This article deals with the topic titled ‘Aptitude’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Aptitude?

  • Aptitude means an individual’s ability to acquire adequate training, some set of skills (like the ability to produce music, play boxing, or perform administrative functions). 
  • Aptitude is the ability to acquire proficiency in a given area and has a futuristic reference.
  • To become an officer in police, one needs mental and physical aptitude, whereas a sportsman requires psycho-motor coordination. The problem arises when one is in a profession not suited by their aptitude. A person becoming a cricketer because his father was great may not deliver the best results unless he has the aptitude required for the sport.

Attitude vs Aptitude

Attitude Aptitude
It is a person’s positive or negative feeling towards a person, object, event, idea or environment. It is an individual’s ability to acquire, with adequate training, some set of skills, like the ability to produce music or the ability to perform administrative functions.
Associated with character & values. Associated with competence & skills.
It is regarded as a predictor of one’s behaviour. It is the capacity or ability to acquire skill or knowledge on the basis of which future performance can be predicted.
It is largely a mental aspect. It involves both physical and mental aspects.
Attitude is hard to change and requires personal experience, cognitive dissonance, exposure etc. It can be changed relatively easily through learning, training and skill enhancement.

Why we want Civil Servants to be high on Aptitude?

  • If civil service machinery fails to deliver, the entire governance system is bound to fail.  
  • Also, due to the latest developments & fast-changing environment, Civil Servants must adapt to the situations rapidly and train in new skills at the fastest speed.  

Aptitude Required for Civil Servant

Three kinds of Aptitude are required from civil servant

  1. Intellectual Aptitude 
  2. Moral Aptitude  
  3. Emotional Aptitude 

Skill (Aptitude) + Value = Best Combination for Civil Servants

Value Skill For Society Type of person
Low Low Useless Minor thief
High Low Useful Honest ordinary person  
Low High Dangerous Corporate Thugs  

They should be detected & avoided from entering into civil services.

Examples of persons belonging to this category include
1. Nirav Modi: He scammed crores from banks by manipulating the system.
2. Satyam Scam: They manipulated their Balance Sheets Harshad Mehta: He was the wizard of commerce but used his knowledge for doing frauds.  
High High Most desirable Civil Services require this type of people.

For example, Persons like SR Sankaran and E Sreedharan.

‘Integrity without knowledge is useless, whereas knowledge without Integrity is dangerous.’ Comment  (UPSC Mains Question)

Foundational Values for Civil Servant


  • Value is the worth that we as individuals or society allocate to something. These are a set of standards-based on which we judge things as right or wrong. 
  • Civil Servants can use values for reaching decisions in a short period. For example: If the question arises about participation in the political rally, instead of testing his decision on various theories of ethics, they can quickly conclude not participating in it as ‘political neutrality is included in one of the foundational values.
  • There are many values, and which may be arranged in a hierarchy. In the case of conflict between the values, one tends to go with the higher value. For example, Gandhi regarded truth as the highest value, followed by non-violence.

Why do we need foundational values? / Why Civil Servants  should have high ethical standards

  • Civil Servants have extensive discretionary powers & they can misuse them unless they have a robust value system and self-restraint.  
  • Civil Servants are responsible for managing resources entrusted to them by the general public, directly or indirectly. 
  • They should always uphold the public trust, and for this, they should be a person of virtue. Foundational Values ensure this.
  • Various committees have recommended foundational values for civil services. The two prominent names are (1) Nolan committee and (2) Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC).

Nolan Committee (the UK, 1996)

  • Nolan Committee listed seven foundational values. These include
    1. Leadership
    2. Honesty
    3. Selflessness
    4. Openness
    5. Accountability
    6. Integrity
    7. Objectivity
  • Reasons, why the Indian Government didn’t copy foundational values of the Nolan Committee as such were  
    • Values are culture-specific. Civil Servants in Great Britain require the values suggested by the Nolan Committee, but the same values are not required in India. 
    • We can see that values like Compassion, Empathy, Tolerance etc., are missing, which are not required in a society like Britain as it is a rich 1st world country. But these values are needed in India. 
    • On the other hand, the value like Selflessness suggested by  Nolan Committee is not required in India because Indian Society is already a Collective Society. 

