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Quality Service

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In the latest round of such action, the Union Government has ‘compulsorily retired’ 22 tax officials who have serious charges of corruption against them. Earlier, too, 27 revenue officials had also been similarly sacked for corruption. It is interesting to note that none of them challenged the move in court as unjust, very probably because judicial examination of their assets and doings would have got them in deeper trouble, making them lose even their retirement benefits. These are good moves being taken by government but clearly not enough. Even as the nation expects the cleaning up process to be expanded to cover corruption in other areas of governance, attention has to be on preventing the malaise from taking hold in the first place. It should begin with the process of recruiting officials and, then, incentivising and disincentivising good and bad behaviour, respectively. One of the ‘perks’ related to government jobs is security of tenure, which is expected to give the confidence to withstand pressure of any kind. Unfortunately, this also breeds complacency and a false sense of security. This can be countered with quick promotion for the meritorious and even early retirement for the incapable. Departmental as well as quasi-judicial platforms that look into their grievances should work quickly and effectively to separate the chaff from the grain. Recognition of good work based on objective criteria would motivate officials to try and serve the people better. Most civil services officers look with envy at the salary structures in the private sector, which oftentimes involve much less responsibility than those they bear. Of course, the pressure to perform is much greater in the corporations and job security is virtually non-existent. In the old days, the status that came from government service compensated greatly for the lower salaries, but that is not the case anymore. This has as much to do with the democratisation of public structures, as well as the declining quality of civil servants. People think nothing of the job and there have been cases of IAS officers quitting on a whim, so little regard they have for the service. This is why the old colonial selection system needs to be revamped. It should not be based entirely on the test scores. The increase in the number of science based entrants – doctors and engineers – indicates how easily mere knowledge of facts can counter intuitive talent for the job. The downgrading of interviews for political reasons so that the ‘underprivileged’ do not suffer has also caused difficulties in preparing the final product. The selection process has to be a much better mix of all these factors to ensure the right kind of persons successfully take on the lifetime of responsibility that is bestowed upon them.