Governance In The Indian Context

Governance In The Indian Context

Democracy provides citizens with a government, to satisfy their needs and aspirations. The Government of India has been alive to these needs since Independence and has been taking various measures to bring in administrative reforms. The state is to be an efficient provider of basic services, public goods and a facilitator for economic growth in the light of globalization. The administration has to re-orient itself to function in the changed context. Some recent developments that have led to various measures taken by the government are:

  1. Opening up of the Indian Economy
  2. Decentralization and democratic empowerment at the grassroots
  3. Administrative reforms
  4. Information technology.

These measures are discussed as follows:

1. Opening up of the Indian Economy:

In India, the state has played an important role in the country’s economy leading to rapid industrialization. However, due to multiplicity of objectives, the state failed to provide reasonable surplus. This resulted in adverse balance of payments, rising national debts and problems in the public sector. To mitigate these adverse economic consequences, there emerged a consensus that the state needed to be rolled back. This was also emphasized by international agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The New Economic Policy, 1991, reduced the scope and role of the public sector. The focus was on creating conditions whereby the public sector could function in competition with the private sector. The government is trying to achieve these objectives by deregulating industries and liberalizing foreign investment and technological imports. Various steps have been taken to protect consumers. The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act ( MRTP), which aims to prevent and control monopolistic, restrictive and unfair trade practices has been amended. Likewise, steps have been taken to disinvest equalities of selected public sector units through financial institutions and mutual funds to raise finance for development. The government has acquired a more promotional role to provide a conducive environment for the public and the private sector.

2. Decentralized governance:

Grassroots governance has been a major concern of the planning process in India ever since the introduction of Panchayati Raj in 1959. while the introduction of the system was a landmark in the history of administrative reforms, the followup action in different states failed to provide it with positive direction, particularly, in the realm of development administration. The spirit of democratic decentralization that evolved over the years is being practiced only in’ a limited way and has not experienced wholesome sustainability. It was probably this state of affairs, which paved the way for a crucial national agendaon Panchayati Raj reforms, culminating in the 73rd Constitutional Amendment.

This amendment aims at integration the concept of people’s participation in a formal way with the planning process, on the one hand and the devolution of responsibility to the people themselves on the other. This amendment addressed the persistent problems of irregular elections, supersessions inadequate representation, insufficient devolution of powers and lack of administrative and financial autonomy and inadequate resources.

Several initiatives have been made by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to involve local communities in managing their own affairs. ‘Many state governments have launched schemes and programmes to promote peoples participation. The guidelines of several centrally -sponsored schemes helped Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to formulate and implement development programmes. Among the central ministries, remarkable steps have been taken by the ministries of rural development (e.g., watershed associations, watershed committees, users groups under DPAP, DDP and IWDP), environment and forests (E.g. joint forest management), education, (e.g. village education committees under DPEP) and water resources ( participatory water management through water users associations / mittees). These experiences have increased the transparency and accountability of the state.

3. Administrative Reforms:

The Government of India organized a Conference of Chief Secretaries of State and Union Territories on November 20, 1996, focusing on accountable, open and citizen-friendly government, improving performance and integrity of functionaries, initiating corrective steps to arrest the present drift in management of public services and restoring people’s faith in the fairness, integrity and responsiveness of the administration.

This was followed by a Conference of Chief Ministers on May 24, 1997, which concluded that governance has to extend beyond conventional bureaucracies and actively involve citizens and consumer groups at all levels, empower and inform the public and the disadvantaged groups so as to ensure service delivery and programme execution through autonomous, elected local bodies. The conference also proposed to set up new autonomous regulatory agencies with quasi-judicial powers to ensure that the functioning of private units is regulated in social interests.

The conference came out with an action plan dealing with the following three themes:

Accountable and citizen-friendly government:

  • Providing citizen’s charters 
  • Redressal of public grievances
  • Review of laws, regulations and procedures
  • People’s participation, decentralization and devolution of powers.

Transparency and the Right to Information:

  • Easy access of people to all information relating to government activities.
  • Introducing legislation for freedom of information
  • Opening of computerized information and facilitation counters

Improving the performance and integrity of public services:

  • Code of ethics for civil services
  • Strengthening investigative agencies and the vigilance machinery
  • Strengthening various agencies like the Lok Ayukta, the CBI, the vigilance machinery, income tax authorities, Enforcement Directorate, and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
  • Ensuring stability to tenure and depoliticizing postings at all levels.

The central government and most of state governments have already taken steps in this direction. (The Right to Information Act has been promulgated by the Parliament and the government has also set up a second Administrative Reforms Commission).

4. Information Technology:

The Information Technology Revolution Act, 2000 enables the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in governance – political, economic and social. E-governance or Electronic governance has facilitated computerization and networking of varied departments and also the delivery of public services. Networking has rendered the facilities of the Internet and the World Wide Web. This has led to connectivity among various government departments. Now these departments set up their own websites and upload information. Similarly, departments can coordinate with one another without much wastage of time. Computerisation of internal administration has rendered automation and improvement in record keeping and file movement.

Citizen centric services are now also rendered online. Various state governments have come up with projects and programmes, enabling the online rendering of services such as education, medical and health, policies, agriculture and extension, employment, passport, registration of vehicles, birth and death certificates, filing of returns, and so forth.


The 1999 Report on Human Development in South Asia poses the following questions to the system of governance:

  • Do people fully participate in governance?
  • Are people fully informed?
  • Do people make decisions, or can they at least hold the decision-makers accountable?
  • Are women equal partners with men in governance?
  • Are the needs of the poor and disadvantaged met?
  • Are people’s human rights guaranteed?
  • Are the needs of future generations taken into account in current policies?
  • Do people own their structures of governance?

The report lays down the following aspects for South Asian countries to pursue :

Firstly, they need to redirect their priorities towards the core human development concerns, viz. basic human needs of the poor, provision of efficiently targeted social safety net and major redistribution of such productive assets such as land and credit.

Secondly, there is a need for revitalizing existing state institutions by fair representation to all sections, represented and well-paid civil services, and independent and accessible judiciary.

Thirdly, new partnerships between the state and society have to be forged for any major turnaround, viz, government must provide a supportive framework to aid meaningful civil society initiatives and private sector enterprises.

Lastly, provide people with the Right to Information inform and spirit. The success of governance depends on the reinvention of the government, re-engineering of the bureaucracy and the re-invigoration of non-government sectors, with a social motive. There is also need to have political will, normative concerns and organizational flexibility. The state, the private sector ad the non-governmental organizations, especially the community based organizations should cooperate and coordinate with each other to make good governance possible.

Check out public administration notes in detail.

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