Recommendations of 2nd ARC

  • 2nd ARC has suggested making a Code of Ethics for Civil Servants
  • Along with that, it has suggested the following values to be imparted in Civil Servants)
    1. Integrity 
    2. Objectivity & Impartiality 
    3. Commitment to public service 
    4. Open accountability 
    5. Devotion to duty  
    6. Exemplary behaviour 

List of values  mentioned in the UPSC  GS4 Syllabus


  • Integrity is the integration of one’s inner values with outer actions. There will always be consistency (keyword) in a person’s behaviour, both with time and space. 
  • Quote – Integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is going to know whether you did it or not (Oprah Winfrey) 

Integrity includes following

  • What a person believes, what he says & what he does must be consistent. In India, what people believe is generally not in line with what they do. E.g., Corruption (all believe that it is terrible, but all indulge in it).
  • Having just 1 set of morality: In India, generally, people have two sets of morality: One based on which they judge their action and the other for judging the actions of others.  
  • The value system in itself should be rational. Examples of Rational Value Systems are Utilitarianism, Kantism etc. 

  • A person with integrity will never do the duties that his conscience doesn’t agree with. 
  • In historical figures
    • Socrates stands apart from all historical figures in integrity and is worth mentioning. He stood by his values and chose to die instead of doing something that his conscience didn’t allow. 
    • Raja Ram Mohan Roy stood for the rights of women and opposed Sati. For this, he had to face social ostracism. Even after that, he didn’t change his stance and continued to work for it.
    • Mahatma Gandhi: He ended the Non-Cooperation Movement due to violence during Chauri Chaura Incident.

(2017 UPSC: One of the tests of integrity is complete refusal to be compromised. Explain using a real-life example.) 

Types of Integrity

There are three types of Integrity

Moral Integrity Moral Consistency, i.e. consistency in applying the same moral principles to determine right and wrong. 
Intellectual Integrity Being consistent wrt one’s viewpoints and opinions.
Plagiarism, infringing someone’s intellectual property rights etc., shows a lack of intellectual integrity.
Organisational / Professional Integrity What are the organisation’s values that become the values of the person working in that organisation / Profession, i.e. Integration of Organisational / Professional Values with a Person’s values. 
It involves following the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics of the organisation.

Integrity for Civil Services

  • According to Nolan Committee, holders of public office shouldn’t place themselves under such financial or any other obligation which might interfere with their official duties.
  • As a civil servant of integrity, 
    1. You must fulfil your duties responsibly.
    2. You must make sure public money is used correctly & efficiently.
    3. You must comply with the law & uphold the administration of justice.
    4. You must not misuse your official position. 
    5. You must not disclose information to others, and this continues to apply after one leaves service.

How to inculcate integrity?

  • Training: Civil Servants are trained for this. 
  • Through Model Learning: If a young recruit is posted under an honest officer, his likelihood of remaining honest increases.  
  • Reward and Punishment: Appropriate behaviour must be rewarded to consolidate a newly developed value, while inappropriate must be punished by adopting a ‘carrot and stick’ policy.
  • Sensitivity Training: Under this kind of training, the person learns the desired value through role-playing to understand its nuances.
  • Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct: 2nd ARC recommends setting up a code of ethics for all government departments. It’ll have a broad principle- that all participants have to follow, and its reports will be given and evaluated by the departmental head.
  • Integrity testing: A random officer is selected and given a Bribe to check their integrity in integrity testing. It is different from CBI Raid. In contrast to CBI raids which are rare, Integrity Testing is done very frequently, and hence Public Officials are always afraid while taking bribes from any person.


  • Honesty is being truthful & open.
  • Honesty is a subset of Integrity. To be integral, one has to be honest, but not vice-versa.  

For civil servants, Honesty includes

  • You must set out the facts & relevant issues truthfully & correct any errors as soon as possible. 
  • You must use resources for the purpose it was provided.
  • You must not mislead ministers or others. 
  • You must not be influenced by pressure from others. 


  • It is the opposite of subjectivity. It simply means not taking any sides.
  • Objectivity means basing your decisions on empirical evidence & rigorous analysis of the issue. 
  • Being impartial, though, is very difficult. People have their biases about most things.
  • Civil Servant shouldn’t make a decision based on their values and emotions. On the contrary, it should be based only on facts and merits.

Why Objectivity is important for Civil Servants?

