Conscience as an important moral and ethical attribute

Conscience refers to a person’s moral sense of right and wrong. Conscience acts as a guide to human behavior. Human beings mostly make their decisions on the basis of their knowledge and experience. But there is a higher order of guide to human behavior than acquired knowledge and experience. This is the ‘inner voice’ or conscience, which is supposed to be “unadulterated” and “pure” and it always, propels us to do things which are right and positive. The people who commit undesirable acts and harm others are often said to have “killed their conscience.”Spiritual people consider ‘conscience as a “dummy for god” or “god inside”. Kabir, the great Indian mystique, also said that ‘your god is inside; awake if you can (Tera Sai Tujh Mein Jaag Sakai to Jag)’. Religious views of conscience usually see it as linked to a morality inherent in all humans, to a beneficent universe and/or to divinity. Thus Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Moral judgment may derive from values or norms (principles and rules). In psychological terms conscience is often described as leading to feelings of remorse when a human commits actions that go against his/her moral values and to feelings of rectitude or integrity when actions conform to such norms.

Although for general purpose there is no use of tracing the reasons how “conscience” arises and works in a human being, there are variety of explanations expressed by different people for origin and operation of conscience. These explanations vary among them. On one side there are explanations based on diverse ritualistic, mythical, doctrinal, legal, institutional and material features of religion and on the other experiential, emotive, spiritual or contemplative considerations about the origin and operation of conscience. Common secular or scientific views regard the capacity for conscience as probably genetically determined, with its subject probably learned or imprinted (like language) as part of a culture.

Whatever is the reason of its origin and operation, conscience helps us to take right, fair, just and human decisions. Commonly used metaphors for conscience include the “voice within” and the “inner light”. There are real life examples that show how conscience makes a difference in our behavior. Let’s see some examples given below:

Case 1

Conscience playing positive rules in administration

Jitendra Kumar   Soni, the collector of Jalore district in Rajasthan, was very touched when he saw three students coming to school barefoot in December last year.  He told the school authorities of 274 gram panchayats and three nagar palikas in the district to give him a detailed report of how many students come without shoes. The survey revealed that about 10 kids in each of the 2,500 schools were coming barefoot.They were shivering in cold and the teachers informed him that their parents couldn’t even afford books. He instantly took them to the market and bought shoes. In the first week of January 2016 he started a scheme named ‘Charan Paduka Yojna’, with the aim of providing free shoes to about 25,000 underprivileged school children before Republic Day. The collector has decided that students will be provided with shoes every year. For winters, the shoes will be distributed on or before Republic Day, and for summers, on or before Independence Day. Motivated by the campaign, some teachers have also decided to help barefoot students in their schools individually. Jitendra Kumar Soni comes from Dhanasar village near Rawatsar in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. His father is a watchmaker and Jitendra grew up watching him work very hard to provide proper education to both his sons. He said, “I also attended a government school and know the hard work my father had put in to get me educated. I always wore clothes stitched by a tailor and never visited a big city.”

As a DM you can visit many schools and you can see many children bare feet, but few among us really think empathetically and find ways because their conscience is awakened  by their own cultural and social upbringing and innate qualities. And by doing such acts they feel a ‘sense of achievement’ and ‘fulfillment’ of doing good acts to really deserving kids of our own state  or country or even elsewhere in the world.

Case 2

Conscience helping in being human and progressive

To be a Dalit and a widow could be disastrous. For 36-year-old Urmila Devi, who lost her husband a couple of years ago, the combination led to dismissal from her job as a government school cook in Bihar’s Aurangabad district. Her story has a happy ending, however, and a young IAS officer got her reinstated just 12 hours after she narrated her story to him. He then had a meal that she cooked, in the same school, along with the students. Kanwal Tanuj, the District Magistrate, listened to Ms. Devi’s story on August 28, 2016 evening. She had been dismissed from her job by the principal ‘for being a Dalit widow.’ The principal, Shiv Govind Prasad, had given her job to Ramkeval Yadav. Mr. Tanuj decided to verify the incident the very next day and made the 45-km trip to Batura Middle School in Rafiganj block. During the visit, he found many discrepancies in the registers. The principal, who could not answer his queries, was suspended. The officer of the 2010 batch ordered Education Department officials to reinstate Ms. Devi and requested her to cook food in the school kitchen as she used to. Soon, the magistrate was sitting cross-legged on the verandah and relishing the meal with students, even as awestruck villagers watched.Mr. Tanuj said,  “It was a natural reaction from a human being and not an IAS officer to act upon the complaint of a Dalit widow. I did what my conscience told me to.”

Case 3

Failure of conscience to be dutiful and caring

 Principal of a school in a remote area of Bihar Meena Devi was not able to  provide safe food to the children under the mid-day scheme because of indifference and carelessness of extreme level. Her conscience for the safety of children was sleeping. A local court   sentenced (Saran district in Bihar, August 28, 2016) the former headmistress of the school in north Bihar to 17 years in prison for the deaths of 22 children and a staffer who died three years ago after consuming insecticide-laced mid-day meal. Meena Devi was in charge of the one-room primary school run from a dilapidated community centre at Dharmsati Gandaman village in Saran district. She was convicted of sections pertaining to culpable homicide not amounting to murder on August 24.  She was ordered to pay penalties totalling Rs 3.75 lakh, failing which her jail term will be increased by a year.

