Ethical dilemma in India’s public policy - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

News Plus

Ethical dilemma in India’s public policy

Post-Independence, India could not build on its strong ethical foundations. We established dozens of institutions of excellence but not a single institution of ethical teaching. Ethics could never become a dedicated subject of studies in our schools or colleges, barring a few references through childhood moral stories.

Santosh Ajmera & Nanda Kishore Reddy

Published

on

Covid-19

The public servants, as mentioned by the Prime Minister, are ‘sevaks’ of the people at large. They serve, through policymaking and its implementation, which have a potential to impact peoples’ lives and influence their well-being. These public servants make decisions on a daily basis during their career. They are influenced by various human values which often are complementary and at times competitive. Any issue of public life, therefore, put diverging solutions before public servants. They are expected to select the best solution among a variety of good solutions, putting themselves in the world of ethical dilemma.

What is an ethical dilemma?

The study of human actions, differentiating between good and bad and understanding its consequences, lead to the study of ethics. A public servant’s actions and consequences thereupon, deliver good and sometimes not so good results. If a good result, it doesn’t mean ethical and if no good result, it doesn’t mean unethical. The ‘means’ and ‘end’ of any decision making and its impact, are equally important for it to label as ‘ethical’ or ‘unethical’.

Ethical dilemma, on the other hand, is a state of confusion where an individual faces multiple ethical options in a given situation. Selecting the most ethical option, then is a difficult proposition. It is the situation of hard choices, where one choice is neither fully good and nor fully bad. It is not the selection of good from bad but often a selection of good from a ‘lesser’ or ‘equal’ good. Further, an ethical dilemma is wider and more demanding than a problem, however difficult or complex, the later may be. Dilemmas, unlike problems, cannot be solved in binary terms in which they are often presented to decision-makers.

Every individual faces an ethical dilemma at multiple stages of life, depending on the situation they are presented with. May it be the profession of doctors, lawyers, journalists or business enterprises, ethical dilemmas for them props up when their professional roles contradict with their individual roles. General public and some professionals are often presented with ethical dilemmas, in binary terms. The resolution of it becomes a little easier. The public servants, on the other hand, face ethical dilemmas which are more complex in nature, often due to multiplicity of roles and responsibilities and wider implications of decision making. The resolution of ethical dilemmas therefore is a complex process for them.

Unlike professionals and the general public, the public servants play multiple roles in their personal, professional, work jurisdiction and social spheres. The prioritisation of roles, for them vary due to the very nature of work and its impact on the governed. The multiplicity of roles, varied duties and impacts of decision making, present complex ethical dilemmas to them. Public managers, therefore, need a wide range of attributes, attitudes and skills to survive and to come over these dilemmas. Their skill, competence and commitment are tested daily as they try to respond to their constituencies, fulfil their responsibilities, and meet the challenges they face. Significantly, all these players act simultaneously, with few clear lines of authority, constantly changing public mandates, and frequent turnover of people. They therefore need to act vigilantly, resolve conflicts, set aside pressure and march forward with their public agendas.

 Ethical dilemma in public policy

Covid-19 has presented a myriad of ethical dilemmas for almost everyone — professionals like doctors, public servants, political leaders and the people at large. Due to an unprecedented influx of patients in ICUs, the medical community and the administration has to confront raising ethical concerns not only surrounding triage and withdrawal of life support decisions, expanding ICU care into non-ICU spaces, utilising non-critical care trained staff to participate in delivering critical care and innovative approaches to obtain, conserve and increase the efficiency of physical equipment, including personal protective equipment and mechanical ventilators. Practitioners encountered the difficult decisions of whom to test, whom to treat and where to focus attention and resources. At some places, doctors were forced to make decisions about whom to ventilate and whom to not. The agony of these decisions prompted several physicians to seek ethical counsel.

On the other side, we have been hearing stories about family members or relatives deserting the sick people at a time when they needed care, and even funerals of victims have been violently disrupted, raising unprecedented ethical questions. Consider the ethics of the most visible response to the pandemic — the lockdown. Different countries adopted different strategies. Countries like South Korea didn’t impose a lockdown but concentrated on other ways of containing the pandemic. Whereas in the US, some states adopted lockdown approaches and some didn’t. In India, the government adopted a lockdown strategy for containing the pandemic.

