Ethics and Values: Indian Context

Ethics and Values: Indian Context (We will discuss this aspect in detail in the section of Indian Moral thinkers)

In the Indian context, there is a rich heritage of religious influences on ethics and moral values. The ancient texts have emphasized the importance of ethics and moral values in governance. In ancient India there are two broad sources of ethical exhortations in the Indian tradition – Veda texts and the epic texts (Ramayana and the Mahabharata). Both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata contain explicit instances elaborating on right conduct for civil servants.


Chiefly ministers ought to be honest, faithful, intelligent and well versed in secular and sacred law, willing to offer advice, bold, free of jealousies towards each other and allied to their political masters (i.e. King). Maharishi Valmiki has underscored a very basic principle of governance in simple words – Yatha Raja Tatha Praja (As the ruler does, so do the citizens of his country). The general erosion in values, ethics, morality or integrity that is seen in a society only mirrors the character of those who run the affairs of that society.

Bhagwad Gita

Summary of the ethics of action in the Bhagwad Gita is as follows :

    • Performance of all actions requires right intention, without prejudice to the good consequences (fame, wealth) that come from those actions.
    • Actions in short are the product of work motivated by duty.
    • The preference for actions independent of desires for “worldly” benefits has important implications for the concepts of efficiency and effectiveness.

Kautilya’s’ Arthashastra

Evidence of the modern administrative character of the Arthashastra comes most through Kautilyas’ expressions of efficiency, described in a unique imagery of corrupt officials improperly eating the wealth of the state.

    • Kautilyas’ concept of efficiency – It depends on an extensive elaboration of efficiency-guaranteeing techniques. Kautilya makes quite clear the link between civil service malfeasance and the reduction in wealth. Contravening the standards of efficiency was among the highest ills that a civil servant could commit in Kautilyas’ state.
    • Kautilya believed that “men are naturally fickle minded” and are comparable to “horses at work who exhibit constant change in their temper”. This means that honesty is not a virtue that would remain consistent life long and the temptation to make easy gains through corrupt means can override the trait of honesty any time. Similarly, he compared the process of generation and collection of revenue by officials with honey or poison on the tip of the tongue, which becomes impossible, not to taste.
    • Vigilance and Transparency – He prescribed a strict vigil even over the superintendents of government departments in relation to the modus operandi of work. Kautilya reflected serious concerns about opacity in the operations of the world of the corrupt. Illegal transactions were so shrouded in mist that he compared embezzlers to fish moving under water and the virtual impossibility of detecting when exactly the fish is drinking water. He also noted that while it is possible to ascertain the movements of bird flying in the sky, it is difficult to gauge the corrupt activities of government officials.
    • 40 kinds of embezzlement – In all these cases, the concerned functionaries such as the treasurer, the receiver, the payer, the person who caused the payment and the ministerial servants were to be separately interrogated. In case any of these officials were to lie, their punishment was to be enhanced to the level meted out to the chief officer mainly responsible for the crime. After the enquiry, a public proclamation was to be made asking the common people to claim compensation in case they were aggrieved and suffered from the embezzlement.
    • Corruption in the judicial administration – He prescribed the imposition of varying degrees of fines on judges – trying to proceed with a trial without evidence, unjustly maintaining silence, threatening, defaming and abusing the complainants, arbitrarily dismissing responses provided to questions raised by the judge himself, unnecessarily delaying the trial and giving unjust punishments.
    • Whistleblowing – Any informant who provided details about financial wrong-doing was entitled to an award of one-sixth of the amount in question. If the informant happened to be a government servant, he was to be given only one twelfth of the total amount as it was considered to be the duty of the government servant to strive towards corruption free society.

We have learnt the relationship of ethics with other domains such as, Law, Religion and Value system in detail. These concepts are very important from exam point of view. Readers are requested to understand the concept clearly with repeated reading. Now we will figure who subject matter of ethics changes with its interaction with Human Interface;