Towards Good Governance - 1


Dr.Rao VBJ Chelikani          

             Bad governance by the governments and political instability are the main characteristics of all developing countries for the past seventy years, ever after their liberation from colonial domination. In spite of it, there has been political stability among a majority of Asian countries, since their national economic affairs are not controlled by bureaucracy. Many atrocities are being committed by the political leaders in Africa; much violence by the states in Latin America and subtle but firm politico-bureaucratic authoritarianism in Asia are widely prevalent. And, India is no exception to it, even after 75 years of formal democratic practices. The governments while claiming to be democratic have become the root cause of all evils and stagnation in many societies in the world. Finally, we are at loss to understand whether good governance can bring democracy or democracy would bring good governance.

           Good governance by an authoritarian government is not really Good Governance. Democratic Governance is Self- Governance and Self- governance is Good Governance, whatever might be the initial chaos. In a democracy, the ultimate aim is to pass political power to people individually and collectively and to help them rule themselves. The role of the people’s Representatives is only to facilitate this process by liquidating the concentration of power in the hands of a few. They are neither trustees nor custodians of the people by whom they are elected. The individual has to be facilitated to govern himself not only in political matters but also in all aspects of his social life. This is the governance of all human relations with the sole objective of human development and social development.

           Broadly Good Governance (GG) means a set of processes of collective management of human relations in a society to live together in an orderly and harmonious manner. It deals with official and non-official members involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made, and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and to implement the decisions. This yardstick applies to all institutions in society, as they are interdependent, and also process covers global governance, state governance, corporate governance, municipal governance and local governance at the level of the Resident Welfare Association. In urban areas, the situation is much more vibrant and complex as it includes, senior citizen associations, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious institutions, financial institutions, schools, colleges, universities, professional establishments and their associations, and also trade unions and political parties, etc. Referring to the nature of relations, governance can be classified and viewed as political governance, economic governance, social governance and cultural governance. Thus, governance is entity-wise management of all human relations.


           By the United Nation's standards, it should be normally participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follow the rule of law. It should reduce the role of bribes, gifts and profits by exploitation and speculation and other effects of political nepotism and bureaucratic corruption. Above all, it implies non-violent participation and constructive dialogue in order to build consensus in decision-making, the views of minorities should be taken into account, without simply deciding by a bull-dozing majority. It should be responsive to the present and future needs of the evolving society.

1. Political Governance:

            Unfortunately, in a developing country, including in India, at present, the whole society is dominated and influenced by political preoccupations and power struggles by an emerging political class, which divides itself into mutually fighting political parties. We are living in a regime of rule by the political parties, which are imposing their political interests upon the society, and not in a regime of rule by the people's Representatives, even though that does not seem to be the intention of the Indian constitution. In this struggle for political power, other 'soft' powers in the society that should influence society are being ignored, and other aspects of social life and other social and human accomplishments are becoming secondary. The state has become the sole depository of all force and the governments are the principal instruments to handle all powers.  

          At the national level, in addition to the above actors, lobbyists, vested interests, national and multi-national corporations, media, inter-state Groups or blocs, donors, and national and international non-governmental organisations or civil society organisations, etc. may play a role in decision-making or in influencing the decision-making process. But, at present, unfortunately, the political parties are over-jealous of their power to decide, do not recognise, do not promote and do not encourage the role of the intelligentsia in the country and others, such as, ‘kitchen cabinets’, policy research think-tanks, or those in scientific research, academic institutes and professional bodies. In India, at present, there is a visible dichotomy between the world of the political class and the world of the ‘intelligentsia’ and civil societies. Hence, most of the policies and programmes are designed to cater to the needs of vested interests or seasonal electoral reasons, neglecting the interests of the taxpayers. The political class is not respected and not credible, but feared by the public, as a necessary evil.

           Good governance requires the 'rule of law' for all as the legal framework that enforces impartially. It also requires unreserved and unconditional respect and protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. When outside and impartial observers like the UN Human Rights Council point out certain imperfections, we should not bluntly oppose their suggestions stating that we consider it as interference in the internal affairs of sovereign India. If so, where are the concepts of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and the Sarvodaya ideal of Jai Jagat? Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force. Transparency means that decisions are taken and their enforcement is done in a manner that follows rules and regulations scrupulously. In the case of spending tax-payers money i.e. public expenditure, it is evident to all that there is constant misuse. The information, including the information collected by the 'Intelligent services' should be freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It implies that there should be no exceptions either in the private sector or in the public sector to the RTI Act in the public interest. It also means that enough information is to be easily accessible and understandable.

2. Bureaucratic Governance:

           The state is a Leviathan: a mammoth establishment with millions of staff and political functionaries, however forming only 3 or 4% of the population; but it is consuming almost 50 to 65% of the nation’s resources, leaving the rest to the welfare of 96 to 97% of the population.  

           Respecting and trusting the resident, and his or her potential to grow even by making mistakes should a part of the ruling philosophy. However, on the contrary, the philosophy of the operators of the state is to treat and keep the people as infants who are to be taken care of by a benevolent guardian officer. It is a process of ‘infantilisation’ of the citizen and does not facilitate the democratic evolution of individual's attitudes and rapid social transformations.

           The state and its governments, at present, have a monopoly of centralised political governance, and the bureaucracy is exclusively controlling foreign affairs and economic affairs of the nation, in which the political representatives do not have much say. Even after 74 years of republican life, the state continues to produce soaps in state-run factories and runs hotels for tourists by government officers. Yet, it is also confirmed during these years that government functionaries are not holier than the common man. They are neither more honest nor more efficient, and do not take personal risks. At present, governmental affirmations are unverifiable by a third party, and their statistics are selective. 

            The well-remunerated State employees should be responsive to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe, but, administrative delays are notorious and inherent to the hierarchical bureaucracy. If you criticise a bad rule, the department takes the occasion to make more rules in it's place to retain control over the situation. In most states, nobody knows how many G.O.s are there, and nobody knows which one the officer is going to pick up to justify his ruling. The Administrative Reforms promised since Morarji Desai never came. The public who reads or listens to this kind of criticism of the state of affairs, coolly turns away from the page or skips to another channel, considering, cynically that it is logically inevitable in the present political reality. A kind of fatalism which is not new.

           On the other hand, the authorities are becoming increasingly intolerant, aggressive and authoritarian, making no distinction between opinions, suggestions, grievances, complaints, genuine criticism and motivated opposition. No message or letter from the civil society activist is ever acknowledged, much less than replied to. Gradually, there are enough rules and laws, in place, to justify any officer to arrest or conduct a house raid upon anybody in order to harass him or her for having exercised the freedom of speech, even with pacific intention and constructive purpose. This, of course, is very normal in Russia and China. The constitutional right to form and run an association is also being curtailed by harassment, whereas forming a political party and collection of funds by them goes on undisturbed. The Election Commission of India, a constitutional body whose autonomy is so vital for preserving our democratic practices is being filled with former government officers, and it consults only the political parties as the stakeholders and not the voters. An insider, who has been the vice-president of our Republic recently, had stated in an official speech that there is a clear nexus between the bureaucrats and the politicians to continue the present state of corruption and nepotism. (to be continued……)     

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