Ultimately, the “ends” of any of these above approaches is the wellbeing of the citizens. But the following “means” are different for different entities. Several ethical issues emerge from these decisions:

• One such issue is paternalism. Countries across the world, considered their decision of lockdown, to be in the best interests of the people, but have they deprived their citizens of informed consent? They may have been correct in their assumptions that their decision is correct rather than giving citizens a choice. But the ethical question still remains whether it is ethically correct to take the decision out of the citizens’ hands.

• Have the policymakers done the right thing by announcing lockdown abruptly without giving much time to the vulnerable groups to prepare for the lockdown? Has it created an empathy gap between those who made policy and those who suffered? Or should the lockdown be announced with prior notice and time frame of 8-10 days for people to move out to their locations? This might have spread the pandemic to the remotest parts of the country, causing larger damage to rural areas. This also could have led to the possibility of hoarding essential items leading to artificial scarcity of goods. Which decision would have been more appropriate, considering the larger benefit of the society or hardships of few?

The values of life versus livelihood versus fundamental freedom of individuals presented ethical dilemmas before the policymakers. Any option had its collateral effects on the country, at large.

Further as the lockdown continued it presented different ethical dilemmas due to unexpected outcomes, which needed urgent attention from the policymakers. The lockdown phase gave sufficient time to the policymakers to understand the strain of the virus. As the health recovery rate was improving, the policymakers were presented with multiple ethical dilemmas viz continue lockdown till the development of vaccine, at the cost of economic slowdown, affecting the livelihood of people; partial opening of economic activities, which may slowdown the spread but slowly help in rolling the economic wheel and put lesser burden on government exchequer; open up the complete economy, as people are fully aware of the Covid-19 precautions, which might lead to abrupt rise of virus spread, leading to abrupt losses of lives. There were other options too leading to ethical dilemmas for the policy makers.

Safeguarding lives of citizens, protecting liberty and individual freedom, adhering to constitutional principles, wellbeing of all versus hardships of few, support to the poor and free ration versus burden on the exchequer and economic prudence, empathic versus rational decision-making, etc, were conflicting human values, policymakers and implementers had to face, during Covid-19. But such instances are not limited to pandemic situations and are routine phenomena occurring during the process of policymaking. The opinions and decisions differ, as the impact. They often therefore lead to primetime discussions and debate, across news channels. May it be a decision of road widening displacing certain number of people, industrialisation by encroaching forest land, extension of populist measures during economic crisis times, preferring development over environment or change of status quo for certain states through border reorganisation or by abolition of certain act. The decisions impact certain lives, benefitting a certain number of people.

Resolving ethical dilemma

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen, and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be any use to him.” Resolving an ethical dilemma is often a zero sum game, whereby the choice of one value alternative is necessarily followed by the negation of the other. The resolution of ethical dilemmas is based on the principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership, rationality, impartiality, non-partisanship etc. These principles were first laid out by the Nolan committee, the committee on standards of public life during 1994-95, as essential principles for ethical standards in public life. In order to resolve ethical dilemmas, it is essential for an individual to understand the nuances of conflicting ethical claims, in a given scenario. Understanding them correctly with their likely impacts on different stakeholders is the key to resolve ethical dilemmas. There are various ethical tests prescribed to resolve ethical dilemmas. These tests being smell test, utility test, rights test, everybody test, choices test, justice test, common good test and virtue/ mirror test etc. The results of one or multiple tests decide the probable solution for the dilemma.

Evolving ethical mechanism for govt

The government controls the governed through laws of the land and judicial mechanism. However, to control itself the government needs to devise the check and balance mechanism. These mechanisms help ensure government machinery functions with the laid-out principles and vision of the system. These mechanisms can curb the illegal and unwanted acts by individuals but not the unethical acts. To devise the system based on ethical principles, the government has to build the ethics infrastructure.

Ethics infrastructure supports and encourages ethical behaviour and establishment of ethics-based decision making processes, enabling individuals to resolve ethical dilemmas in the correct perspective. It also ensures the highest standards of ethical behaviour in the society, by any individual, in public and private life. The elements/building blocks of infrastructure are complementary, mutually reinforcing and achieve necessary synergy to become a coherent and integrated one. The ‘guidance’, ‘management’ and ‘control’ are three main building blocks of ethics infrastructure.

The guidance is achieved from leadership, training and ethical codes. The management ensures laid out policies for the resolution of ethical dilemmas whereas control is generally from outside such as anticorruption agencies. The guidance and management ensure compliance of ethics from within, whereas control ensures compliance of ethics from outside means. The developed countries have well-established ethics infrastructure, whereas developing countries including India, have an ethics infrastructure, in an evolving phase. Lack of concrete ethics infrastructure is one of the important reasons for the prevalence of corruption and malpractices in public life, in India.

Ethics infrastructure

 ‘Doing good is hard; even beginning to do good is hard.’ Inscribed in the Emperor Asoka’s fifth ‘major rock edict’ from circa 257 BCE. India has very first instances of ethical teachings, through Asoka’s ethical project, as inscribed on rock edicts. The message from this project was universal and not restricted to any particular language, religion, place or state. It’s the sanctity and sacredness of those ethical teachings that the Constituent Assembly adopted on 22 July 1947, 24-spoke Asoka Chakra on the Indian National flag, symbolising the wheel of ethics and wheel of time. Each spoke on the Chakra depicted the principles and values of ethical living such as love, courage, self-sacrifice, righteousness, faith, truthfulness and others. Along with it, the rich cultural heritage, ancient philosophical moorings, preaching and practices of Mahatma Gandhi and other social reformers, religious texts and Constitution of India, laid the very foundation for ethics infrastructure in India.

 Post-Independence however, India could not build much on these strong foundations. We could establish dozens of institutions of excellence but not a single institution of ethical teaching. Ethics could never become a dedicated subject of studies in our schools or colleges, barring a few references through childhood moral stories. The first ever formal attempt has been carried out by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), bringing the subject on ethics in 2013, for the Civil Services Exam. For other government services, there is no formal training in ethics, as such.

The focus of the government since the beginning was on compliance approach to ethics with control ensured from outside agencies like anti-corruption and others, against the menace of illegal activities but not against unethical practices. Some institutions and professional bodies could pen down the code of conduct but could not develop a code of ethics till recent period. Few could develop on self-regulatory mechanisms but without any outside body ensuring its compliance in case of any violation. It is only the Upper House of Parliament, which could establish an ethics committee as an institution to check on unethical activities and areas of conflict of interests for the Members of Parliament. The very recognition of ethical concepts of conflict of interests in the corporate sector and bodies like BCCI has been a recent phenomenon of the 21st century. The overall ethical compliance from within has seen a slow progress, so far. The beginning for the ethical life was made by the Constituent Assembly then. It is high time that we should walk the ethical path, it proposed.

Santosh Ajmera and Nanda Kishore Reddy are Indian Information Service officers of 2008 batch and have co-authored the book ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ published by McGraw Hill publications.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

News Plus

‘Black Panther’ director considered quitting filmmaking after Chadwick Boseman’s death

Published

on

‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler has revealed that he considered quitting filmmaking after actor Chadwick Boseman’s demise. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Coogler opened up about it.
“I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,’” Coogler stated.
“I didn’t know if I could make another movie period [or] another ‘Black Panther’ movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, ‘Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?’”
Boseman died in August 2020 after a private battle with colon cancer.
Coogler also shared that he spent weeks revisiting footage of himself with Boseman, who he saw as a major creative collaborator and champion of “Black Panther.”
Returning to memories of his own relationship with the actor, the filmmaker began to rediscover his passion for the kingdom of Wakanda and its narrative possibilities.
“I was poring over a lot of conversations that we had, towards what I realised was the end of his life,” Coogler continued. “I decided that it made more sense to keep going.”
Coogler has returned to direct Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which follows characters played by returning cast members Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Winston Duke, as they confront the death of Boseman’s King T’Challa.
On Monday, the second trailer of ‘Wakanda Forever’ was released. The film is scheduled to hit theatres on 11 November 2022, in English, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

