical judgements in the face of diversity, to be united as a nation in spite of being faced by thousands of differences, to uphold the ideals of morality taught to us scores of years ago, to be the change and to be nothing less than oneself and find pride in it.

The history of mankind bears witness to the fact that whenever there has been a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, there have come up certain selfless and committed individuals who, through their dedication, personal integrity, noble intentions and self-sacrifice, have waged a relentless war to protect the virtuous, to destroy the wicked and to re-establish the righteousness.

 

Integrity can be of different types. We can have intellectual integrity, financial integrity, moral integrity etc. What we expect when we use the term integrity is a certain amount of consistency and fairness.

In the case of intellectual integrity it means that the person does not change his views or perception depending upon the circumstances or external considerations. On the same line, moral integrity would mean observing the same principles irrespective of the situation. In the case of financial integrity, it will mean that one does not aspire for somebody else’s money or property. After all corruption is the use of public office for private profit.

Let us get into the most basic question ‘Is integrity necessary for public life?’ There have been thinkers like Machiavelli in the West and the Kautilya in the East who felt that the moral standards prescribed for a private individual cannot be applied when one deals with public life. A person who has high moral standards is bound to take decisions, which are also in the public interest.

The establishment and maintenance of integrity in public life and public service requires a number of elements, including: legislation, regulations and codes of conduct; a society whose religious, political and social values expect honesty from politicians and officials; professionalism among officials; and a political leadership with the moral and political courage and will to take its responsibility, both public and private, seriously.

The observance of integrity is not a simple thing, if it is practiced properly and conscientiously, it will free the society from many of its venomous ills. Thus integrity needs to be given much importance especially in the public life so as to have a harmony in the society.

The memorable lines of H.W. Longfellow :-

“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints in the sands of time”.

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.

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.

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.

The Santhanam Committee has specifically urged upon the government to ensure that their public servants give an undertaking to the effect that they will not use their offices to secure employment for their family members. They should not make investments which are likely to embarrass or influence the discharge of their duties.

A democratic administration has to be clean and clear and it should appear to be cleaner so that people feel inspired and administrative get motivated in the higher tasks of public service. Efforts to arrest corruption and bind public servants to lead a life of austerity and discipline contribute to the enhancement of people’s faith in democratic working. In an emerging society of India’s diversity it is a gigantic task which the democratic government has taken to itself.

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2016-11-17T21:13:16+00:00