Good governance is a topic that every UPSC aspirant should read about and study. It has ramifications in many subjects like polity, governance, ethics, public administration, etc.
The concept of good governance is not new. Kautilya in his treatise Arthashastra elaborated the traits of the king of a well governed State thus: “in the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness, in their welfare his welfare, whatever pleases himself, he does not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he considers as good”. Mahatma Gandhi had propounded the concept of ‘Su-raj’. Good governance has the following eight attributes which link it to its citizens- Good governance aims at providing an environment in which all citizens irrespective of class, caste and gender can develop to their full potential. In addition, good governance also aims at providing public services effectively, and equitably to the citizens.
The 4 pillars on which the edifice of good governance rests, in essence are:
• Ethos (of service to the citizen),
• Ethics (honesty, integrity and transparency),
• Equity (treating all citizens alike with empathy for the weaker sections), and
• Efficiency (speedy and effective delivery of service without harassment and using ICT increasingly).
Citizens are thus at the core of good governance. Therefore, good governance and citizen centric administration are inextricably linked. The Constitution articulates the vision of its Founding Fathers for the people of this country and also spells out the role and functions of the three organs of the State – Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. It enshrines the Fundamental Rights which are critical for democracy and the Directive Principles of State Policy which embody the concept of a Welfare State and are a unique feature of our Constitution. Th e endeavour of Government at all levels has, therefore, been to provide for a citizen centric administration. To this end, a robust legal framework has been created. Institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, National Women’s Commission, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and Lokayuktas etc. have been set up. Several other measures including affirmative actions have been initiated for the socio-economic empowerment of the weaker sections of society. The Tenth Plan drew attention to the implementation of good governance in the following terms: ‘Governance relates to the management of all such processes that, in any society, define the environment which permits and enables individuals to raise their capability levels on the one hand, and provide opportunities to realize their potential and enlarge the set of available choices, on the other. These processes, covering the political, social and economic aspects of life impact every level of human enterprise, be it the individual, the household, the village, the region or the nation. It covers the State, civil society and the market, each of which is critical for sustaining human development. The State is responsible for creating a conducive political, legal and economic environment for building individual capabilities and encouraging private initiative.’ The Eleventh Plan has emphasized that good governance should cover the following distinct dimensions: As a democratic country, a central feature of good governance is the constitutionally protected right to elect government at various levels in a fair manner, with effective participation by all sections of the population. This is a basic requirement for the legitimacy of the government and its responsibility to the electorate.
• The government at all levels must be accountable and transparent. Closely related to accountability is the need to eliminate corruption, which is widely seen as a major deficiency in governance. Transparency is also critical, both to ensure accountability, and also to enable genuine participation .
• The government must be effective and efficient in delivering social and economic public services, which are its primary responsibilities. This requires constant monitoring and attention to the design of our programmes. In our situation, where the responsibility for delivery of key services such as primary education and health is at the local level, this calls for special attention to ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of local governments.
• Governments at lower levels can only function efficiently if they are empowered to do so. This is particularly relevant for the PRIs, which currently suffer from inadequate devolution of funds as well as functionaries to carry out the functions constitutionally assigned to them.
• An overarching requirement is that the rule of law must be firmly established. This is relevant not only for relations between the government and individuals enabling individuals to demand their rights but also for relations between individuals or businesses. A modern economic society depends upon increasingly complex interactions among private entities and these interactions can be efficiently performed only if legal rights are clear and legal remedies for enforcing these rights are swift.
• Finally, the entire system must function in a manner which is seen to be fair and inclusive. This is a perceptional issue but it is real nonetheless. Disadvantaged groups, especially the SCs, STs, minorities and others, must feel they have an equal stake and should perceive an adequate flow of benefits to ensure the legitimacy of the State. DEFINITIONS AND ELEMENTS OF GOOD-GOVERNANCE POLICIES DEVELOPED BY MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS