As the Housing society in Faircity, an older community in Honestopolis, is in a dilapidated state, the Municipal Corporation of Honestopolis (MCH) has declared the area appropriate for redevelopment appointing you as project director. You have a team of two specialists, Prateek and Tarun, and the mandate is to determine which of the houses should be rehabilitated and which must be demolished. Prateek and Tarun, report to you about Mrs. Sudha, who has lived in project area 1 for thirty years. Mrs. Sudha is now eighty-five years old, her husband is deceased and the little money her husband left her with has been so battered by inflation that it barely meets her basic living expenses. She has been neglecting the repairs on her home, which is now in a pretty bad shape. They sum up the condition of the house by admitting that according to the standards they have been applying elsewhere in the first project area, Mrs. Sudha’s home should be demolished and she be relocated somewhere else. However, Prateek cannot bring himself to recommend the destruction of the old woman’s home. He tells you that he knows what the law requires and what the MCH project guidelines specify, but it seems wrong. He argues that “Elderly people, when relocated often lapse into senility and sometimes death. We should not treat decent people who have worked hard all their lives as though they were disposable trash just because they do not fit in certain guidelines. ” However, Tarun does not agree. He feels as strongly as Prateek but not in the same way. “It is too bad about Mrs. Sudha, and all the Mrs. Sudhas who get caught in her predicament, but there is nothing we can do about it,” says Tarun. He tells you that MCH’s job is to rehabilitate the houses when it can and demolish when it cannot, and there are laws and rules and standards that must govern those decisions. He insists that we cannot go around making exceptions; we have to be fair with everyone and that means treating everyone equally. There must be no special favours, or everyone will demand an exception, and nothing will get done The only way is to follow the rules. What would be your objective responsibility in this case? Also, clarify what is your subjective responsibility? What would be your future course of action? Is there any other essential information that you would need in order to arrive at a suitable decision? If yes, what could be this information?


1st Approach

First, consider the facts concerning your objective responsibility:

  1. The laws and MCH project guidelines related to demolition and redevelopment projects authorize the demolition of substandard structures. If the owner cannot or will not make the necessary repairs, the building may be torn down.
  2. The criteria for determining substandard buildings are well defined in the MCH’s guidelines for such projects.
  3. You may be responsible to the higher authorities, say your immediate superior, for recommending which buildings should be demolished and which rehabilitated. If it looks as though this case will be a matter of dispute or if you cannot resolve the issue in your mind, you may have to discuss it with them.
  4. If you are not sure what your responsibility for upholding the public interest requires of you in this case, you need to ascertain how the public, at least in the Faircity area, feels about it.

Then you review in your mind what you know about Mrs. Sudha’s case and what essential information you need to obtain. 

You may feel reasonably confident at least about the following:

  1. From Prateek’s description, the house probably falls into the demolition category. Prateek did not try to soften the hard realities of its condition, and Tarun concurred.
  2. Because the house is in such a bad shape and Mrs. Sudha’s financial status is quite weak, she is unlikely to qualify for a bank loan large enough to do the repairs required to avoid demolition.
  3. If demolition takes place, Mrs. Sudha could not afford to rebuild on the present site. She will most likely have to be rehabilitated.
  4. If MCH condemns the house for demolition, Mrs. Sudha will receive compensation for it; maybe the full market value.

You feel much less certain about several other aspects of the case. You believe that you need to clarify the following:

  1. How does Mrs. Sudha feel about the situation? Prateek is deeply concerned about saving her house, but not once did he report her viewpoint. It would be a good idea to stop by and hear her reactions first hand. Maybe she would like to move into a place that she could manage better.
  2. Can she handle a change in residence? What are her mental, emotional and physical states? Is she in a reasonably good health? You know that Prateek is right about the serious negative impact of moving on some older people.
  3. Is Mrs. Sudha truly an exceptional case? Are there other elderly people in the project area who face the same threat? Maybe they should be considered as a group.
  4. How do people in the community feel about Mrs. Sudha’s case? Without violating her privacy, is it possible to assess how others believe their interests might be served or subverted by the way her case is handled?

Finally, you may reflect on your own personal inclinations. You attempt to clarify in your own mind what your subjective responsibility is with respect to Mrs. Sudha. You may/may not realize one or more of the following:

  • Your general attitude towards older people is one of deep respect. Since your boyhood days with your grandparents, you have felt almost a reverence for those who have survived the vicissitudes of the modern world. They evoke within you a deferential feeling.
  • This attitude is composed of a number of beliefs. You view older people as having “paid their dues”, as having worked hard and deserving our esteem for having done so. You believe young people often do not recognize the valuable knowledge and experience that older people have accumulated. You believe that the elderly are often ignored and mistreated. They generally do not receive what is coming to them.
  • Behind these beliefs are some values you have long recognized within yourself. Wisdom about life in the world, based on knowledge and experience, is important to you. Getting the most out of the time allotted to one is something about which you feel deeply. Perseverance in the face of hardship is a significant virtue in your value system. Fairness, or equity, is one of the most essential principles of all. Sensitivity to the feelings of others is another of your values.

On the basis of these reflections, you conclude that your strongest sense of subjective responsibility leads you in the direction of trying to resolve the problem without harming Mrs. Sudha in any way. You do not want to disturb her life. However, you have other obligations too. You are the administrator responsible for making a recommendation about Mrs. Sudha’s house. You are paid to do that by MCH, and you made a commitment to carry out that responsibility when you accepted the job. It is your objective responsibility, and as long as you hold this position, you may not ignore it. 

Also, you have other subjective responsibilities associated with your administrative role. You feel responsible for maintaining morale and a cooperative team spirit among staff members. You value efficiency, and you believe these qualities are essential for an efficient organization. You also feel responsible for avoiding conflict with the residents of Faircity, both because that would upset the orderly schedule of work and lead to reduced efficiency and because you value the esteem of others. You want the residents to feel that you have been fair with them. Further, you feel responsible to your superior for maintaining the image of the agency. Loyalty to the organization is important to you. In determining the best course of action, you may simply respond to the strongest and most definitive sources of objective responsibility – perhaps your superior, the law, or both if they coalesce. Or you may allow deep-seated feelings to function as the decisive factors.

2nd Approach

Objective responsibility

  • People in the same situation should be treated alike. But, if people are not in the same situation than treating them alike shall amount to discrimination.
  • Another responsibility is towards the law, in this case, the law regarding the relocation. I have to follow it because it is in the interest of people only. If the old and weak house of Mrs Sudha breaks due to earthquake etc, it will be detrimental to the lady.
  • My responsibility lies with Municipal Corporation which appointed me. For every action I am answerable to it.
  • My responsibility lies with my subordinates – Tarun and Prateek. I should not do anything which can make them unlawful or unsympathetic toward the people.
  • My responsibility also lies towards the citizens of the country. I have to responsible for all the stakeholders involved in this case – the lady, her neighbour, etc.


Subjective responsibility

My value system is such that I uphold the goodness of the society. I have learned from my training and experience, the marginalized sections like old age people deserve special care. I also believe that I follow the law very strictly but exceptions can be made with the compelling reasons. That reasons should be such that I can defend myself if any penal action is followed against me. 


Other essential information that I need

  • What are the provisions in which any exceptions to the law can be made?
  • Which is the authority that can grant the exceptions?
  • How the extra benefits can be given to the lady at the place of relocations?
  • Who are the other stakeholders involved in the case?
  • Is there a way by which her house can be strengthened without breaking it?
  • What are the actions that can be imposed on me if law is violated?


Future course of action

I will consult with all the stakeholders involved and try to assess the net benefit and loss for all the alternatives.

If exception is possible in the law, I shall not demolish the house because the lady has to suffer in the old age. If exception is not possible then what are the actions for the exception? If the punishment is not major then also I will not demolish the house. If these are not there, then I will demolish the house and relocate her. But at the same time, I will also try that she can get extra benefits so that she can sustain for the rest of her life. I will also teach Tarun and Prateek that law shall never be violated except in very compelling situations. The compelling situations can be assessed with empathy toward the society esp. the disadvantaged sections. I will also convey

them that for the violation, they should be ready for the administrative actions. Thus, they should assess their defense as well.


3rd Approach

In this case, demolition is necessary because it is stated by both the specialists that house is not in a condition to repair. So for larger benefit of the community as a whole, the house needs to be demolished. But we can look for welfare schemes available in Faircity for elderly, so that Mrs. Sudha can be benefitted.


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