Devi’s husband, Arjun Yadav, was also accused in the case but was acquitted as no evidence was found against him. As soon as the punishment was announced, Meena Devi broke down in the court. The mid-day meal consumed by the children and the cook on July 16, 2013 was later found to contain monocrotophos, a toxic compound banned in most countries. Prosecutors said they were satisfied with the ruling but would challenge the court’s acquittal of her husband for lack of evidence. The disaster prompted the government to improve food safety in schools. Children often suffer food poisoning due to poor hygiene in kitchens and occasionally sub-standard food.


Professional Ethics: More than mastery of skills, is a set of character attributes and values 

Professional Ethics

Much of our success in any profession or work depends on our approach. Our approach can be casual or professional. When we are casual we operate at a lower level than our potential while when we are professional we operate closer to our highest potential. We, however, often confuse professionalism with our command over the skill required for the work hand.  Of course this is one of the components of professionalism, but professionalism is much more than this. If we just see the meaning of the word “professionalism”, it is the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or professional. It implies quality of workmanship or service and also many other personality traits. Ordinary people devoid of professionalism can also deliver a task, especially when everything is normal and situation is ideal. But a real professional works efficiently in ‘ideal conditions’ as well as in ‘less than ideal conditions’. He has the ability to “devise ways” to tackle new situations as well as to “create responses” for all kinds of exigencies related to his job. At the same time a professional’s activities are much more smooth, nuanced and exude confidence and command while doing a work. His personality traits have additional dimensions like winning trust, being humble, calm and poised and a good sense of team spirit and humour to take advantage of the best elements in each of the team member and lighten the burden of work respectively.  Every organization knows that a professional reputation is the difference between success and failure. Professionalism is instrumental in creating a reputation for excellence as a result of delivering the best, optimization of time and energy, and producing the best of results in the shortest possible time. Professionalism is about drawing a bigger line in front of smaller line and setting higher benchmarks (raising the bar) rather than leg pulling and back stabbing. A professional lets his work and its quality speak eloquently rather than loud words of self praise. A professional is one who is disciplined, punctual, firm and flexible simultaneously and has indefatigable tenacity and endurance till the targets are achieved.

Following are some of the golden traits of a professional:

  • Sincere and hard working
  • Team Spirit
  • Striving for excellence
  • Patience, tenacity and endurance
  • Being competent and amenable and curious for continuous improvement
  • Being trustworthy
  • Being courteous and respectful
  • Being honest, open and transparent
  • Always being ethical
  • Always being honorable and acting with integrity
  • High level of character, values and principles with consistency in action and outcome
  • Being respectful of confidentiality
  • Leading from the front and setting good examples

Citation 1

Metro Man E Sreedharan

  1. Sreedharan was born on 12 June 1932 in Pattambi in the Palakkad district of Kerala. His family hails from Karukaputhur, near Koottanad, part of Thrithala legislative assembly, Palakkad district, Kerala. He completed his education at the Basel Evangelical Mission Higher Secondary School and then went to the Victoria College in Palghat. He later on completed his Civil Engineering from theGovernment Engineering College, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh known as JNTUK. E Sreedharan who revolutionized rail transport in Delhi by pioneering Delhi metro project and leading it to successful fruition, is one of the finest examples of professionalism. He ensured completion of all the projects within stipulated time with the highest possible quality and without any blemish of corruption with minimum accidents. He is fondly called “metro man”. A simple man and a resident of Ponnani in Kerala rose to name and fame due to his sincerity and honesty and integrity and dedication of highest order. Today, breaking the barriers of time and cost, Delhi Metro has become the lifeline of the locals. There’s a train every few minutes, the commuting time has been considerably reduced, you need not worry about getting stuck in the traffic and above all, women can rely upon the Metro for safe travel. Many Delhiites think that the man more than deserving for highest civilian award – not just for completion of the metro project but also for setting the highest benchmarks of professionalism.

After finishing his studies Sreedharan succeeded to clear the prestigious ESE (Engineering Services Exam, now known as IES) and joined the Southern Railway as a probationary assistant engineer in the year 1954. He worked as a lecturer of Civil Engineering for short period of time  before joining the Bombay Port Trust as an apprentice. He used to teach at the government Polytechnic, Kozhikode (Calicut). Sreedharan earned the post of deputy chief engineer in the year 1970. He was assigned with the task of blueprinting Calcutta Metro plan and its implementation. It was going to be the first ever metro in India and millions of eyes were on the fate of project. To everyone’s surprise, Sreedharan not only completed this much heralded project but also laid down the foundation of modern infrastructure engineering in India. In 1981, as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Cochin Shipyard, Sreedharan guided the first ship building project named MV Rani Padmini and successfully launched it.