  • Civil Servants have large discretions (eg: during selection/ recruitment/ posting/ transfer/ promotion) . They must always take decisions based on merits and facts so that all the decisions look fair.
  • While selecting an agency for contract/tendering, they should decide objectively so that public interests are served in the best possible manner (Nolan Committee). 
  • Information & advice provided to the ministers should be objective and not based on the emotions & beliefs of Civil Servants.

How to inculcate objectivity in Civil Servants?

  • Training: In training, officers are taught to think objectively.
  • Reduce discretions: The number of discretions should be minimal. Civil servants should function based on some written rules, regulations, and laws to eliminate or reduce the discretions.
  • Provisions like Grievance Redressal Mechanism and social audit should be utilised.
  • Robust Information & data management systems: officers can take Objective decisions only if they have data and stats to arrive at a particular conclusion.
  • According to Nolan Committee, the requirement of recording the reasons behind any action or decision will ensure that decisions are not subjective.
  • Increase Transparency: For example, the right to information act. Officers will fear to take decisions based on his emotions and beliefs because, in future, they can be questioned about why they took this particular decision.

Impartiality and Non-Partisanship

  • Impartiality means to act without bias of client nature (rich vs poor) or social pressure (caste, religion etc.) solely on the merits of the case. 
  • It often requires public servants to refrain from opinions, positions or actions that demonstrate a bias toward or against a particular cause.  
  • It includes serving equally governments of different political orientations, irrespective of the civil servant’s personal opinion.
  • Impartiality requires that civil servants carry out their official work, like procurement, based only on merit.
  • It is especially required in India because our society is divided on caste and religious lines. Civil servants also come from the same community and have caste, religious and linguistic affiliations. But if he remains conscious of these affiliations, he can’t act impartially.

Political Neutrality

  • A civil servant shouldn’t be associated with any political party or ideology. The values of the Civil Servant should flow from the constitution, not from the philosophy of any political party.
  • Civil Servants in India don’t change with change in government. Hence, they are expected to cooperate with the political party in power without any bias. Civil Servants should implement the given policy as it is without any personal considerations.
  • At the same time, the bureaucrat must not hesitate to correct the politician or provide an honest opinion. Their job is not to be a ‘Yes-man’ or a ‘committed bureaucrat’.
  • Political neutrality doesn’t mean politicized bureaucracy, where the administrative system functions only to serve the narrow interest of the political party in power—for example, the functioning of the administrative system in Nazi Germany.

Political Neutrality is of two types

1 . Passive neutrality

  • Officer following Government directives even if they are against law and constitution. But in this, he may end up violating some legal/constitutional provisions.

2. Active neutrality

  • Allegiance of Civil Servant is towards Constitution and General People. Officer will do what constitution, rules, laws and office manual says, without following any particular party.
  • But sometimes, it leads to civil services activism.

Do’s and Don’ts in Conduct rules for Neutrality

Dos Serve the Government to the best of your ability no matter what your own political beliefs are.
Don’t Civil Servant
1. Must not give election funds to any political party.
2. He can vote but must not tell his preference to other people.
3. Must not display any election symbols on his personal vehicle or home.

Political Neutrality is  in danger

  • The present age is an age of corruption and nepotism. The number of civil servants following political neutrality is minuscule.
  • During elections, politicians spend crores. Hence, when they come into power, they want to earn crores. In such a situation, political bosses want Civil Servants who bend according to the needs of politicians.
  • Even within services, there is rivalry (IAS vs IPS). These ‘lobbies’ can favour the Political Party if it appears to be beneficial for their group.
  • Caste or religion-based parties prefer Officers of their group creating In-Groupism. 
  • During emergencies, Civil Servants completely neglected this principle. To quote Shah Commission, ” Bureaucrats crawled even where slight bending was required.” 

Arguments against Neutrality

  • Political Neutrality promotes Status Quoist Attitude. Civil Servants aren’t committed enough to carry significant reforms.’ 
  • In the US, President has his executive, which is co-terminus with the tenure of the President.  
  • How Indian society is structured, it is tough to be Politically Neutral. This concept works well in western cultures.
  • In developing societies, there are weaker sections that the administration must support. In this context, one of our former Prime Ministers said, “In developing countries, civil servants, to be genuinely neutral, has to take the side of the poor.”

Conclusion: Just as the absence of democracy would lead to the destruction of individual rights, similarly, a lack of neutrality would cause chaos in the functioning of public administration. Therefore, this ideal is worth pursuing.


  • The bureaucrat is supposed to 
    • Work with anonymity, i.e. they should work behind the curtain. 
    • They should avoid going to the media to air their grievances or differences of opinion.
    • They usually don’t get credit for the success, nor they are blamed for the failure. It is usually the political executive who gets applaud for success and criticism for failure.  
  • The first case which clearly defined this principle was the Mundhra deal scam (1957). Chagla commission constituted to deal with it held that Minister T.T.Krishnamachari is constitutionally responsible for the actions of his secretary (H.M.Patel).

Dedication to Public Service

  • Dedication to public service means a person should have inner motivation or passion for working in the larger public interest. 
  • It is the commitment with passion and the personal urge to do something without any external formal instrument to enforce that urge.
  • It helps him while working in adversities. E.g., If posted in a Naxalite area or far-flung rural area. 

Why is this important in present times? 

  • Today we are moving towards a consumeristic society. There is a general lack of compassion, concern & devotion for others & the community. Everyone wants to achieve their worldly ambitions & civil services are considered by many to achieve that.  
  • Without it, civil servants would find it difficult to perform their duties under challenging situations.

Note: It has been found on several occasions that while the bureaucracy responds to crises with efficacy and has admittedly made major contributions in strengthening our democratic polity, there is often tardiness and failure on its part to deal with normal situations and with citizens sensitively and responsively. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is the belief in the civil services that its authority and legitimacy are derived not from the people’s mandate but from an immutable corpus & rules that it has prescribed for itself.



Empathy is the ability to understand & share the feelings (emotions) of others. It is the power of entering into other’s situation & imaginatively experiencing other person’s feelings. Empathy is to blur the line between self and others. 

  • Earlier, philosophers believed that man is a rational animal and humans make decisions based on rationality (as shown by Aristotle’s statement – “Man is a rational animal “)
  • But present belief is that Man is a Social & Emotional animal (along with Rational Animal). They describe the man as Homo Empathicus and believe that emotions have a role to play in human decisions. 


  • Sympathy is based on belief and cognitive aspects
  • Example: If some beggar comes to you and you give him some money without feeling anything. You just thought that since he is begging and poor, you should give him some money to eat food (without any emotional feeling at all).


  • It has both cognitive and emotional aspects (emotion can be because you have faced that situation, or you can imagine another person’s situation even if you haven’t encountered such a situation in the past). Simply put, empathy means putting yourself in their shoes & feel what they must be feeling in the circumstances they are facing. 
  • It is not just knowing what poverty is, but the power to enter into a poor man’s situation to experience how hard his life is. 
  • Empathy is a better indicator of behaviour since it is a stronger attitude than sympathy.
  • Empathy is one of the many bases of pro-social behaviour and altruism. 
  • Note – Empathy is associated not only with sad feelings but happy feelings as well. Celebrating the festival with people of other religion/ culture is such an example.
  • We talk about empathy most commonly as a single attribute. But a close look reveals three distinct kinds, each important for leadership effectiveness:
  1. Cognitive empathy— the ability to understand another person’s perspective;
  2. Emotional empathy—the ability to feel what others feel;
  3. Empathic concern — the ability to sense what others need for someone.


  • Altruism is always related to ‘action’.
  • Altruism is one step ahead of Empathy. In Empathy, you can understand other’s situations, but in Altruism, you know as well as working to improve other’s conditions. 
    • You recovered from cancer and feel pain for other cancer patients; that is Empathy.
    • Subsequently, if you build a charitable cancer hospital, that is Altruism.
  • Empathy is one of the bases of Altruism, but there are many more. A person may be doing charity to avoid tax. 


