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Director @Mitra's IAS | Philosophy (Optional) & Ethics (GS IV)

GS Paper 4: Ethics Case Studies #1


#1. Consider you are a director of a regulatory agency that is charged with monitoring the probable harmful effects of commercial chemicals. Your junior officer Ms. Smriti is responsible for monitoring the use and probable effect of chemicals. She has been assigned to determine whether such chemicals should be removed from market.

In one of the official meetings Ms. Smriti met a person named Mr. Raj who is representative of some chemical company. In due course of time Ms. Smriti got into relationship with Mr. Raj.Ms. Smriti wanted to pursue the relationship while maintaining professional integrity.

Q1. Explore various options available to you.

Q2. What will you do?


#2. You are first lieutenant in a military organisation. You report to captain who in turn reports to Major. You share positive working relation with both.

In your office there arises vacancy of a supervisor. In this regard both of your officers encourage you to appoint a particular person from other department. However you are not impressed with that person and found that person unsuitable for the post. In-spite of this you decided to trust your seniors and appoint him.

After one month it is clear to you that your judgement was correct that this person is not competitive enough. Although given time he can improve and develop his skills.

However very soon situation has become very complicated New supervisor has developed misunderstanding with the Captain and now the Major and the Captain are sending conflicting signals. Captain suggests that you immediately transfer supervisor during his probation period while Major urged you to write an early highly positive evaluation for him even before prescribed three months.

Q1. Examine the major issues involved.

Q2. Trace your course of action.


#3. Shantanu has been appointed as the chief sanitary officer at district level. Recently, a village under his district has been awarded Nirmal Gram Puruskar for achieving the status of “Open Defecation Free Area”. This was possible due to the state sponsored scheme where each house was provided with a separate toilet and various initiatives which were taken at the Panchayat level.

However, Shantanu notice that after few months, many villagers have started using the toilets as storerooms and are now defecating in open. Despite of huge investments, nothing has changed.

What shall Shantanu do in such situation? Explore various options.

Questions, suggestions and comments

  1. Profile photo of Dayanand Tendolkar Dayanand Tendolkar

    1) After winning puruaskar, hoarding showing efforts taken for achieving puruskar, photos of award ceremony, suggested ways to keep village clean and tagline that village should earn award every year since it is not question of award but question of health, pride, etc. should be put in Gram Sabha office so that people will always remember there legacy.
    2) Sensitisation of village of benefits of award.
    3) There should be meeting of gram sabha regarding such behaviour after achieving glorious success.

  2. Profile photo of Dayanand Tendolkar Dayanand Tendolkar

    1) Every regulatory agency has code of conduct for its employees in which conflict of interest clause is also mentioned. Tell her to keep in mind the clause while interacting with Mr. Raj
    2) If it comes to inspection of company in which Mr Raj is representative on a cautionary basis I will not assign her for the job. There should be separation of professionalism and personal relationship. This action does not implies that I have doubt on her integrity, but to sure that all possible negative outcomes if any eliminated.
    (first time writing, plss suggest improvement)

  3. Profile photo of Jayansh Singh Jayansh Singh

    #3. Open defecation is a societal evil, a behavioral problem. For ending this menace, mindsets of people must be changed. Ill effects of open defecation must be reinforced from every corner of the community. Efforts to eradicate this problem must primarily be community-centered. Some options that Shantanu could explore here are as follows –

    1. Focus on importance of community-led toilet construction activities instead of outside construction agencies in order to develop a sense of ownership among village people.

    2. Displaying a “Sanitation Status Board” outside the District Collector’s office showing sanitation profile of each panchayat. Worst performing communities can be indicated with red dots, those showing improvement with orange, and the best of the lot with green dots. Peer influence here can play a major role in changing mindsets and motivating other communities to adopt sanitary measures.

    3. Publicly shaming and embarrassing people who defecate in open.

    4. Holding seminars and workshops to educate villagers regarding the importance of sanitation and adverse effects of open defecation by highlighting spread of diseases like cholera, dysentery, etc.

    5. Holding training sessions for local masons in order to demystify the notion of costly construction of toilets by telling them the knowhow of toilet-construction with use of locally available construction materials at low cost.

    6. Giving a local flavor to the anti-open defecation campaign by using motivational slogans supporting close defecation in local languages.

