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Case
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Reference no. HKS1615.0
Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 2001
Length: 13 pages
Topics: Ethics

Abstract

A high-ranking district administrator in India, upon taking office, is informed that his predecessor agreed to acquire a plot of land for a local jail. When he learns that the landowner is the wife of an influential local politician, he becomes suspicious and decides to inspect the property himself. Located in the middle of a forest, completely inaccessible to transport, and far from police headquarters, it becomes clear that the land acquisition is designed only to make someone rich at the district''s expense. Meanwhile, the real needs of the district-to provide safe drinking water, prevent malaria, improve literacy, invest in employment programs, and wean local youth away from secessionist militancy-are slighted. The administrator decides to stall the acquisition, even while realizing that the effort may put his career, and his programs to help the district, at risk. The case recounts his escalating tactics, from bureaucratic trickery to deliberate deceit and destruction of a government document. It provides a vehicle for discussing the ethical duties of public officials confronted with systemic corruption-and possible strategies for dealing with it.

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Abstract

A high-ranking district administrator in India, upon taking office, is informed that his predecessor agreed to acquire a plot of land for a local jail. When he learns that the landowner is the wife of an influential local politician, he becomes suspicious and decides to inspect the property himself. Located in the middle of a forest, completely inaccessible to transport, and far from police headquarters, it becomes clear that the land acquisition is designed only to make someone rich at the district''s expense. Meanwhile, the real needs of the district-to provide safe drinking water, prevent malaria, improve literacy, invest in employment programs, and wean local youth away from secessionist militancy-are slighted. The administrator decides to stall the acquisition, even while realizing that the effort may put his career, and his programs to help the district, at risk. The case recounts his escalating tactics, from bureaucratic trickery to deliberate deceit and destruction of a government document. It provides a vehicle for discussing the ethical duties of public officials confronted with systemic corruption-and possible strategies for dealing with it.

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