(Sample Material) IAS Online Coaching : Polity - Good Governance

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Subject: Polity

Topic: Good Governance

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 Governance is a Latin word that means “steering”. In the context of public affairs, steering means taking society in a particular direction by harnessing its resources- material and human.

Governance is generally understood as the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented. Public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources, and ensure civil rights - Good governance does it transparently and with due regard for the rule of law.

Good government is a normative description of how government is supposed to be constituted. It lays down norms for model governance.

Governance is a process. The most basic components of it are establishing a government and vesting it with the power to exercise control and authority.Politics provides a means by which the government is constituted at the highest level Governance is what government does.

Governance can be good or bad. A military government that comes to power by coup is bad government. It does not respect rule of law. People have no sense representation nor can they participate. Military governments are not only very corrupt but people do not have opportunities to demand that corruption be eradicated. There is no transparency and accountability in governance. The costs of such bad governance are that needs of the people are not taken into consideration; public money is misappropriated; public works are not taken up for the benefit of people; respect for law declines; criminalization of politics may result with criminal justice system weakening; crony capitalism (friends of the military clique are the beneficiaries of the market) develops; and so on.

Good Governance

Therefore, good governance is the need of the hour. Governance is good if Constitutionalism is ingrained into the political process. That is, government is set up according to the Constitution and runs according to it. Clear boundaries of exercise of authority are laid down inter institutional relations are stipulated for example, federalism and separation of powers; citizen rights and responsibilities make up an important part of the Constitution, etc.

Good governance requires that rule of law should be respected. Governance takes place with citizen’s rights as a central priority: right to life and personal liberty & all its ramifications (Art.21). Other important aspects of rule of law are that all are equal; vulnerable sections may have laws for affirmative action; no arbitrary power is exercised and so on (Dicey).

Good governance is possible only if the government is constituted by a genuine process of representation through free and fair elections based on universal adult franchise.

Effective control of government by Parliament, made up people’s representatives is essential to good governance. It ensures that people’s demands and aspirations are the basis of law making and governance. Money raised and spent (Art.265 and Art.266) is in line with ability of people to pay and for the good of people respectively. Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM) 2003 mandates extraordinary accountability to Parliament and also inter-generational parity- when the borrowings in the present are high, taxes on future generations will be oppressive.

Laws are made by the Parliament and Parliament has a crucial role in ensuring that their implementation is in the letter and spirit of law- for example with the help of various parliamentary devices and Comptroller and Auditor General report.

Transparent, open, accountable and responsive governance is the essence of good government as we shall see ahead.

Good governance is fair governance balances the interests of all sections of society well.

Having introduced the subject, the need is to amplify on each one of the dimensions alluded to above and widen the scope of good governance.

Thomas Jefferson, former President of the United States (1801-1809) used the expression good government. Good government is one that does its duty well. Central duty of good government is to provide and defend rights of citizens. It helps them acquire property and secure the same. Citizen welfare measured by happiness is the goal of good government, according to Jefferson.

Ingredients of the Good Governance

 According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), there are eighth characteristics of good governance:


Universal adult participation is important. Constitutional rights like freedom of association and expression, local self-government and RTI are examples.

2)Rule of law

Impersonal implementation of laws; independent judiciary; and professional police force.


Decisions taken and enforced on the basis of rules; rules are in public domain; people can- verify if rules are being followed or not; not only that, if rules are fair or not too. Due process norms ensure the same.


It means that administration is responsive to people’s demands expressed in any forum- parliament, civil society etc within a reasonable timeframe.


Governance is characterized by balancing of various interests in society for development. These needs may be mutually conflicting landed and landless; workers and factory owners; polluters and the victims of pollution. Consensus based governance all viewpoints are considered and addressed. It leads to efficient allocation of resources and guarantees sustainable human-development. The interests of weaker sections are crucial for the consensus as their representation is generally meager in the power structure.

6)Equity and inclusiveness

Long term interests of society are best served only when all sections develop. Inclusiveness is the key to social development. Governance should ensure that fruits of growth reach all- rural, urban, women, men, all regions, rich and poor etc. The 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) has the goal of inclusive growth. Gender budgeting and the reservation for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies (108th Constitution Amendment Bill 2008) steps aimed at good and inclusive governance.

7)Effectiveness and efficiency

Effectiveness of the government relates to how far government can connect. With people delivery of services, access to people, responsiveness to their needs and demands etc. Efficiency means value for the given resources. Outcome budget is an example of the government concern for efficiency- outlays are necessary but far from sufficient for good governance. Outlays (financial) produce output (physical) and further outcomes (social, economic and human development: Inter-generational viability in the use of natural resources environment-friendly patterns of growth are essential to good governance. Otherwise, social disharmony will result.


All public authorities- government, corporate and civil society- are expected to be accountable for their conduct. Accountability is based on statute. It extends to the clients and other stake holders primarily but where necessary, for the whole society. For example a corporate is accountable to its stakeholders. But in matters of environment, the entire society can demand answerability. RTI citizens’ charters, stock exchange-listing by a company etc help in accountability.

Good Governance and India

The democratic government that the  Constitution establishes, incorporates norms of good governance- in the Preambular  values, in Fundamental Rights, other Constitutional rights and various statutes like Representation of People Act 1951 etc. Constitution sets up a welfare state whose responsibilities require good governance so that the target groups benefit fully and social divides are bridged. Millions of poor and illiterate people need to be served and hundreds of billions of rupees are involved.

Good governance has been at the forefront of governance in India as can be seen from the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee recommendations in 1958;
Administrative Reforms Commission under Morarji Desai in 1966-69; LK Jha Committee on Economic Administrative Reforms in 1982; Arjun Sen Gupta Committee to Review Policy for Public Enterprises in 1984; P.C. Hota committee.

Report on Civil Service Reforms (2004); Second Administrative Reforms Commission under Veerappa Moily (2005) and so on.

In 2003 Union government established an official Core Group on Administrative Reforms headed by the Cabinet Secretary to the Government of India. In 2005, Central government presented National Model Code of Governance in the two-day National Conference of District Collectors. Salient suggestions of the Code are the following

  • Development is citizen-based. They should have choice government, private sector or any other mode.

  • Money should give optimal results for which and service agreements with providers should ensure the same.

  • Verifiable performance standards must be laid down for cost, time and quality of service delivery. It lends itself to qualify control, value for a given resource and accountability.

  • Strengthen rural and urban local bodies should be depended upon for delivering services in accordance with the mandates of the Constitution of India. LSG institutions should be empowered with devolution of functions, finances and functionaries (-3F). The local self government officials should be trained professionally.

  • Participatory mechanisms like NGOs, civil society self help groups etc should be encouraged, in all aspects and stage such as service planning, budgeting, delivery, monitoring, getting feedback, quality benchmarking and assurance, evaluating, undertaking social adult, customer satisfaction surveys etc.

  • Independent regulatory mechanisms and effective laws must be established, to ensure that service standards are adhered to and the citizens get a fair deal from service providers.

  • Adopt inclusive policies and programmes through which the socially and economically marginalized sections are closely involved in the mainstream of development.

  • