The productivity of any organisation hinges on the performance of its human resource. Valuing the role they play in providing public service, the civil service places high emphasis on the conduct of civil servants.

Civil servants are expected to personify meritocracy, professionalism, transparency and integrity while discharging its mandate as the central personnel agency of the government.

But often we come across uncivil servants who indulge in practices that are not tolerated in the society, let alone the civil service.  The recent case of Tashichholing (Sipsu) drungpa allegedly battering his driver is unacceptable. As a head of a drungkhag in the local government administration, who is expected to be aware of laws and rules in place, his  handling of a subordinate’s behaviour is highly questionable.

The Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations, 2012 has a whole chapter that runs 25 pages on the code of conduct and ethics of civil servants. From reprimanding to termination, the rules cover almost every aspect of behaviour that is unacceptable of a civil servant. According to the Royal Civil Service Commission’s annual report for July 2016 – June 2017, disciplinary action was taken against 25 civil servants while two were prosecuted before the court of law. This tells us that at least two civil servants are either reprimanded or compulsorily retried each month. During the same period, the commission also reported five cases related to alcoholism, of which four were sent for rehabilitation.

However, the Tashichholing incident shows that there are officials who are perceived as professionals and leaders but who indulge in acts that could embarrass the entire civil service. If the driver was dependent on alcohol as alleged, the drungkhag could have taken a more humane and appropriate action. How pulling his ears would work as a deterrent is beyond our comprehension.

Abuse of functions by public servants topped the list of complaints the Anti-Corruption Commission received last year.  It comprised nearly half, 42.6 percent of the total complaints. Yet, we hear of such instances, now made more visible due to the reach of social media.

But while we question the conduct of our public and civil servants, we need to also ask if it is the society’s tolerance to such acts that has become problematic today. Domestic violence has long been identified as an issue in the country, just as corporal punishment and as each case becomes more alarming, the society appears to have become numbed to even react, let alone call for an investigation.

It is hoped that the dzongkhag human resource committee and the home ministry will look into the case of officials resorting to manhandling their subordinates. If we choose to tolerate acts such as this, we risk setting an unhealthy precedent of endorsing uncivil behaviour. We are not a lawless or an authoritarian society where we use force to coerce productivity or submission.