Civil servants alone not enough

There is nothing wrong in according priority to one’s personal needs; for it is by keeping oneself materially and otherwise on sound footing that one can better serve others. Yet it is utter selfishness for one to reflexively grab or save a rupee though it may cost a hundred to the exchequer, employer or another individual.

A close mindset fails to under­stand that self-aggrandising pursuits hurting other’s rights are against nature’s design and that sooner or later one has to pay for all his acts of commission.

There is nothing holier than serving the fellow creatures, not even worship. “The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray,” said Swami Vivekanand. Relief to the needy in whatsoever way has been pleaded as the highest virtue in all faiths.

Further, psychologists tell us that the act of ‘giving’ creates positive vibes in the giver and he is better enabled to realise his inherent potential, predisposing himself to path of success and enlightenment. “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way” said Mary Anne Radmacher.

Unlike the common refrain that nobody can do everything to set things right, one with service attitude knows that everyone can do something. Apropos of the sparrow that with her beak was putting water drop by drop to extinguish the devastating fire while a monkey on a tree mocked at her, “Does this miniscule effort make any difference?”

The sparrow retorted, “Immense satisfaction accruing to my soul by serving apart, when history is written, my name shall be scripted among those who contributed for a noble purpose.” Great joys are in store for those who serve, as religious leader Dieter Uchdorf observed, “In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance”.

To uphold the spirit of public service, UN has been celebrating June 23 as Public Services Day since 2003, the assumption being that a competent civil services is vital for good governance and democracy. To this end, personnel with exemplary achievements and professionalism in service sector are rewarded. Importance and virtue of civil service in development process is also highlighted.

In India, mainly the personnel of civil services and mainly the IAS together with similar cadres at state level are the leaders of governance. In realistic terms, however, they appear to become the masters of mini kingdoms in their jurisdictions catering to the interests of the members of their cadre and their political bosses whose opinions determine their promotions and postings. It is due to lapses in structure of democracy and cavalier attitude of officials that many thinkers doubt the role of civil officers in delivery of services.

Anti-democratic

American conservative political activist Alan Key said, “bureaucracies are inherently anti-democratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients.”

Since youngsters join civil services more for gaining influence rather than missionary zeal, the service orientation is diluted and they may turn autocratic. “More harm was done in the 20th century by faceless bureaucrats than tyrant dictators,” said the popular US mediaperson Dennis Prager.

For the markets, ‘service’ remains a slogan. When the shopkeeper says, “How can I serve you”, he actually assesses how much he can fleece the customer. Full gesture salutations to passers-by mean the same. In case he doesn’t have the brand item you need, he counts merits of his own brand and lapses of one you seek, rather than informing that your choice is available next door.

As for around 31 lakh NGOs operating overtly to serve people, most of them floated by powerful politicians or their allies, their ulterior intent continues to be under cloud. Their missionary rather than mercenary tilt was revealed at the uproar over regulating foreign receipts last December. Alas, government appears to have no option other than depending on NGO sector, as often reiterated in official documents: “Being closer to people at grassroots level, they are better equipped to sense the aspirations and expectations of local people.”

More public welfare landmarks have been created by individual scientific or intellectual endeavours than government regulations that stifle creativity. It needs to be learnt, as Confucius said, “He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.”

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