Continue Reading

News Plus

A Hindu temple in Muslim heartland of Dubai

Published

on

A new Hindu temple constructed in Jebel Ali in Dubai opened on Tuesday, one day ahead of the Dussehra festival.
The Khaleej Times reported that the temple is an extension of the Sindhi Guru Darbar Temple, one of the oldest Hindu temples in the UAE.
The temple’s foundation was laid in February 2020, and the inauguration fulfils a decades-long Indian dream of having a place of worship in the area.
The temple, which will be officially open to the public on October 5—the day of the Dussehra festival, welcomes people of all faiths and has allowed entry to worshippers and other visitors to view the 16 deities and other interior works, reported Gulf News.
Welcoming people from all faiths, the temple has already had its soft opening on 1 September 2022, where thousands of visitors were allowed to get a glimpse of the interiors of the temple built with white marble. It has ornate pillars, Arabic and Hindu geometric designs on the facade, and bells on the ceiling.
The temple’s management activated the QR-code-based appointment booking system via its website on its soft opening.
From day one, the temple has received many visitors, especially over the weekends.
The restricted entry has been regulated through QR-coded appointments for crowd management and to ensure social distancing, the report said.
Most of the deities are installed in the main prayer hall, with a large 3D-printed pink lotus unfurling across the central dome.
According to the official temple website, Dubai’s new Hindu temple will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Continue Reading

News Plus

Meet the man spreading joy on Ferris wheel at Lav Kush Ramlila

Published

on

Bustling noises of cheers and laughter echo on the grounds of Lav Kush Ramlila as the annual festivities of Dussehra make their way onto people’s calendars every year. The past two years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, were a blow to small-scale businesses and vendors. But this year’s Navaratri has brought back the good old charm of festive love and celebrations.
Among many who spread joy is a man who brings smiles to people’s faces with his merry-go-round and giant ferris wheels.
Known to have been one of the best in business for 40 years, Mohammed Aslam gives the magical touch to Lav Kush Ramlila every year with fun amusement rides.
“I have worked with the Lav Kush Ramlila committee since 1992 and plan to keep working with them because I get a lot of respect here,” said Mohammed Aslam as he expressed his gratitude.
Like many business establishments that suffered at the hands of Covid-19, he emphasised how the pandemic played a spoilsport for his business in the past two years as well. “The past two years, in fact, were quite stressful in terms of business. Not just me, my staffers were also distressed due to the lockdown,” he said.
However, a few minutes later, he exuberantly expressed how well the business is picking up and that he was extremely happy to see Ramlila making a comeback this year.
Mohammed Aslam, a resident of Daryaganj in Delhi, conducts many fairs across the Hindi heartland but says he is happiest during Ramlila because of the joy and brotherhood that the festival binds people with.
Every year, the Lav Kush Ramlila is held at the Lal Qila (Red Fort) and thousands of people gather at the place to eagerly watch the pages of the Ramayana come to life.
Not just that, gorging on amazing street food delicacies, taking an adrenaline-pumping fun ride, and just soaking in the festive mood with loved ones, make it an exciting place for people from all walks of life – age, gender, and religion no bar. This year’s speciality, however, lies in the beauty of the backdrop of the Ram Lila – a replica of the famous Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Talking about the schedule this year, Ramlila began on September 26, and will culminate with a special appearance of ‘Baahubali’ superstar Prabhas on 5 October.

Continue Reading

News Plus

Kanye West bats for ‘White Lives Matter’

Published

on

Kanye West has hit the headlines yet again. After making his ramp debut at the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week, Kanye staged a surprise Yeezy fashion show on Monday to showcase his season 9 collection.
Before the models arrived, West delivered a speech while sporting the same bejewelled flip-flops he wore last week and a ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirt with the Pope’s face on the front.
According to Page Six, he made numerous allusions, including his ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s 2016 Paris robbery, his former manager Scooter Braun, his difficulties breaking into the fashion industry, his most recent breakup with Gap, and much more.
“I am Ye, and everyone here knows that I am the leader,” he said at one point, referencing his new legal name. “You can’t manage me.”
Page Six reports that Kanye teased the names of famous models who were expected to make an appearance at his show, including Kardashian, ex-girlfriend Irina Shayk, and current flame Candice Swanepoel. He also teased the names of other well-known figures like Beyonce, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie, Lauryn Hill, Naomi Campbell, Emily Ratajkowski, Gisele Bundchen, Bella Hadid, and Amelia Gray Hamlin.
However, it appears that only Shayk, Campbell, and Hamlin made an appearance, with the Russian model standing on the sidelines while the other two walked the runway.
The same shirt with ‘White Lives Matter’ inscribed on the back was also worn by some of the models in the show.
Over the past week, West has been attending fashion shows in Paris and London. On Sunday, he even made his runway debut as a model by introducing the Balenciaga show. The star’s trip down the slick runway was watched by Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and their daughter North West from the front row.

