Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Governance Deficit In India

           Governance is an outcome of a system. It is a yardstick to measure the performance of a system/organ of a body. Performance and governance-deficit of a system are inversely proportional to each other. Its product is a constant. This means if one is increasing the other is automatically decreasing. Decreasing performance means increasing governance deficit.
                Nowadays, the buzz word in different media is corruption in India. Front page headlines in print and prime time news in visual media are corruption. This news is coming from all branches of our government. All organs of our government are inflicted with the ailment of governance deficit. This deficit of the branch reduces its required performance.
                Governance is the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes. These processes and systems are typically administered by a government. The Word Bank defines governance as: the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development.
               The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories. The government comprises three branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. 
               The duties and functions of legislative branch generally is law making: this includes making and passing of new laws, and amending and repealing of old laws.
                The objective classification adopted by the scholars, categorized Indian Parliament as a reactive institution. The Legislative institutions that react to the policies, decision proposed by the executive are reactive institutions.
                If we look back a little and evaluate the performance of the Parliament and State legislatures through the conduct of the houses in the formative period, it could be seen that Jawaharlal Nehru, an ardent devotee of parliamentary democracy and a builder of Parliament, devoted his whole attention in evolving modern devices for representation.
                He conducted lengthy sessions to transact business and gave adequate time for the voicing of dissent. Opposition views were respected if not incorporated in the decision. Thus lengthy sessions were conducted. Barring a few, all decisions were taken only in the legislative bodies. Ordinance was a rare phenomenon.
                Nehru once cautioned the members, that unless the members are equipped to face the technical subjects prepared by the bureaucrats, the Parliament has no relevance in decision-making. Gradually, the composition of the Legislative institutions has been changed. New elites grabbed the opportunities made possible due to the retirement of veteran politicians who were no longer useful. The generalist tendencies of the legislators pave the way for the domination of bureaucrats in the decision making process.
                The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) was established in 1999 by a group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad. The slogan of ADR is “No Office in this land is more important than that of being a citizen - Felix Frankfurter.” Our goal is to improve governance and strengthen democracy by continuous work in the area of Electoral and Political Reforms. It conducts multiple projects aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the political and electoral system of the country.
                 ADR is working in close coordination with Election Commission of India (ECI). ECI has recommended many political reforms. The reforms list is available online. But none is serious to take up it. It is due for long. Political parties and actors are facing heavy criticism for not resorting this reform. As a result, public confidence is reducing day by day in our political masters and such institutions run and won by them. We are leading towards a grave situation.
                  Indian bureaucracy is the worst in Asia with a 9.21 rating out of 10, according to a report by a prestigious consulting firm based in Hong Kong. India fared worse than Vietnam (rated at 8.54),Indonesia (8.37), Philippines (7.57) and China (7.11), said the report by Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd released in Jan 2012. The report said India's inefficient bureaucracy was largely responsible for most of the biggest complaints that business executive have about the country.
               The bureaucrats were rarely held accountable for wrong decisions and it would be extremely difficult to challenge them when there were disagreements, it said."This gives them (bureaucrats) terrific powers and could be one of the main reasons why average Indians as well as existing and would-be foreign investors perceive India's bureaucrats as negatively as they do," said the report.
                  . Real administrative reform is political in nature and unless political masters mean business, the rituals will be gone through but without implementation. There have been two Administrative Reform Commissions with the first one with the most comprehensive terms of reference. But when it was ready with its recommendations after 5 years, political priorities had changed and the reports were promptly put in cold storage.
                  No political party or Prime Minister has shown real interest in changing this. If there is no corruption at the political level, it is easy to deal with corruption at bureaucratic level. Globalization will force India to reform its bureaucracy further.
                Sardar Patel famously called the bureaucracy the steel frame. Today it seems made of very flexible bamboo. Not only has it failed to prop up the system but also has actually bent over backwards to facilitate its decay.
                 The bureaucrats actually must share greater burden for all that is wrong than politicians. Politicians at least have the challenge to be elected every five years. Moreover, running a party as well as fighting elections is expensive affairs. So it is in their nature to please special interests and chase easy money.
