Think Learn & Perform (TLP): Synopsis – Ethics [Day 4]

  • IASbaba
  • September 4, 2015
  • 17
TLP Mains 2015
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Think Learn & Perform (TLP): Synopsis – Ethics [Day 4]



In writing answers of Paper IV, there is a lot of confusion.

Should one incorporate moral thinkers and their theories and thoughts or should one be focusing on rationality and logic? When one listens to toppers, confusion gets perpetuated further as they say different things. So what is the right approach? The answer is no one knows what UPSC has in mind while evaluating the answers. But one thing can be said with certainty- if you are able to impress the examiner by your answers no matter what approach you are following; good marks are there for the taking. So stop asking the question whether one should use philosophical jargon or be simple and logical. It is like asking what dress one should wear. No one but you know your taste and strengths. A T-shirt might suit you or a Kurta may work wonders to your personality. So you get the idea- irrespective of your way of dressing if you are able to carry yourself well, you get appreciation from your friends and relatives. Similarly it doesn’t really matter whether you write in points or in paragraphs, follow thinkers or day to day logic. If your answer speaks for itself, your job is done. So relax and identify your strengths. Don’t imitate the toppers or your friends. Write regularly and build upon your own USP.

It is not possible to provide a single answer to these questions. The TLP platform provides you the golden opportunity to have access to hundreds of answers. Build on the collective strength of this fraternity and learn from each other.


Corruption in India is systemic and deep rooted. People often take recourse to the fact that it is impossible to ensure ethical public conduct in a milieu that is replete with people of low ethics. Many young recruits in the government departments are counseled by their colleagues about how common and normal it is to earn some extra money and favour by manipulating the public. If these young officers dont get assimilated in the milieu, they are discarded by their own colleagues or even targeted by their bosses. In such a situation, what path would you take to act ethically? How would you tackle the challenges imposed by your own colleagues and seniors?


Directives: Such questions are meant to test your attitude as well as temperament. The question is asking for the most amicable and viable alternative to be followed in given scenarios. It is difficult to resist the temptation of writing something that will give an impression as if you alone would change the system. Options like complaining to the higher authorities, taking action against the subordinates, moral preaching to your colleagues etc sound ideal but aren’t realistic. You can mention some ideal approach but only when some of your strong stands are practical enough. One never expects an over-enthusiastic idealistic approach from ‘to be an IAS officer’ neither it is possible. You will kicked out if you are not strong enough to react to such situations instantly 🙂 Moreover, almost everyone would follow the same approach. Your approach has to be innovative.

Think something out of the box but be within your limits.  One should start by thinking that why being ethical or not corrupt is good for individual as well as society? This itself will create some practical solutions to your answers. You must show certain amount of optimism in your answers. For example, you may start by reiterating the fact that even though the majority of your colleagues are corrupt, there would be few honest officers also. You can try to build a social capital of such like minded people to create public awareness. A modest start like this would go a long way in setting a precedent in an otherwise corrupt milieu.


Similarly, you must display your administrative and scientific acumen. It is a fact that what is there in your mandate, no one can interfere in. You can use your powers to set things right in your jurisdiction. Even if you face opposition from within your department no one can go against you if you are following the rules. Any pressure from your superiors can be thwarted with due courtesy. In such situations what comes handy, is your communication skills. Use your pen frequently for communicating with the seniors and keep a track of them. You can always insist upon written orders. If such an approach is followed initially, without exception that would send a strong signal about your uprightness and integrity.

You can also take help of ICT for specific exchange of critical information against national interest.

There are shining examples of honest and upright officers in India who have worked wonders in similar situations. The best lesson they teach you is that if you embrace all that comes in your way be it transfers or punishment postings, you won’t feel depressed and demotivated. We can take inspiration from them. Don’t name these officers in your answers though.

Hardly anyone of you mentioned family support and friends. They are your assets. You go to them with all your pains and sufferings and they heal you with all their support and blessings. But in your answers, they didn’t find any place. Rather most of you mentioned Nagpal & Khemka! Are you following ethics?

TOP Answer by Indushree

Ans) The true test of honesty occurs only when a person is surrounded by the corrupt. Even an honest person may lose the ability to differentiate between the right and wrong and become a part of the system. Hence retaining an ethical behaviour is crucial.

There could be two approaches : 

Keeping oneself away from corrupt, rejecting all unethical practices outrightly, staying true to beliefs, excel in the field.
Although it is an ideally expected situation, it could lead to victimisation.
Direct confrontation may lead to targeted violence, fake complaints and in extreme cases suspension too. This deprives the opportunity to be able to continue honest work.

Accepting the situation at hand, do not rebel against the practice altogether but make a judicious choice of options available. It is an act of diplomacy to maintain good relationships with colleagues and seniors, yet retaining one’s individuality by

  • Requesting for written orders from seniors
  • Creating awareness about citizen’s charters
  • Encouraging citizen’s participation through social audit and RTIs
  • Complaining to super seniors in case of extreme oddities

Just as a swan when offered a mixture of milk and water, doesn’t reject the mixture altogether but judiciously separates milk from water(hamsa-ksheera nyaya) a young recruit has to make right moves to avoid conflicts while retaining the opportunity to work for the society.


Why do you think there is an asymmetry of perception and attitude with regards to almost everything in the society? Why some people appreciate art while others vandalize art exhibitions? Why the young generation seeks independence but the older generation wants restraints in behaviour and conduct? Give a reasoned response.


Directives: This question intends to test your understanding about the society. A certain level of intellectual faculty is expected in you. The central argument that you have to build upon is the fact that not all the sections of society undergo similar levels of transformation. While the values are changing, their pace may be faster in some places and at the same time too slow in others. It is this differential secularization of thoughts, values and public mores that create fissures and tension in the society. You can conclude by saying that we are living in a tricky transition period of history when everything is undergoing a transformation. Additionally, one needs to understand that every change has certain level of mutual existence. The asymmetry of perception and attitude is subjective and open to various interpretations. Most importantly, one has to take lessons from differentiated opinions and individuals without discarding them altogether. Mutual respect even if the thoughts are poles apart will be best for the larger good of society.

Top Answer by Subhas Tadala

Ans) Asymmetry exists in the human existence itself. Perception and attitude both seem to be similar words, but a small line of difference still exists.

Perception is a direct input, it may or may not be same for everybody. For example:If we see a sculpture, one may like the way the shape was made. Other may like the mechanical structure i.e where the centre of gravity is, or how it balanced perfectly.Hence it is the input what we take as perception

Attitude usually says appears as output in behavior. Our mind takes the perceived input, weigh along the predetermined choices, then gives out a behavior that may be different for different persons. In the above example, if I am expert in sculptures, I may say that the structure needs still perfect balancing, but to a lay men it was perfectly balanced. With the same perception, one is criticising and the other is praising.

Now some appreciate/ vandalize art because the perceived information about the same thing may be different and if it is same, their past experience/knowledge varies their behavior towards the input. The case with the old/ young generation also determined by their beliefs and experience. Old people may consider absolute freedom as against qualitative development, but the young may feel freedom is pre-requisite for development.


Case study: As chairman of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, you are faced with an ethical dilemma. The western most part of the country is facing a severe drought and people are dying of hunger. Since such conditions are prevailing for the past 3 years, supplies from other parts of the country are inadequate for the dying population. You are reviewing the possibility of giving approval to a genetically modified variety of wheat which can sustain severe drought conditions. The modified variety has shorter growing period and can prevent the appalling conditions from getting worse. However, the health and environmental impacts of the variety are unknown. There is pressure on you to grant approval for full time farm production to the modified variety without examining its possible health and environmental effects. If you grant approval, there might be severe health and environmental implications. However, if you delay the approval any further, the death toll would rise substantially in the coming few months. What options do you have? Which of these options would be most suitable? Substantiate by giving their merits and demerits.


Directives: For case studies, we have in store something special for you. We will provide a detailed write up on dealing with case studies. We are not providing any directives for this case therefore.


For your reference , TOP answer by Ashish Mishra


(He gave merits and demerits of each option)


Option 1: To allow the introduction of modified variety of wheat

Merit :

1. This will solve the immediate crisis of death due to starvation.
2. This would maintain law and order situation.

Demerit :

1. Might endanger health and environment in future.

Option 2 : Ban the introduction of wheat till approval.

Merit :

1.This approach justify the following of rules and regulation.
2. Long term health and environmental effect would be saved.

Demerit :

1. Imminent food crisis may lead to loss of life of poor people.
2. Law and order situation may deteorate.
3. Loss of faith in administrative machinery.

Option 3: Restrict the introduction of wheat, expediting study of health and environmental impact and exploring other approved improved variety, alternative way of food grain supply

Merit :

1. Immediate relief to people through alternative means.
2. Long term implication on health and environment could be prevented.
3. Law and order situation would be maintained.
4. Process as per rules and regulation.

Demerit :

1. Delay in alternative arrangement of supply may lead to loss of some life or deteoriate law and order situation.
2. Hasty research on health and environment may lead to subverting  of rules




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