    7. For increasing awareness, ration cards of people can be stamped with the campaign logo. Also, health practitioners can use this stamp on health prescriptions to educate patients and other people.

  4. Profile photo of Arun Muradnar Arun Muradnar

    #3. Here,basic problem is about mindsets(illiteracy) and behaviour of community.
    There are some good options –

    1)He can replicate Banka Bikano campaign which was successfully done in Bikaner for Open defecation free district.
    2)The Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach that will be focused on improving sanitation by addressing the root cause of open defecation — the attitudes and behaviour of people.
    CLTS, is good a tool to initiate the process of transformation through behavioural change.
    4) Innovative ideas to encourage community participation, especially among women.
    5) Push for monitoring community system, where community itself act as a watchdog to open defecation practices and can possibly reduces openly defecation practice.

    1. Profile photo of Rohit Pande Rohit Pande

      Whats the banka bikano?

      1. Profile photo of Arun Muradnar Arun Muradnar

        Here is link, IAS Arti dogra written about Bikaner’s success in ODF –

        1. Profile photo of Rohit Pande Rohit Pande

          Great stuff man – here’s a youtube video covering the same

          1. Profile photo of Arun Muradnar Arun Muradnar

            Yep, really inspirational story.

      2. Profile photo of Arun Muradnar Arun Muradnar

        Its a Community-led sanitation campaign in Bikaner, Rajasthan.
        Banko Bikano means, “brave and beautiful Bikaner”, the campaign under the central government’s national flagship rural sanitation program which began by equipping community leaders with skills and training necessary to help others in the community change behavior for sanitation.
        It is one of the most successful model under administration of IAS Arti Dogra, Bikaner’s District Collector.

  5. Profile photo of tom marvolo riddle tom marvolo riddle

    Case involves conflict of interest as Ms. Smriti’s husband is representative of a company which comes in her work-sphere and this can influence her decision making in clearance of chemicals or other undue advantage to company and Mr. Raj .
    For me as director it involves ethical dilemma as i shouldn’t interfere with her personal life but same time i have been entrusted with larger public responsibility .

    option 1 : let her continue .this will keep her morale high and will set good precedence that company believe in its employees but same time as regulatory agency director , my first duty is public safety .Also in cases of conflict of interest emotions and feelings can overcome logic and rationality .Even media or competitor can raise this issue and this will not be good for company reputation and brand .
    option 2 : Assign her new project as this will resolve the public safety issue but will be unfair to her as decision will be based on intuition rather than proven facts against her .
    option 3 : keep an eye on her work and take decision .It is risky , we can’t wait for damage to happen as issue is sensitive and involve public safety .
    option 4 : discuss the situation with her and let her take decision .As she will understand the issues and implications arising out of it .Let her make informed choice through healthy discussion and if she decides to continue being aware of the fact that management knows about her conflict of interest , this will act as strong deterrence for not indulging in unethical decision making or abuse of power .

    so will go with 4th option .

  6. Profile photo of Priya Patel Priya Patel

    a) shantanu with the help of other panchayat and literate youth people make campaign about benefit of using toilets.
    b)campaign about harmfull effect of not using toilets.
    c)aware children in the school by their teachers so that they can tell using benefit of toilets in their homes to their illiterate parents.
    d)applying economic punishment to the household who is using toilets as store rooms.
    5)and give appreciation and award to the people who is using toilets regularly. give them importants of nirman gram pruskar”

    1. Profile photo of Priya Patel Priya Patel

      6)make compulsory that only people who have toilets in their home can participate or can benefitted in various government programs.

      1. Profile photo of Amit Bhardwaj Amit Bhardwaj

        Priya shall it not be tantamount to making AADHAR compulsory for benefits. A provision stuck down by SC? Compulsion reeks of coercion. Does it?

        1. Profile photo of Dayanand Tendolkar Dayanand Tendolkar

          AADHAR was regarding privacy. But toilets is for heath for all. I think such compulsion should be there. When Bharati can compel her husband to build first toilet then she will live with him, why not state……

        2. Profile photo of Dayanand Tendolkar Dayanand Tendolkar

          AADHAR was regarding privacy. But toilets is for safety. I think such compulsion should be there. When Bharati can compel her husband to build first toilet then she will live with him, why not state……

  7. Profile photo of ALOK KUMAR ALOK KUMAR

    #3 various options are as follows :
    1. With the help of panchayat and educated men start educating the importance of sanitation. This team will comprise of lady . They will go door by door and make villagers to know the social evils due to open defacation.
    2. This team will be responsible for imposing fines who all are using toilet as a store room. Fine could be monetary or physical labor.
    3. Will have info through wall painting where people used to defacate.
    4. Awarding the villagers who had kept the toilet and environment clean and green.

    1. Profile photo of Amit Bhardwaj Amit Bhardwaj

      Hi Alok. Point number 1, good. But use more refined language like “door-to-door campaigning by a dedicated team of volunteers.” Also saves time and words for more points. Right?


    #3 here the main issue is the lack of knowledge of the villagers about the problems created due to open defecation.
    1. He should start awreness camps showing videos and documentary to the villagers about the hazards of open defecation
    2. Talk to the village heads and arrange skits and mime or street plays with some educated youths of the village

    1. Profile photo of Amit Bhardwaj Amit Bhardwaj


    2. Profile photo of Rini Sen Rini Sen

      #3. Nice points –

      I would add that he needs to understand the socio-cultural bias which people have against close defecation. Read in hindu newspaper that most of the people think that morning walk accompanied by open defecation is a daily routine.

      Also – we can think of doing some coercive measures like getting the community people walk those areas/ fields where they openly defecate – something like a walk of shame maybe?

  9. Profile photo of Simran Bains Simran Bains

    #1.I’ll have three options that could be done.
    *Since no harm has been done to the agency yet,so taking any action for Ms. Smriti’s relation would look unjust.
    *I can even talk with Smriti regarding this and tell her to keep her personal life segregated from her professional life.
    *I can switch Smriti from chemicals department from any other one. So that her personal life can go on at the right pace without hampering the professional interests.

    Since precaution is always better than cure. So I would talk in person with Ms. Smriti. And make her understand that if any fault done in her official work,can cost even her job. Creating an equilibrium between her professional and personal life would be the best choice for her as well as for the agency.

    Kindly review. 🙂

  10. Profile photo of Kanchan Dixit Kanchan Dixit

    1- I can assign some other officer on the task, as these chemicals would impact thousands of lives, hense risk can not be taken.
    2- As a senior i am not supposed to look into her personal life, if she has been competitive enough in her profession, i could ask her to be focused on the given responsibility.
    3- I can speak to her in person and explain her the importance and impacts of this monitoring, hence can fillip her conscience about her duties and ask her to be honest while doing this.
    4- I can personally vigilant her monitoring.

    1. Profile photo of Amit Bhardwaj Amit Bhardwaj

      Hi Kanchan. You have mentioned the options available to you but you have not answered what option shall you choose. In fact, the examiner might be more interested in second part as he/ she had to evaluate your conduct in the situation. Right?

      1. Profile photo of Kanchan Dixit Kanchan Dixit

        Yes…thanks for reviewing:) will keep this in mind.

  11. Profile photo of Simran Bains Simran Bains

    #3.Knowing that proper sanitation is the need of the hour and open defecation should be strictly dealt with,Shantanu should take strong actions.
    Fining the ones who,though have toilets in their homes still defecate in open.
    Calling up for volunteers to spread awareness among poor villagers regarding proper sanitation.
    Regular vigilance of the village should be done by Shantanu himself.

    PS-first encounter with this section of the mains syllabus. Please review this one. And point out where I went wrong.

  12. Profile photo of Er Beant Gill Er Beant Gill

    #1,As conflict of interest arises,I have following 3 options:
    1) Change that particular employee to some other work or section
    2)Keep on the same designation, but ask her to keep clear separation between personal and professional life
    3)Suggest her not to indulge in relation with that man
    As being on a senior most position I cant interfere into the personal life of my employees,so i go with option 2,and keep a strict vigil on her activities,f any inconsistency found i will warn her or immediately transfer her to some other work.

  13. Profile photo of Kaushal Garg Kaushal Garg

    what should be answer limit?

    1. Profile photo of Root Root

      Don’t worry about that just yet. Keep your answers in short points for now. You can always expand them and add literary finesse later.

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