  • It is one step ahead of empathy.
  • Compassion means “to suffer together”. It is not just how poor man’s family sleeps without eating food at night but desire to help them come out of poverty (it is possible that you don’t work on that even after having desire. It would still be considered Compassion). It is about intention.
  • If we rank them: sympathy < empathy < compassion. Hence, Compassion is a better predictor of behaviour than empathy
  • Empathy means understanding another person’s pain/feeling. It can be for everyone higher or lower than you. But Compassion is targeted towards weaker beings.
  • Examples of Empathy  
    • Mother Teresa left her own country to serve the poor in Kolkata.
    • Buddhism teaches the practice of Compassion, called karuna.
  • Civil servants are the agents of change. Therefore, Compassion is ranked as one of the great virtues for civil servants, which has a bearing on the functioning of the administration and society. Compassion drives the civil servant to help people and ensure the welfare of people.

Why Indian Civil Servants should have Empathy as Foundational Value?

During the British Raj, those deployed in Indian Civil Services (ICS) were among the sharpest and intelligent brains within the whole Empire. But ultimately, what they left on the eve of independence was a trail of misery and famine caused deaths. Indian Administrative Services was just a continuation of ICS, but we wanted them to help the poor implement various welfare schemes. Therefore, empathetic officers were the need of the hour in modern-day administration targeted towards inclusive growth. Imparting Empathy in them is essential in such a situation.

This is the reason why Empathy has been one of the foundational values of Civil Servants. Empathy will trigger altruistic behaviour and, they will try to help the poor.

How to teach empathy?

  • Sensitivity training: Role-playing games that involve putting on another person’s shoes.
  • Open conversation: Interacting with people of different sections of society in a relaxed environment.
  • Following the Indian philosophy of Sarvadharma Sambhav like celebrating festivals of different cultures or religions.
  • Art and literature: They can also sensitize people about the conditions of some specific group of people.
  • Cultivation of interest in other cultures means extending our knowledge of unfamiliar ways of life and appreciating the underlined ethical values.
  • Using art, theatre, cinema and literature: People living in Cities don’t know about the hardships of people living in a remote tribal village in Jharkhand. In such a situation, these mediums can help to portray their miserable condition. E.g., Pathar Panchali movie beautifully depicts poverty in Villages. 
  • Celebrate the festivals together like Eid, Diwali etc. 


Some of the attributes of a leader are

  1. Motivate others
  2. Enrol others in their vision 
  3. Persuasive 
  4. Visionary 
  5. Communicator (so that he can communicate his vision to masses) 
  6. Lead by example 
  7. Courageous (in decision making & actions) 
  8. Consensus building ability 
  9. Emotionally Intelligent

Example of leadership 

  • Singapore’s rapid success from a poor island to the most developed country in the world was possible due to the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew.
  • Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi are examples of leaders who enrolled others in their vision of independence for their respective nations and led by example and courage.


  • Tolerance is a fair, objective & permissive attitude toward those opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation etc., which differ from one’s own.
  • Tolerance means a fair and objective outlook towards those whose lifestyle differs from a person. 
  • Tolerance, as an essential attitude, usually develops under the following conditions:-
    • Awareness of plural truth claims. 
    • Spiritual autonomy or inner freedom.
    • Awareness of distinction between subjective & objective truth.
    • Respect for other minds or persons.
    • Capacity for empathy.
  • In Jainism, tolerance is captured in the ideal of Syaadavaada, which means that every view is correct from its perspective, but no particular view is right.

Why is it needed?

  • A tolerant society is a sine qua non for the lasting peace of the community. 
  • Tolerance encourages freedom of expression, which is necessary for the perusal of truth and progress. Without it, one cant express differing views freely, and thereby the society would become status-quo and decadent, where new inventions can’t occur.
  • It is necessary to uphold the moral worth of every individual, as according to J.S. Mill, all individuals have equal moral worth, and therefore should be allowed to express their views without any constraint.
  • Human development is possible only when we allow everyone to express their views and pursue their interest.
  • In a diverse society like ours, civil servants are required to serve all the sections equally well, which is not possible if they are not tolerant.

Compassion towards weaker section

  • Compassion means “to suffer together.” 
  • Compassion is the feeling that arises in person when he observes another person’s suffering and feels motivated to remove suffering.
  • Compassion is different from empathy. Empathy means the ability to feel other’s emotions, while compassion means when those feelings include the desire to help. 

Why should we practice compassion? 

  • Employees working under compassionate leaders are more committed to their work and organisation.
  • Compassionate acts activate the pleasure circuits of the brain and rejuvenate the person.
  • Compassion helps in making better relationships.
  • Persons high on compassion are socially adept and less vulnerable to isolation.