World Bank defines governance as how power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources. WB refers to three aspects of governance
- A form of political regime
- Process of exercising authority to manage social and economic resources.
- The capacity of the government to design, formulate, implement policies and discharge its functions/duties.
Governance is not limited to the actions of the government. It means the government goes beyond the scope of government that includes the private sector, NGOs, and civil society.
In the 1992 report entitled “Governance and Development”, the World Bank set out its definition of Good Governance. It defined Good Governance as “how power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.
Eight Major Characteristics Good governance according to the UN
- Accountability: accountability is answerability. It means accountability necessitates a person to be answerable for his actions or decisions. It means it seeks to fix responsibility for an action or decision.
How to Ensure Accountability
- Calling a report from the responsible person/ In house overseeing responsibilities
- Instituting independent enquiry in case of wrongness/ Independent external body to oversee the functioning
- Istituting disciplinary action against wrongdoers.
- Transparent mechanism to take decisions and actions
Manifestation of accountability
- Accountability of public representatives (Legislature) to the people
- Accountability of the executive to the legislature
- Accountability of public servants to the executive and people
- Transparency: Information should be accessible to the public and should be understandable and monitored. It also means free media and access information to them.
- Effectiveness and Efficiency: Processes and institutions should be able to produce results that meet the needs of their community. Resources of the community should be used effectively for maximum output.
- Participation: People should be able to voice their own opinions through legitimate immediate organizations or representatives. This includes men and women, vulnerable sections of society, backward classes, minorities, etc. Participation also implies freedom of association and expression.
- Consensus-Oriented: Consensus-oriented decision-making ensures that even if everyone does not achieve what they want to the fullest, a common minimum can be achieved by everyone which will not be detrimental to anyone. It mediates differing interests to meet the broad consensus on the best interests of a community.
- Equity and Inclusiveness: Good governance assures an equitable society. People should have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being. Institutions and processes should serve all stakeholders in a reasonable period.
- Rule of Law: The legal framework should be enforced impartially, especially on human rights laws. Without the rule of law, politics will follow the principle of matsya nyaya i.e. the law of fish which means the strong will prevail over the weak.
References of Good Governance
Bhagavad Gita provides numerous cues for good governance, leadership, dutifulness and self-realization which are re-interpreted in the modern context.
In Kautilya’s Arthashastra (2nd-3rd century BC), the welfare of people was considered paramount in the role of the King. Mahatma Gandhi emphasized “su-raj” which essentially means good governance.
Indian Constitution: The importance of governance is inscribed in Indian Constitution which is built on the premise of a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic committing itself to democracy, the rule of law and the welfare of the people.
United Nations: Under Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 16 can be considered to be directly linked as it is dedicated. Improvement in governance, inclusion, participation, rights, and security. According to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “Good governance is ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law; strengthening democracy; promoting transparency and capacity in public administration.” He also said that “Good Governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”.
Need for good governance
- To take action for the failure of an action or decision
- To credit the success of an action or decision.
- To make a person more careful while deciding
- To promote a work culture
- To promote order in the organisation because everyone’s responsibility becomes none’s responsibility.
- To reduce corruption and malpractice.
Challenges to Good Governance
Centralisation of the Administrative System: Governments at lower levels can only function efficiently if they are empowered to do so. This is particularly relevant for the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), which currently suffer from inadequate devolution of funds as well as functionaries to carry out the functions constitutionally assigned to them.
Criminalization of Politics: According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, 43% of Members of the Parliaments of Lok Sabha 2019 are facing criminal charges. It is a 26% increase as compared to 2014.
The criminalisation of the political process and the unholy nexus between politicians, civil servants, and business houses are having a baneful influence on public policy formulation and governance. The political class as such is losing respect. Therefore, it is necessary to amend Section 8 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1951 to disqualify a person against whom the criminal charges that relate to the grave and heinous offences and corruption are pending.
Corruption: Corruption is a major obstacle in improving the quality of governance. While human greed is a driver of corruption, it is the structural incentives and poor enforcement system to punish the corrupt that have contributed to the rising curve of graft in India. According to the Corruption Perception Index – 2019 (released by Transparency International, India’s ranking has slipped from 78 to 80.
Marginalization of Socially and Economically Backward People: The socially and economically backward sections of society have always been marginalised in the process of development. Although there are constitutional provisions for their upliftment in practice, they are lagging in so many areas like education, economic well-being etc.
Gender Disparity: According to Swami Vivekananda, “It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. A bird can’t fly on only one wing”. One way to assess the state of the nation is to study the status of its women. As women comprise almost 50% of the population it is unfair that they are not adequately represented in government institutions and other allied sectors. Therefore, to ensure good governance, it is essential to ensure the empowerment of women.
How to ensure good governance
Through External Systemic steps: The government of India has taken many steps in this direction
- The National e-Governance Plan envisions making all government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensuring efficiency, transparency & reliability of such services at affordable costs.
- E-Governance effectively delivers better programming and services in the era of newly emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs), which herald new opportunities for rapid social and economic transformation worldwide.
- E-Governance has a direct impact on its citizens who derive benefits through direct transactions with the services offered by the government.
- Programs launched under e-Governance: Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI), Digital India Program, MCA21 (to improve the speed and certainty in the delivery of the services of Ministry of Company Affairs), Passport Seva Kendra (PSK), online Income tax return, etc.
- Focus on ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’.
- The Central Government has scrapped nearly 1,500 obsolete rules and laws to bring about transparency and improve efficiency.
- Reform criminal justice and procedural laws with a focus on pre-institution mediation.
- Modernizing police forces and implementing the Model Police Act of 2015.
- Reform of the First Information Report (FIR) lodging mechanism, including introducing filing e-FIRs for minor offences.
- Launch a common nationwide emergency number to attend to the emergency security needs of citizens.
Aspirational Districts Programme
- The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched in January 2018 to transform the lives of people in the under-developed areas of the county in a time-bound manner.
- Anchored in NITI Aayog, the programme is aimed at transforming 115 most backward districts with focused interventions in the field of health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water management, financial inclusion and skill development.
Good Governance Index
- The Good Governance Index Was launched on the occasion of Good Governance Day on 25 December 2019.
- The Good Governance Index is a uniform tool across States to assess the Status of Governance and the impact of various interventions taken up by the State Government and Union Territories.
- The objectives of the Good Governance Index are to provide quantifiable data to compare the state of governance in all states and Union Territories, enable states and Union Territories to formulate and implement suitable strategies for improving governance and shift to result-oriented approaches and administration.
- Centralised Planning Commission was abolished, replacing it with the think tank called the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), which would usher in an era of “cooperative federalism”.
- 14th Finance Commission increased the tax devolution of the divisible pool to states from 32% to 42% for the years 2015 to 2020. It provides more freedom to states to initiate schemes based on local factors.