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UPSC IAS Main Exam 2015 : Ethics Model Questions and Answers

Dec 4, 2015 19:26 IST

    Q1. "A weak man is just by accident. A strong but non-violent man is unjust by accident" – Mahatma Gandhi
    "At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love" - Martin Luther King Jr.
    Explain what you understand from each of these quotes and how they are similar and different?
    A1. Gandhiji - Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. A weak man cannot be usually just. The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. He may at times do something just "by accident". It is not a great act.
    Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong. Gandhiji showed the strength of the principle and practice of non-violence. The strong and non-violent man bears patience which the weak cannot. To lose patience is to lose the battle.



    MLK - Love is the essence of non-violence. Nonviolence is a powerful philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of physical violence. The practice of nonviolence calls for peaceful active behavior in the midst of conflict. At its core, nonviolence embodies respect, and even love, for one’s opponents. The practice recognizes and utilizes the importance of dialogue without the use of physical threat or coercion in negotiating and problem-solving.
    The first quotation places non-violence at a higher pedestal as a prerequisite for ‘justness’.
    The second quotation refers to love as a prerequisite for non-violence.

    They are basically a different take on the same virtue of non-violence.

    Q2. Does the banning of porn protect culture and morality? Is watching porn an unethical act?
    A2. Cultural and Moral Dimensions
    "Kama" is considered as one of the 4 important activities of life in Indian philosophical system.
    Porn may satisfy one's sexual cravings, without harming anyone. Actors indulge through consent. Child pornography should be opposed vehemently.
    Ethical dimensions
    Rights vs. Roots
    •    Freedom of internet – necessary,
    •    right to freedom to do something within the four walls of the house without violating any law,
    •    impact on traditional mindset
    Varied impact on crime – increases or decreases (difference of outcomes from different studies)
    •    ventilation for desires,
    •    may also cause arousal of passions
    Ethical dilemma for government
    •    Banning brought more people exposed to pornography and more specific websites
    •    Discrete action could cause lack of transparency
    Mere blocking of some pornographic websites may not stop, or even reduce, the sexual violence that’s taking place against women and children. Societal values keep changing and laws need to keep pace with it.
    Q3.  “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual.” –Abdul Kalam. What do you think are the characteristics of an ideal teacher? How important is the role of teachers in inculcating values in society. Discuss with examples.
    A3. Students, specifically children, are citizens of the future. Teachers have the opportunity and capability to sketch the future society.
    Characteristics of an ideal teacher are:-
    •    Should be a student herself
    •    Open to questions
    •    Optimistic and lively personality
    •    Creative
    •    Noble in thoughts who not only teaches moral lessons to students but also follows them in her daily life- exemplary lifestyle
    •    Helps in developing analytical ability in students
    •    Provides value based education
    •    Develops emotional intelligence in students
    •    Emphasizes on ethics, irrespective of circumstances
    •    Preaches tolerance, having respect for elders and women.
    •    Derives motivation from success of students and not merely money
    •    Has compassion for less capable students

    By instilling values of compassion, empathy, responsibility, truthfulness through words and actions, teachers can build up a strong foundation for a strong society. It is for this reason that in our prayers and scriptures, "guru" has been given a status equal to god.


    Q4. Code of conduct is a “coercive, quick-fix strategy”. It reduces ethics to legalism by focusing on both the ‘lowest common values’ and ‘penalties for deviations’. Discuss

    A4. Approach – The lacunae related to Code of Conduct. Provide some suggestions to improve the effectiveness of Code of Conduct.
    Answer- Studies show that Code of Conduct has increased ethical conduct of individuals in organization. Codes of Conduct are often rule based and are found in laws, statutes or executive orders.
    They are: top-down, imposed, with no advice from executive. Mere formulation does not establish compliance.
    Required-
    •    Promoting philosophy of excellence, exercise of judgment and sense of personal responsibility
    •    Acknowledgment of ambiguities and complexities of public service
    •    Provision of interpretive frameworks to clarify decision-making dilemmas
    •    An ethical set of rules to judge the actions against the standards of Code of Conduct
    Thus, training and development and creation of work culture promoting ethos, efficiency, effectiveness and equity could prove complementary.

    Q5. “All justice involves discrimination” – Aristotle. How far do you subscribe to this view?
    A5. Prevalence of inequalities in society- social, cultural, economic and political. Mostly privileged have capability to move ahead while the unprivileged do not get opportunity.
    Indian constitution provides positive discrimination.
    Other instances of discrimination:
    •    Private educational institutions making special arrangements in admission procedure
    •    Religious institution making reservations for their community members
    •    Reservation in public administration or govt.
    The discrimination should be gauged and managed to move towards eliminating inequality legally. Policies should come with a substantive sunset clause.  Political mileage should not be reaped from reservations. Ambedkar himself suggested only 10 years of reservation policy.
    Still, positive discrimination and affirmative action is a necessity to attain an equal and just society.
    “No greater injustice than equal treatment of the unequal”- Thomas Jefferson.


    Q6. If corruption exists even in rich, economically successful countries, why should developing countries like India be worried about it?
    A6. Contrast in characteristics of corruption in developed and developing countries:
    •    Corruption in India is upstream, not downstream.  Corruption at top distorts fundamental policy decisions.
    •    Corruption money in India has wings. Most of the corrupt earnings are smuggled to safe havens abroad. In other countries, a greater proportion of this capital flight goes into business and investment, not foreign accounts.
    •    Corruption in India, often leads to promotion, not prison. The big fish rarely fry.
    •    Corruption in developing countries occurs with millions of people in poverty. It may be tolerable, though reprehensible, in rich economies, but in developing countries, it could take hundreds of human lives.
    •    Acceptance of corruption as an inexorable reality
    Stimulation of social conscience is required.

    Q7. Tolerance is soul of a country and harmony is strength. Explain the significance in reference to modern world, especially India.

    A7. India has been home for centuries to all great religions of the world and has learnt to live together, grow together and learn together. And even as each one of us remains devoted to our own individual faith, we have learnt to respect the faith of another. This has been the basis of our nationhood.
    Jews world over have acknowledged that during their worst crisis of the Holocaust, India was one of the few countries where they were safe and unfettered.

    Indian civilization which is based on co-existence of faiths - Sarva Dharma Sambhava, implies equal respect for all Dharmas. Elaborating this, Vivekananda used the metaphor of many rivers flowing into one mighty ocean.
    Building a modern nation on the foundation of our social and religious diversities is significant to the world we live in. Nations big and small must come to terms with their growing internal diversity. No modern and open society can be a monolith. Nations and societies that seek to impose uniformity will give way to those who embrace and celebrate diversity.
    Every nation will have to learn to deal with the political, cultural and social consequences and implications of this growing phenomenon of diversity.


    Q8. What is ethics in private relationship? Is it different from ethics in public relationship? When dealing with your official responsibility in public service, you are confronted with a dilemma. There are claimants to certain government service out of which two individuals are equally eligible in every aspect. One of them is your friend. What would be your decision if only one is to be given benefit?
    A8. Give importance of being ethical in personal relationship.
    Attributes include honesty, integrity, care, loyalty, etc.
    Difference from public relationship:
    •    Does not affect public, while public relationship affects the public at large
    •    Private relationship may not emphasize upon impartiality, which is a necessity in public relationship
    •    Private relationship may include decisions that are non-logical (not based on facts) or even illogical (contrary to facts- eg. Throwing a party)
    Private relationships can affect public relationships. If two persons are equally eligible, I would remain absolutely neutral in my decision. This is easier said than done. Prudence says that I must inform my supervisor about my friend. This would itself serve as a reason to maintain integrity towards the responsibility assigned to me.
    If required, I would propose to recuse from the decision.
    Given the equal qualifications, the final selection should be done in an impartial and transparent manner. Both the candidates should be informed of the situation and the final decision should be done on the basis of additional parameters acceptable to the supervisor, or some other method (like lottery drawing), only if acceptable to both candidates.

    Q9. Is behavior always a reflection of one’s attitude? Explain with relevant examples.
    A9. An individual’s attitude may not always logically flow from behavior. Likewise, one’s actual behavior may be contrary to one’s attitude towards a particular topic.  Thus, relationship is complex and one is difficult to predict from other.
    Conditions when attitude can predict behavior:
    •    Strong and consistent attitudes predict better behavior
    •    Under social pressure, attitude may be expressed in diverse ways
    •    Intending to get positive consequence, an individual may engage in some behavior.
    Thus, attitude may not always predict actual pattern of one’s behavior. Sometimes behavior decides the attitude.

    Q10. ‘Save Olive Ridley’ is a small non-profit conservation group at Paradeep, working to preserve the threatened coastal-lands of Odisha. One of its main projects is to fight for the survival of sea turtles, which are rapidly sliding towards extinction. To this end, ‘Save Olive Ridley’ is campaigning to stop all eating of sea turtles even where sea turtles has long been part of the traditional diet in rural fishing villages.
    a) If extinction is a natural phenomenon, why should groups like ‘Save Olive Ridley’ care about extinction of sea turtles?
    b) Is it right that many billions of non-human animals live short and wretched lives in order to satisfy human craving for meat?
    c) Is there any moral difference between a family from a small turtle eating village as part of traditional meal and a couple from New Delhi eating turtle in a high end restaurant?

    A10. a) Human intervention enhances the otherwise natural phenomenon. Indifferent attitude and indiscriminate consumption affects the food-chain. Can have negative impacts over the entire ecological food chain.
    b) Huge population survives on meat for necessary protein intake as staple diet but ethically unjustified for taste purpose only.
    c) Village family: tradition, lack of alternatives, lack of awareness. Thus, less moral obligation. Need to be made aware and provided alternatives, if required.
    Other family (New Delhi) – Less important reasons such as taste, indifferent attitude. Lack of concern towards ‘near extinction’ status of the specie. Higher moral obligation.

    Q11. ‘Secret Sins’ are going on around us daily. These are only a few of the many hundreds of cases occurring within the schools and places where children are supposed to be kept safe. Disturbing news such as molestation and rape of school children by teachers are being reported in media. In your opinion, what are the causes of such incidents? What measures will you suggest to stop such incidents in schools?

    A11. Reasons for such incidents includes:-
    •    Erosion of moral values among teachers.
    •    Loss of fear conviction owing to judicial delays along with teacher threatening the child of dire consequences like failing them in academics in case he/she reports such incident. Due to this, many a times child prefers to keep quiet owing to fear of failure and academic pressure.
    •    Many a times school administration also takes the side of the accused teacher who also puts pressure on the parents for a compromise in order to save the reputation of the school.
    •    Parents also at times try not to raise the issue owing to reputation of the family in the society especially in case of girls.

    Measures to stop such incidents:-
    •    Raising awareness and providing special education about the importance of teacher-student relationship
    •    Stringent action needs to be taken both by school administration and parents.
    •    Checking past history of the teachers before hiring them. An idea of character certificate can be initiated at the universal level.
    •    Social boycott to such teachers along with firing them from job.
    •    Installing CCTV camera in school premises along with having a vigilance team and a grievance redressal system, in the school to report such incidents.
    •    Lastly, self-defense training can be provided to the students along with giving them directions how to act in various situations.
    Q12. Socrates: ‘The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.’ What significance would this quote hold for an administrator?
    A12. To know we know nothing is to remain humble and heart centered, not ego driven. Since it appears that most issues in society are centered on having power, retaining power, empowering oneself or others, or disempowering others for perceived one-upmanship, this wonderfully inspired sentiment gets lots on a self-centered society.

    This classic quote by Socrates also means that the person who thinks that he knows nothing, will try to achieve knowledge from anyone and everyone he comes across in life, be it a king or a beggar.
    An administrator comes across various people with different experiences and knowledge-sets, she would meet an industrialist and a farmer on same day. She must be curious to learn from both, try to understand their concerns and solve their problems accordingly. She must not have prejudices against people and must be willing to change her own views to unlearn and relearn. Only then will she be able to successfully discharge her duties towards society as a whole.

    Q13. “Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.”- H.G. Wells.  Analyze critically.

    A13. Every community has prescribed norms and limits, adherence to which are forcefully imposed. These norms usually get translated into laws, believes, customs and traditions. The way a person thinks, acts and believes is greatly influenced by the circumstances of social reality.

    Challenges to traditions and norms also arise in the society. Crime is the manifestation of deviant behavior of the community. Murder, theft, sexual offences, cheating and bribery are not alien to the society. When people act for pleasure and power, beyond their ascribed capacity or aspired capability, it starts the process of crime.

    The barriers placed by the community (or society) on individual breeds crime of the community.

    Now let us consider a wealthy and powerful person of society who wants higher levels of control and wealth. Such people may not fear much about law or justice as others do. But the sheer pleasure of achievement of very high social status drives them to activities that may be called criminal.

    Thus, crime does not exist just by itself. It comes into being by the character of the community, from where it arises.

    Q14. In your opinion which value is the most desirable value in civil services? Why do you think so? In absence of this value in what all ways is it going to negatively affect civil service?
    A14. Honesty. Reasons:
    •    Enormous powers with Civil servant
    •    Huge responsibility of public welfare
    •    Numerous pressures and inclinations
    •    Strenuous balance between development by business and development of poor
    Absence could lead to:
    •    Misuse of powers
    •    self-aggrandizement
    •    Subservience to partisan interests of the politicians
    •    Nexus with influential and discarding of poor
    Other values impacted:
    •    Integrity
    •    Accountability
    •    Openness
    •    Compassion
    •    Leadership, etc


    Q15. Vivek heard from his manager that their organization will be downsizing 5% to 30% of employees. However, the supervisor told Vivek that “we’re all under strict orders to keep quiet” so that the company’s best employees do not seek other jobs.
    Amit (one of the finest professionals in Vivek’s unit), upon hearing the downsizing rumors, told Vivek that he could get another job at a new company if a reduction in force occurred. However, openings at the new company will close soon. Amit asked Vivek, “Will there be layoffs?” and “Should I get another job now?”
    a) What are the options available to Vivek?
    b) Evaluate each of these options and highlight which option you would have preferred, giving reasons for the same.

    A15. The dilemma is between loyalty of Vivek towards his seniors and his responsibilities towards the welfare of his juniors and teammates.
    Options available:
    1. Inform Amit about downsizing
    2. Tell Amit that he does not have any information regarding layoffs
    3. Talk to senior management regarding keeping unit members informed
    Preferred solution: 3rd
    Reason: It is keeping everybody informed about the ground realities and giving everybody a fair say in the entire process. It ensures that nobody is kept in the dark and everybody can decide according to their preferences.

    Q16. A terrorist group states that it has concealed a nuclear bomb in Delhi. The authorities have captured the leader of the group. He says that he knows the location of the bomb. He refuses to reveal the location. It is known that if tortured, the terrorist will reveal the information needed to diffuse the bomb.
    a) Is it ethically acceptable for the authorities to have tortured to find out where the bomb is and thus save thousands of lives?
    b) Suppose, if instead of catching the leader, the authorities have captured his 16 years old daughter. She is refusing to cooperate with the authorities. In your opinion is it morally justified to have her tortured to acquire necessary information and save thousands of lives?
    A16. a) Arguments in favour of torture
    Principle of utilitarianism justifies torture as thousands of lives are at stake, corresponding to rights of a terrorist. According the theory of utility, the most positive outcome or consequence is happiness/pleasure, because it is considered the absolute good.  It becomes necessary to exhaust all options. Further, protecting rights of a person who is doing crime against society would bring no laurels, rather will cause dissent in the society.
    Arguments against torture
    As per deontological reasoning, consequences do not play any role in determining moral worth of an action. The theory of deontology states we are morally obligated to act in accordance with a certain set of principles and rules regardless of outcome.
    The inviolable nature of human dignity belies any justification of torturing the ticking bomb terrorist.
    Though torture is always immoral, in certain circumstances it becomes necessary.

    b) It is difficult to apply utilitarian principle in second case. The girl has done no wrong and it is difficult to justify torture in this case. The girl and her father are separate beings and she cannot be held accountable for her father’s actions. Her only crime is that she is not cooperating with the authorities. Further, being a juvenile, she could not be held totally accountable for her actions.

    Torture is not an effective method to obtain reliable information. The information obtained is often inaccurate.

    Q17. You are an official in the arms and ammunitions division of the police department. One day you come across some irregularities in the number of weapons issued by the department. You share the issue with one of your colleagues who advises you to maintain silence on the issue as weapons were taken by the head of the division.
    a) What options do you have?
    b) What course of action would you pursue and why?
    A17. a) Options:
    i) Talk to head of the division about the irregularities
    ii) Write to senior-most authority informing about the wrong-doing
    iii) Ignore the issue
    iv) Report issue to independent investigating agency

    b) I would chose (ii) option because higher authority can take necessary steps towards investigating the issue. Option (i) might not help as head of division is herself is assumed to be an accomplice in the ongoing wrong-doing.

    Q18. During your election duty, you caught hold of a vehicle full of cash. On enquiry, it was revealed that the vehicle belongs to a very popular politician of the region and even the exit polls are predicting his victory. The politician calls you up to release the vehicle. You try to approach your senior to seek advice but can’t reach him.
    a) What are the options available to you?
    b) What course of action will you take?

    A18. a) The ‘sense of duty’ should clearly prevail over ‘political pressure’ reflecting logic and reason.
    Options available:
    •    Directly refusing the politicians to accept his orders
    •    Confiscate money and agree not to disclose it to public/media
    •    Accepting politicians orders completely
    As senior is not approachable, onus of decision making lies on officer itself.
    b) Best course will be to explain to the politician that the money caught during the raid has been deposited in the government security and only a written order can help him retrieve the money. Also, acknowledge the politician that it is difficult to save oneself from ‘media glare’ and any such act will tarnish the image of both the politician and the organization (EC).

    Q19. On recently being transferred as BDO to a naxal affected area, you receive warning from an unknown source asking to transfer some amount of money monthly to a local naxal leader. It further threatens that you would be abducted and killed, if you fail to do so. The note also mentions that in case you inform the police, you and your family would be killed. You show this note to your friends and family. Some suggest you to go back to your old posting by paying bribe to concerned authorities; some suggest you to resign; others suggest you that the practice of giving "protection money" is common in the region and if you too pay this money regularly you could live a peaceful life.

    What are the options before you? Analyse their merits and demerits and explain which course of action would you take in the end and why.

    A19. A classic case of "protection money", this is where a struggle ensues between the instinct of survival and standing on your principles.

    The options available in this situation are:
    1. Succumbing to the pressure and just giving in to the demands of the extortionist. Though, it will give mental peace for a few days, the problem will inflate in time and will consume the efficacy of my official and personal life. Also, if the matter gets disclosed, it will bring defamation in the public eye, leading to increased frustration.

    2. Asking for a transfer: A safe or old posting may help in keeping me and my family safe. But shirking away from my duty at one place will make the job difficult to pursue at other location too, as I will always try to seek the easy way out. Moreover, by paying bribe, I will strengthen the very system, I had wished to eliminate.

    3. Rooting out the issue: It will be difficult to pursue in the beginning but the long term effects will surely benefit not only me, but the society at large. This includes:
    •    Informing my seniors and colleagues about the letter.
    •     Involving the police into the matter to try to catch hold of the person who has sent the letter
    •    Relocating my family to a safer place, till the matter is sorted out.
    •    Discussions with the locals about the malaise of naxalism in the locality and come out with short and long term plans to tackle it.
    So, I would prefer the third option as a way forward.


    Q20. You are a magistrate at a court in Delhi. A couple has approached you for the purpose of court marriage. You find out that the girl is the daughter of one of your closest friends and she has taken the decision to marry without the consent of her parents.
    a) What options do you have?
    b) What course of action will you pursue?

    A20. a) Options:
    i) Counsel the couple to take their parents into confidence before taking such a step.
    ii) Immediately inform your friend about the impending marriage.
    iii) Proceed with the marriage without letting your personal relationships interfere in the course of your duty.
    iv) Reprimand the girl for humiliating her family and send the couple off.

    b) I would advise the youngsters as defined in Option (i) but if they still want to proceed, I would go ahead with my duty as defined in option (iii) because two consenting adults have the right to marry.

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