Sreedharan’s journey in government services came to an end after he retired from Indian Railways as Member Engineering in the year 1990. Post retirement, he was appointed as the CMD of Konkan Railway on contract basis in 1990. He completed India’s first major project under BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) basis. After being widely acclaimed for Konkan project, Sreedharan was made the MD of Delhi metro. Again here with his magic wand (Both hard work and professional skills), Sreedharan completed all schedule sections within budget and without any deadline extensions. Due to this, he was awarded a three year extension to oversee the Phase-II of Delhi Metro. His 16 year journey at Delhi Metro came to an end on 31 December 2011.

Numerous years in Railway’s service and then, 16 years at Konkan and DMC project, Sreedharan still refuses to hang his boots. He has been appointed as Chief advisor for proposed Lucknow Metro project and Principal Advisor of the Kochi Metro rail Project.

People still wonder what really makes him tick at 80 while a young man at his 20’s struggle to begin his day at 6 or 7 in the morning. Er. Sreedharan day starts at 4 am, followed by a series of meditation rounds of Bhagwad Gita. He reaches office at 9:30 am and gets straight to work. In the evening, he usually takes a long walk with his wife Radha and allocates time to his family of four children. He used to setup reverse clocks to show impending deadlines to his project members during Delhi Metro construction phase. The message of the Gita: To act, without desire for the fruits of the action gave him the courage to act. A plate placed his Kerala office read as: ‘whatever to be done, I do. But in reality I do not do anything’.

He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2001, the Padma Vibhushan in 2008, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2005 and was named one of Asia’s Heroes by TIME magazine in 2003. Recently he has been appointed to serve the United Nations’ High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport (HLAG-ST). He was invited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to serve on his HLAG-ST for a period of three years.

Quotes of E. Sridharan

One biography of Sridharan was published by the title E. Sridharan: A Karmayogi. This is what he was. Simple, no airs, unpolluted, totally committed to the cause and full of enthusiasm and unfailing discipline! That is quintessential E. Sridharan. The following quotes tell some things about one of the greatest professionals of India.

  • The best way to motivate people is to set an example for them. I can’t sit in an air-conditioned room and make others do all the work. Here I try to set an example in all manners, everything, whether it is punctuality or inspections or the standards for specifications, finishing of the work, anything.
  • It is possible. What is required is the right work culture of the organization, the values of the organization, the way the team is built up and the way they are motivated. You need to define the roles and the goals, very precisely.
  • (In selecting the best HR for metro job) The main thing was the reputation for integrity, then the reputation for hard work, professional competence and the knowledge and the aptitude to work in a team. If they work as a lone worker, that is not going to help us.
  • We pay exactly the same, these are government salaries. What is a motivation is the good work environment that they have, and a good environment for learning things. Once people work in Delhi Metro for five or six years, their market value is so high, they are in demand by everyone afterwards.
  • Corruption has become a part of public life in this country mainly because of a lot of black money going around. There are many laws, regulations, agencies and institutions already set up to prevent corruption, but they are not effective.
  • You see, spirituality has no religious overtones. The essence of spirituality is to make a person pure in his mind and his thoughts.
  • Do your work without expecting any return out of it. It is called Asangathu Vaa. You do it for the sake of the society, of the organization you work for.

Citation 2

Steve Jobs

Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs ( February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American information technology entrepreneur and inventor. He was the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Inc.; CEO and majority shareholder of Pixar Animation Studios; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT Inc. Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Shortly after his death, Jobs’s official biographer, Walter Isaacson, described him as a “creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.” Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 to sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. The duo gained fame and wealth a year later for the Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computers. In 1979, after a tour of Xerox PARC, Jobs saw the commercial potential of the Xerox Alto, which was mouse-driven and had a graphical user interface (GUI). This led to development of the unsuccessful Apple Lisa in 1983, followed by the very successful Macintosh in 1984. In addition to being the first mass-produced computer with a GUI, the Macintosh instigated the sudden rise of the desktop publishing industry in 1985 with the addition of the Apple LaserWriter, the first laser printer to feature vector graphics. Following a long power struggle, Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985.

After leaving Apple, Jobs took a few of its members with him to found NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in state-of-the-art computers for higher-education and business markets. In addition, Jobs helped to initiate the development of the visual effects industry when he funded the spinout of the computer graphics division of George Lucas’s company Lucas film in 1986. The new company, Pixar, would eventually produce the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story—an event made possible in part because of Jobs’s financial support.

In 1997, Apple purchased NeXT, allowing Jobs to become the former’s CEO once again. He would return the company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, back to profitability. Beginning in 1997 with the “Think different” advertising campaign, Jobs worked closely with designer Jonathan Ive to develop a line of products that would have larger cultural ramifications: the iMac, iTunes, Apple Stores, the iPod, the iTunes Store, the iPhone, the App Store, and the iPad. Mac OS was also revamped into Mac OS X, based on NeXT’s NeXTSTEP platform. Jobs was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2003 and died of respiratory arrest related to the tumor on October 5, 2011.

Quotes of Steve Jobs

The following quotes give us a glimpse of the stuff of which one of the finest professionals of our times was made of.

  • Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
  • For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
  • Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
  • You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
  • Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
  • My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.
  • Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.
  • That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
  • Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.
  • Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.