Ensuring good governance
Good governance means law-enforcement agencies deliver without fear or favour. It means bureaucracy which works on mission mode and not on selfish mode. It means the political class lives up to the trust which people have reposed in them, and finally, it means that civil society not only watches over all of them but fulfils its own responsibilities by being law-abiding. Writes Kiran Bedichandigarh Updated: Dec 26, 2014 22:48 IST
What is good governance? Who all are responsible for it? Why must we have good governance? What sabotages it? Can we ensure good governance? What happens when governance fails? Who fails it? Is there a way to check it? If so, what is it?
Since this is so often being mentioned by our Prime Minister, I thought it would be worthwhile to delve on the subject. Good governance is good plus governance. Good means clean and responsive to people, which is not corrupt and inaccessible. Governance is the government comprising public officials -- elected or appointed. The elected ones range from the panchayat level to the Prime Minister. In between are municipal corporators, legislative assembly members, parliamentarians and others. The appointed ones are those government officials who come through recruitments -- from peon to the cabinet secretary.
Together as elected representatives and appointed and recruited public officials they become the government. They run on the basis of laws, rules, procedures, directions, operating manuals and also the use of discretion. What they deliver through all these safeguards is governance. The governance impacts over a billion people in our country.
As said earlier, the government comprises political representatives as well as recruited government officials. When both deliver in the right spirit, they provide good governance; when they deliver in self-interest, they cause bad governance.
Here, I wish to focus on around two million recruited appointees. Since I was one of them, I understand them better. I am of the view that when a majority of these two million government employees (armed forces excluded) deliver sensitive and accountable governance, people benefit directly. They get good governance. The reason is that public servants are the executing arm of the government, also called the bureaucracy, and they are deliverers of all services. They are the foundation of governance.
The steel frame
Politicians come and go, but bureaucracy remains. As long as they do not retire, they stay. They only shift from one department to the other. But all of them administer public services. They also frame policies cleared by the political representatives, namely ministers. But they provide the supporting evidence for all such thinking, analysis and vision. Hence officials play a crucial role in aiding and advising.
The question is who do they report to for good governance? They report to their own seniors and political masters. Hence, a lot depends on the quality of seniors both from within and without.
Governance fails when there is a crack in both, when their seniors are not worthy enough. Or their seniors are more politically aligned for wrong reasons as against the right ones. Will the individual stand up to serve people? He can, provided he has a sensitive and courageous nature. Or else, he will not. Because of which good governance becomes poor governance. We have had both kinds of public servants -- those who stood up for people and those who went along with dishonest expectations.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
There is so much talk of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan these days. What is the role of public servants in this to provide good governance? The onus is almost cent per cent. If the municipal services deliver with integrity and sensitivity, more than half the problems of the city will go away. First and foremost, it is their integrity in all that they do -- whether it is planning, executing, spending or supervision.
If they are honest in their services they can have abundance of community support. They can involve resident welfare associations and youth volunteers. They can also use technology and feedback systems to provide good service.
People today demand good governance and feel it is their right. That is why they are protesting and filing public interest petitions to secure quality public service. Good governance can be demanded by people by creating overseeing systems and citizen forums to watch over and point out.
Most of all, it is the duty of elected representatives as well as appointed public servants to live up to the trust of the people and provide good services for which they have been elected or appointed. The grievance redressal bill and time-bound services legislation means it is as much duty of the citizens to keep a strong vigil on them to ensure they deliver.
Good governance comes by collective will. It means functioning and debating elected bodies, assemblies and Parliament. It means expeditious judiciary as also one which creates a mechanism to see its directions are being implemented. It means law-enforcement agencies deliver without fear or favour. It means bureaucracy which works on mission mode and not on selfish mode.
It means the political class lives up to the trust which people have reposed in them, and finally, it means that civil society not only watches over all of them but fulfils its own responsibilities by being law-abiding.