Focus on the good: Can self-governance lead India’s path to good governance?

Published: February 19, 2020 1:45:13 AM

Governance can be improved at two levels—intrinsic and extrinsic.

good governance, world bankIn 1989, the concept of governance was first highlighted by World Bank in a document on Sub-Saharan Africa, with regard to providing grant-in-aid for social and economic development.

By Ayesha Chaudhary

Good governance, in a democratic framework, is associated with the efficient, effective, and responsive system of administration, for public service delivery. The concept of good governance may be new to the Western world, but for India, it dates back to the time of the Indus valley civilisation. Historically, good governance has always been a core principle. However, rapid economic development has changed the narrative from ‘common good’ to ‘personal gain’.

In recent years, good governance has reemerged as a trend, and is referred to as panacea for all the problems of the developing world. Good governance has been in discussion primarily because of the importance given to it by many international organisations, including the World Bank, IMF, OECD, ADB, UN and so on. In 1989, the concept of governance was first highlighted by World Bank in a document on Sub-Saharan Africa, with regard to providing grant-in-aid for social and economic development. It further received a mention in a 1992 document entitled ‘Governance and Development’. Later in 1996, the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) were launched to measure six aspects of governance, using aggregate measures of voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and the control of corruption. The concept of good governance was re-introduced in India, in 1999, when the national agenda of governance was prepared.

Governance can be improved at two levels—intrinsic and extrinsic. India is beginning to leverage several extrinsic measures at the institutional level, such as adoption of digital technology with the introduction of UIDAI, use of real-time dashboards and performance indices. Some notable initiatives that enable better governance include MyGov citizen engagement platform, MEITY’s e-governance platform, and Digital India, Niti Aayog’s Aspirational Districts, PM-STIAC missions of the office of the PSA, and so on. Such initiatives lead to healthy competition and collaborative federalism, and ensure performance, transparency, and accountability, thereby leading to good governance. The extrinsic measures improve institutional governance, which is driven by robust frameworks for accountability, inclusion, and efficiency. However, institutional governance forms part of the solution. The other half of the solution includes an intrinsic approach, where change should come from within, in every individual, through practicing righteousness, which can be perceived as a form of self-governance. It is driven by honesty, integrity, commitment to larger good, and other moral values.

The extrinsic approach is based on the assumption that most human beings are socially conscious, with a small proportion that tends to pursue personal gain at the cost of public good, and such behaviour should be punished. If good behaviour is consistently rewarded and bad behaviour punished, the bulk of people will follow the righteous path, contributing to improved institutional governance. On the other hand, the intrinsic approach is based on the assumption that individual moral values form the core and need to be restored to improve the conduct of human beings, and make the world a better place to live in.
In recent years, there has been too much emphasis on political, administrative and socio-institutional reforms, very little on judicial reforms, and no emphasis on human reforms. There has been a drastic drop in the moral values, ethical norms and socio-behavioural ethos. Integrity and honesty now seem to be things of past. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Be the Change, you want to see in the world’, therefore changing intrinsically, at the individual level, will subsequently lead to improved governance at the institutional level.

Additionally, all government schemes should be regularly monitored and evaluated by an independent (third) party, to ensure successful implementation, provide last-mile delivery, and give an unbiased view. This is in conformity with the global standards established by UN, World Bank and others. Further, consolidation of multiple redundant ministries and overlapping schemes should be initiated, to streamline operations, improve efficiency and outcomes for better public service delivery, thereby improving the return on public investment.

Observing Good Governance Day (December 25) will continuously remind us that the ruling government should be development oriented, inclusive, yet forward looking and global in its approach. It is only with good governance, that Gandhiji’s vision of creating a strong and prosperous India shall be enabled and fulfilled. Though India has recently launched the Good Governance Index to rank Indian states, the search for good governance is an ongoing academic exercise, outcomes of which shall be experienced by future generations. So, one must continue the journey towards self-governance, coupled with institutional governance, thereby striving to achieve good governance for India.

The writer is Program Director Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog

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