Barriers To Good Governance

This article gives an introduction about the lack of accountability and the reasons behind a lack of good governance. It explains in detail some of the major reasons for barriers in good governance, such as red-tapism, ineffective implementation of rules and laws, very low level of awareness of rights and duties among citizens, and the lack of accountability.

Aspirants would find this article very helpful while preparing for the IAS Exam.

Barriers to Good Governance – Introduction

The reasons for Governments not being citizen-centric can be attributed to the work and attitude of some government servants, the deficiencies in existing institutional structures and also to some citizens. While the laws made by the Legislature may be relevant and sound, most of the time they are not implemented properly by government functionaries. The institutional structure provided may be also weak at times and ill-conceived and thus has neither the capacity nor the resources to implement the laws in letter and spirit. Prime Minister, in this context, had stated:

“Efficient and effective institutions form the backbone of a successful development and governance process. The founding fathers had the foresight to build the important institutional framework which has brought us so far. We need to think whether this framework is adequate in the years to come; whether past modes of functioning will address the demands of the future in a fast-changing world; whether skills and capabilities that were relevant in the past have outlived their utility? It is only by asking and answering these questions will we be able to identify institutional reforms which will meet the needs of our times. ­”

The system often suffers from problems of excessive centralization and policies and action plans are far removed from the citizens’ needs. This ultimately results in a mismatch between what is required and what is being provided. Inadequate capacity building of personnel who are the ones to implement the laws also results in policies and laws not being implemented properly. Further, lack of awareness about duties and rights and callous approach to compliance with laws on the part of some of the citizens also create barriers to good governance.

Attitudinal Problems of the Civil Servants­ is a growing concern that the Civil Services and administration in general, have become inflexible, wooden, inward-looking and self-perpetuating. Consequently, their attitude is one of insensitivity and indifference to the needs of citizens. It is coupled with the enormous asymmetry in the wielding of power at all levels, has further aggravated the situation. ­ The end result is that officers perceive themselves as dispensing favours to citizens rather than serving them and given the abject poverty, illiteracy, etc. a culture of exaggerated deference to authority has become the norm.

Lack of Accountability

A common reason usually cited for inefficiency in governance is the inability within the system to hold the Civil Services accountable for their actions. Seldom are disciplinary proceedings initiated against delinquent government servants and imposition of penalties is even rarer. It ­is primarily because at most levels authority is divorced from accountability leading to a system of realistic and plausible alibis. Cumbersome disciplinary procedures have added to the general apathy towards discipline in Government. Moreover, the safeguards provided to civil servants, – which were well-intentioned – have often been misused. Another reason for the lack of accountability is that performance evaluation systems within the government have not been effectively structured. ­ The complacency that the system breeds has resulted in employees adopting an apathetic or lackadaisical attitude towards citizens and their grievances.

Low Levels of Awareness of the Rights and Duties of Citizens

Inadequate awareness about their rights prevents citizens from holding erring government servants to account. Similarly, low levels of compliance of Rules by the citizens also acts as an impediment to good governance; when citizens do not adhere to their duties they infringe on the freedom and rights of other citizens. Thus, awareness of rights and adherence to duties are two sides of the same coin. A vigilant citizenry, fully aware of its rights as well its duties, is perhaps the best way to ensure that officials as well as other citizens, discharge their duties effectively and honestly.

Ineffective Implementation of Laws and Rules

There is a large body of laws in the country, each legislated with different objectives – maintaining public order and safety, maintaining sanitation and hygiene, protecting rights of citizens, giving special protection to the vulnerable sections etc. Effective implementation of these laws creates an environment which would improve the welfare of all citizens and at the same time, encourage each citizen to contribute his best towards the development of society. On the other hand, weak implementation can cause a great deal of hardship to citizens and even erode the faith of the citizenry in the government machinery.

Red Tapism

Bureaucracies the world over are expected to adhere to rules and procedures which are, of course, important for good governance. However, at times, these rules and procedures are ab-initio ill-conceived and cumbersome and, therefore, do not serve their purpose. Also, government servants sometimes become overly pre-occupied with rules and procedures and view these as an end in themselves. The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh while emphasizing procedural reforms, stated:

“Very often, the most difficult area of reform in government is a process and procedural reform. No amount of investment in capabilities and technologies can improve performance and service delivery beyond a point if we continue to be prisoners of archaic procedures and processes. Often, policy reform measures do not deliver the desired outcomes because of a lack of forwarding movement in the reform of government processes. This is after all, what gives rise to the so-called Inspector Raj. This is what makes the interface of a common citizen with the government a cumbersome and daunting affair. This is often the root cause of corruption as well.”

The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.

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