New Delhi: Former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and retired IAS officer Tejendra Khanna Thursday said civil servants should be judged on the basis of honesty, courtesy and efficient use of vested authority.
Khanna was speaking at the launch of his new book ‘An Intent to Serve – A Civil Servant Remembers’, published by Harper Collins India, in New Delhi’s India International Centre.
A panel discussion was also organised on the occasion. It was moderated by ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, between the author, former L-G of Puducherry Kiran Bedi and former Delhi Police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
Speaking about his intent behind writing the book, Khanna said he wanted to share his journey for aspiring civil servants and tell them that earning the goodwill of common people is very important rather than “make compromises to please hierarchical superiors”.
“The basic attribute of any religion is love. Hence, anyone claiming to be a religious person must act out of a feeling of love towards fellow citizens. If our civil servants are inspired by this perspective, they are bound to treat everyone with respect, honesty and a spirit of helpfulness in any just cause,” Khanna said.
He added, “Civil servants do not have to seek votes to get appointed or continue in an office. Those who need such votes to occupy elective offices may wish to favour or nurture their support bases. Civil servants, however, should make sure they are treating all citizens at par.”
Khanna also said he had, in the past, suggested an exit poll system that would enable citizens to rate officials against three criteria – honesty, courtesy and efficient use of vested authority – during grievance redressal.
He said that government offices and agencies can also be rated on their degree of friendliness towards people. “Maintaining easy accessibility, listening to people with patience and respect and doing what best can be done to solve their problem can go a long way in bringing a favourable change in people’s perception of government offices,” he added.
Introducing the former L-G, Gupta said a full house on the occasion was a testament that Khanna has touched many lives with respect and kindness.
“He (Khanna) had every job in his career that was worth holding, and not always at the easiest time. Between 1981 to 1995 — for 15 years — the toughest cadre in India to be in was the Punjab cadre. He was also the L-G of Delhi during the Commonwealth Games,” Gupta said.
“Civil servants go through many situations in their lives and careers…Civil servants writing their memoirs is very important. This was a tradition that we borrowed from the Britishers. It had died for a while, but is now coming back,” Gupta added.
Meanwhile, former Delhi Police commissioner Kumar said he had the privilege of working with Khanna twice. Kumar particularly spoke of the time when he worked alongside Khanna during the Commonwealth Games.
“I was the face of Delhi Police in front of all the police organisations and their representatives who were camping in Delhi. To keep them at bay when they were trying to find faults was quite an experience. But everything was handled quite efficiently under his (Khanna’s) guidance,” Kumar said.
The former police chief also shared his experience of working with Khanna in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gangrape and murder when the entire city had erupted in protests.
“He stood by me during the ‘Nirbhaya’ crisis. The horrific incident had led to a public furor, and rightly so. He cut short his holiday in the US and returned to Delhi and called a press conference. When asked if I will be sacked, Khanna said he will not and showed full faith in me,” Kumar added.
Bedi, too, expressed gratitude towards Khanna.
“I didn’t know I was unintentionally being groomed for a future assignment (as the L-G of Puducherry), when I was working with Khanna in his Delhi L-G office. We successfully put up a grievance redressal system in the L-G office, something that was not done in any other L-G office at the time. Every call and letter that came to the L-G office was responded to,” she told the audience.
Speaking about his most challenging experience, Khanna said, “Punjab was definitely the most challenging assignment for me as there was a lot of violence going on in the state. Everyone was off the roads after 7 pm. When the elections were called, we had to do a lot of prior preparation.”
He also said that his assignment as the L-G of Delhi was also rewarding as he got to interact with many people on ground.