Remembering Public Servants

Public Servants are generally remembered only for the wrong reasons. It is rarely that someone ever remembers them for their good work. But those committed to sincere and honest public service do leave their mark. It becomes difficult for the media to ignore them.

Today, this 31st December,2011 the media in Delhi has made news of the retirement of E. Sreedharan. Who is he? Chief of the Delhi Metro or the DMRC. What is so great about him that it makes news? Public service, the spirit of public service, the model of public service. A clean record of genuine public service dealing with very high value projects, without a single blemish, in a city (and country too), where corruption is called scams. A government whose ministers are behind bars on charges of horrible corruption and loss to the exchequer in excess of billions of US Dollars! No easy job, since nothing moves without the specific written orders of the minister or the cabinet (i.e. Prime Minister/Chief Minister) in India. Sreedharan, by his personal conduct and public service, has set an example of how a public servant should function. He has acquired the status of an administrative icon, a paragon worthy of emulation, for those public servants, who try to discharge their public service duties honestly in a highly hostile environment. He has endeared himself to the public and public servants, more for the extremely adverse circumstances these days for public servants. Sreedharan retires from the service of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). But such people are genuinely entitled to the honoured with the title of “Rajarishi”. They never retire from public service, but hand over the baton to a qualified successor, so that the tradition of devotion to duty and sincere public service continues.

It needs mention for the simple reason that there has been a steady decline in the standards of public services in India in the past several decades. At the dawn of Independence in 1947, corruption was an exception: the corrupt used to be identified and hounded and punished. They used to make news then. However the tables have been turned in subsequent decades to such an extent that it makes news nowadays if a public servant manages to remain honest and also deliver quality public service as has been done by E. Sreedharan.

I have no hesitation in saying that the ordinary citizen in India has been suffering “Dushaashan” or  Reign of Harassment since 2004, when a fractured government of a coalition of all kinds of vested interests came to power. It has made the life of the ordinary ctizen miserable by indulging in corruption, price rise and mismanagement of the economy, governance, justice.Unless corrected, it is sure to turn into “Kushaashan” or reign of the demons. Services of Sreedharans bring into sharp focus the value of norms, ethics, morality, equity, fairness and justice in governance and public service.

I can recall several unsung heroes, who rendered valuable services to the society. I would restrict for the moment to two of the professors in the Department of English in the University of Rajasthan at Jaipur in India: Dr Kashi Prasad and Dr P. N. Varma, Professors of exceptional devotion to academic duties and high ethical standards. English, like several other subjects in the Science stream, commanded a highly remunerative premium for private tuitions in the 1960s, when they were rendering their services without ever falling prey to the lure of the lucre. Not that money was not important in those days- on the contrary, it was. University professors were not entitled to pension in those days and had no other source of income. But that was immaterial for Professors Kashi Prasad and P. N. Varma. Such conscientious public servants remain a lifelong inspiration for their students, who in turn try to follow them in life!

Virtuous people in any society occupy a special place in public esteem. At the national level, the place occupied by (Late)Lal Bahadur Shastri, Prime Minister of India, remains unmatched, so much so that the people still question whether he died a natural death in Tashkand(USSR) in 1965 or was a victim of the conspiracy of the Pakistan’s ISI. The people in general know whom to venerate. Their love for Lal Bahadur Shastri occupies the same place as for the leaders of the Freedom Movement. Blessed are the people who receive the services of the Lal Bahadur Shastris, Kashi Prasads, P.N. Varmas and E. Sreedharans.

Nations attain glory as a result of the hard work of Rajarishis only! We are blessed to be born Indians, who have inherited an ancient tradition of Rajarishis.

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