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Important aspects of governance

What is Governance? 

In 1993, the World Bank defined governance as the method through which power is exercised in the management of a country’s political, economic and social resources for development. 

In simple words, Governance is the process and institutions through which decisions are made and authority in a country is exercised. 

  •  Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance. 
  • Thus governance focuses on the formal and informal actors and institutions involved in decision-making and implementing those decisions. 

 Stakeholders of Governance 

Government is one of the key actors in governance.  Other actors may include political actors and institutions, interest groups, civil society, media, non-governmental and transnational organizations. The other actors involved in governance vary depending on the level of government. 

Typically, the stakeholders of governance at national level can be categorised into three broad categories – 

  • State 
  • Market 
  • Civil Society. 

1. The State includes the different organs of then government (Legislature, Judiciary and Executive)  and their instrumentalities, independent accountability mechanisms etc. It also consists of different segments of actors (elected representatives, political executive, bureaucracy/civil servants at different levels etc.) 

2. The Market includes the private sector – organised as well as unorganised – that includes business firms ranging from large corporate houses to small scale industries/ establishments. 

3. The Civil Society is the most diverse and typically includes all groups not included in (a) or (b). It includes Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Voluntary Organizations (VOs), media organisations/ associations, trade unions, religious groups, pressure groups etc. 

 Good Governance 

Governance’ by itself is a neutral term while `Good Governance’ implies positive attributes and values associated with the quality of governance. Good governance is a dynamic concept and there is much subjectivity involved in defining the aspects of good governance. 

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recognizes eight core characteristics of good governance: 

1. Participatory 

2. Consensus oriented 

3. Transparent 

4. Accountable 

5. Responsive 

6. Effective and Efficient 

7. Equitable and Inclusive 

8. Follows the Rule of Law 

Understanding the key terms: 

Participation:  • Participation of all section of society is cornerstone of good governance. • Participatory governance provides opportunities for citizens to take part in decision making, implementation and monitoring of government activities. 
Consensus oriented • Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus on o what is in the best interest of the whole community and o how this can be achieved. • It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. 
Rule of Law • Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. • It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities and vulnerable sections of the society. 
Transparent Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. • It also means that information is freely available in easily understandable forms and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. • It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media. • For example, in India the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been a powerful instrument in the hands of people to ensure transparency in the decision making process of executive. 
Accountable Accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies. • The components of accountability are answerability, sanction, redress and system improvement. • Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law. 
Responsive • Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe. • Redressal of citizen grievance, citizen orientation, citizen friendliness and timely delivery of services are key component of responsive governance. 
Effective and Efficient • Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results into the optimum use of resources at their disposal. • Thus it also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. 
Equitable and Inclusive • A society’s wellbeing depends on ensuring that all its members feel they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. • This requires all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being. 

Many sources include “Strategic Vision” as a 9th principle of Good Governance. 

Strategic Vision: A broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development is required. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded. 

 Strategies for good governance 

• Reorienting priorities of the state through appropriate investment in human needs 

• Provision of social safety nets for the poor and marginalized 

• Strengthening state institutions 

• Introducing appropriate reforms in the functioning of Parliament and increasing its effectiveness 

• Enhancing Civil Services capacity through appropriate reform measures 

• Forging new alliances with civil society 

• Evolving a new framework for government-business cooperation 

‘The Worldwide Governance Indicators project’ – By World Bank ranks more than 200 countries on six key indicators of governance. The six indicators are: 

1. Voice and Accountability 

2. Political Stability and Absence of Violence 

3. Government Effectiveness 

4. Regulatory Quality 

5. Rule of Law 

6. Control of Corruption 

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Governance in India 

 Dimensions of Governance in India 

Department of Administrative reforms and Public grievances (DARPG) in its report “State of Governance – A framework of assessment” has broken down governance into five dimensions 

viz. political, legal& judicial, administrative, economic and social &environmental dimensions

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Governance Issues in India 

• Political Issues: 

o Criminalization of Politics 

o Misuse of political power 

o Decentralization more in letter less in spirit 

• Legal and Judicial issues 

o Delayed justice, issue of under trials 

o Lack of accountability in Judiciary 

o Threat to life and personal security 

• Administrative issues 

o Lack of sensitivity, transparency and accountability in the working of State machinery 

o Bureaucratic Delays 

o Resistance to changes which promote transparency and accountability 

o Corruption 

• Economic issues 

o Poor management of economy 

o Persisting fiscal imbalances 

o Regional disparities 

• Social and Environmental issues 

o Denial of basic services to a substantial proportion of the population 

o Marginalisation and exclusion of people on account of social, religious, caste and gender affiliation 

o Existence of a significant number of voiceless poor with little opportunity for participation in governance; and 

o Deterioration of physical environment, particularly in urban areas. 

Good Governance Initiatives in India 

India has to make big leaps to improve its governance records. Multiple steps have been taken in this regard. For example, the two biggest initiatives which have been taken in India for empowering common man and effective functioning of governance include 

  •  Right to Information Act 
  •  E-governance measures

Good governance initiatives can be summarized as following: 

  •  Decentralization and People’s Participation – 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendment Act 
  • (Covered in Polity section) 
  •  Developing programs for weaker sections and backward areas (Covered in Social Justice 
  • section) 
  •  Financial management and budget sanctity (Covered in Paper 3) 
  •  Simplification of procedures and processes 
  •  Citizen’s Charters 
  •  Sevottam model 
  •  Redress of Citizen’s Grievances 
  •  E-Governance and use of ICT tools 
  •  Public service morale & anti‐corruption measures 
  •  Transparency and Accountability measures 
  •  Right to Information (Covered in Paper 4) 
  •  Social Audits 

Minimum Government, Maximum Governance 

• It means a citizen friendly and accountable administration. 

• It is done by simplification of procedures, identification and repeal of obsolete/archaic laws/rules, identification and shortening of various forms, leveraging technology to bring in transparency in public interface and a robust public grievance redress system. 

• This will greatly reduce time and effort on the part of the both citizen and government officials in public offices. 

• On these lines, Digital India has helped Ministry of Panchayati Raj move to 100% e-office. 

• Ease of Doing Business’ also focuses on ease of governance.  

• PMO website also seeks expert advice from the people, thoughts and ideas on various topics that concern India. 

March 2024