Bureaucrats on social media age
Incidents of misbehaviour, involving young IAS officers and other bureaucrats, are on the rise in many states. While their unruly behaviour within the four wall of their department concerned by and large goes unreported because of obvious reasons, such conduct in public domain always draws attention of public in general as well as the media. Social media takes it further—leading to trolling. Besides, many bureaucrats are also using the social media like Facebook and twitter not only to express their personal views but also to post such contents either to please the government of the day or to express their displeasure against the system.
An MBBS doctor-turned IAS officer Jagdish Sonkar was in the midst of a social media storm after a photo of him–standing with a foot resting on the steel rail of a hospital bed — went viral. The public anger against him was mainly because he, being a medical practitioner, should not have conducted himself like this in a hospital. Later, Sonkar tendered an apology on the Facebook.
There were numerous other incidents in many states in which IAS officers, particularly young officers, involving in conduct unbecoming of an officer in general public. The All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 ensure that officers maintain “high ethics” and “political neutrality” while discharging their duty. The rule says “Every member of the Service shall maintain high ethical standards, integrity and honesty, political neutrality; promoting of the principles of merit, fairness and impartiality in the discharge of duties and accountability and transparency.”
With social media becoming popular, its had cast its impact on the bureaucracy also. There is no ban on bureaucrats posting on Facebook or Twitter as along as their social media posts or online behaviour is well within the frame work of the conduct rules.
The culture of a social media savvy company is the opposite of the culture of bureaucracy. But, as a senior bureaucrat in Chhattisgarh, put it on his Facebook “Time has come to clarify civil servants/government officials’ “Right to freedom of speech in social media”. There is nothing called absolute unlimited freedom of speech for anyone without reasonable restrictions. Everyone, journalists, lawyers’ politicians, students and professors have reasonable restrictions unique to their respective fields. Members of civil services police and military services do have more restrictions other than those governing other sections of the society”.
The government on its part needs to do something urgently to deal with social media. Start with education. Offer training to the entire officers and staff about what social media is, why it works, how it can help the government better fulfill its mission. Create a social media team that represents many different departments. Make sure it includes real decision-makers on the team. Periodically hold trainings about social media and its do and don’ts.