                 Bureaucrats have no such compulsion. Their compromising themselves stems purely out of a lust for power and goodies including nice-post retirement assignments. It is time for a change. Officers suffer from too little competition and accountability.                 
                 The bureaucrats have made little use of protection. It was supposed to make them more independent but they have willingly surrendered their independence to cozy up to politicians in order to get plum postings and other favours.
                 The steel frame has become bamboo now.  Is it possible to run a 21st century economy, galvanized by 22nd century ideas and social networks, with a 20th century bureaucracy, interpreting 19th century laws? One of the few institutions created by the British, which has survived the test of time in more ways than one, and yet had some notable failures, is the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
                Despite prodigious reforms, the IAS has seen limited change. This is a cause for concern. The classic Westminster model, on which the IAS is founded, postulated that while politicians would debate and legislate policy, the civil service would execute it. This has, over the years, been turned on its head.
                Politicians have found it profitable to get into every aspect of execution and indulge in rampant corruption, while the civil service is left to write something that passes off as policy. Add to this the increasing criminalization of civil servants' political masters and the influence of money power within the system. The IAS urgently needs reform if it is not to become increasingly irrelevant to development or be co-opted by the corrupt.
               In above light, administrative reform is due for long. Government of India constituted two administrative reforms committee. Its recommendations are pending and waiting for its turn to get implemented. There is no serious attempt in site for its implementation.
                 An independent and impartial judiciary and a speedy and efficient system are the very essence of civilization. However, our judiciary, by its very nature, has become ponderous, excruciatingly slow and inefficient. Imposition of an alien system, with archaic and dilatory procedures, proved to be extremely damaging to our governance and society.
                    Nani Palkhiwala observed once, the progress of a civil suit in our courts of law is the closest thing to eternity we can experience! Our laws and their interpretation and adjudication led to enormous misery for the litigants and forced people to look for extra-legal alternatives. Any one, who is even remotely exposed to the problem of land grabbing in our cities, or a house owner who finds it virtually impossible to evict a tenant after due notice even for self occupation; can easily understand how the justice system failed.
                  The gradual liberalisation of the Indian economy over the last two decades has of course had profound implications for the legal system. The efficient judicial enforcement of contractual obligations as well as property rights is a pre-condition for generating confidence among domestic as well as foreign entrepreneurs and investors. 
                    In this regard, the Indian judiciary – especially at the subordinate level, has been the target of persistent criticism for mounting arrears as well as inefficiency in disposing of litigation involving business interests.
                     The Indian Judiciary plays an increasingly important role in the life and the governance of this country. However, anyone who has any experience of the courts is aware of the serious problems that beset the judicial system.
                    The issue of judicial reforms has thus far been discussed in only elite legal/judicial circles or among various official commissions and committees of the government. For some time now there has been an increasing realization that this issue needs to be discussed outside these circles as well and common people of this country who are the real stakeholders of the system need to get involved in this issue.
                      The Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Judicial Reforms (CJAR) works so that grassroots pressure comes to bear on the authorities for implementing the needed reforms that will impact: Appointment of Judges and Judicial Accountability, Access to the Judicial System and Delay in Justice, Values and Attitude of the Judiciary towards the Poor.                  
                        Over a period, Governance deficit has covered all three branches of our government. This led us to land in ocean of corruption. Public see it all around and has lost hope to fight and curb it. They are full of anger and against it and wish to get rid of this.
                        But system is not supporting albeit opposing the crusaders against graft. Civil society activists- Anna, Baba, Arvind along with tacit supports of higher judiciary and constitutional bodies like CAG-have brought some ray of hope to them. They are now able to revive the lost hope.
              India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejriwal has entered a new domain and accused the Congress and the BJP of being hand-in-glove on matters relating to corruption. This new domain is talk of the town. The consensus on corruption issue among political parties and actors need to be broken.  Arind has made a good start by voicing this issue loudly. His effort will help in reducing the governance deficit from our government bodies.
Heera Lal
 (Views are personal and based on different sources)

2.     World Bank, Managing Development - The Governance Dimension, 1991, Washington D.C., p. 1

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