Continue Reading

News Plus

5 of the strangest things that have fallen from the sky

Published

on

What have you seen falling from the sky other than rain or snow? Can you imagine if fish, spiders, or even a strange substance that looked a whole lot like blood started raining down from above? Well, some people around the world certainly can! Here are some of the weirdest things that have ever fallen from the sky.

  1. Fish

Can you imagine fishes falling from the sky? It is going to be a weird sight for sure. But there is an explanation for this. In coastal areas, stormy weather can create a waterspout, a tornado-like phenomenon that can suck marine life out of bodies of water like lakes and oceans. The wind will then carry the fish inland, where they’ll come tumbling to the ground. It’s been documented everywhere from Sri Lanka to Australia to Mexico, and as recently as 2017. Sometimes, if the fish are edible, residents of the affected communities will celebrate the “fish rain” as a boon. 

2. Frogs

Frogs can also become a victim of waterspouts, due to which they fall on the land surprising the people living on the land. Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclides Lembus wrote about instances when so many frogs rained from the sky that “the houses and the roads have been full of them,” and in 2005, residents of Odzaci, Serbia, saw thousands of tiny frogs fall with passing storm clouds. Though sometimes, the lengthy fall will kill the critters, other times, they will hop and amble around their new locality. In Serbia, for instance, villagers reported that the fallen frogs simply hopped away to look for water.

3. Golf Balls

Anyone would be surprised but this has happened in Florida in 1969. Perhaps even weirder, no local golf courses were missing any balls. The reason was never entirely confirmed, but most experts theorized that a waterspout scooped up all of the golf balls that had been hit into the water by errant golfers.

4. Spiders

Creepy spiders falling from the sky can make anyone wants to disappear. It happened in 2015 in Australia, and then even more recently in Brazil in 2019. But, unlike the fish and the frogs, the spiders were not yanked from their homes by violent storms. The spider rains result from a process called “ballooning,” where the spiders produce filaments to launch themselves into the air. They do this in an attempt to catch an air current and travel to a new location, and it’s something they do fairly often. So why aren’t spider rains more common, you ask? That’s because it’s very uncommon for huge amounts of spiders to do this at the same time.

5. Money

The only rain that is pretty is raining money. Raining money has occurred several times throughout history, some of them recently. In 2015, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of United Arab Emirates dirham currency showered over Kuwait City. In Serbia, a plane carrying gold and diamonds spilled some cargo over the airport runway in 2018. Back stateside, Indianapolis experienced a similar phenomenon in 2017 when an electrician noticed around $200 worth of bills blowing off of a roof where he was working. 

Continue Reading

News

Centre approves amendments to FM radio guidelines

Published

on

By

The “Policy Guidelines on Expansion of FM Radio Broadcasting Services through Private Agencies (Phase-III)”, also known as the “Private FM Phase-III Policy Guidelines,” contained three amendments that the cabinet approved on Tuesday in order to allow radio channels to take advantage of economies of scale and enhance ease of doing business.

“The decision was taken in the last Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” ministry of information and broadcasting said in a statement.

The first change is the removal of the 3-year window period for FM radio authorization restructuring within the same management group during the license’s 15-year term.

The government has also agreed to the radio industry’s long-standing demand that the 15% National Cap on Channel Holding be lifted.

These three amendments together will help private FM radio industry to “fully leverage the economies of scale and pave the way for further expansion of FM radio and entertainment to Tier-III cities in the country”. “This will not only create new employment opportunities but also ensure that music and entertainment over the FTA (Free to Air) radio media is available to the common man in the remotest corners of the country,” the ministry said.

According to the statement, “The move will ensure that existing rules are streamlined and rationalised to make government more efficient and effective so that its benefits reach the ordinary man.

Continue Reading

Trending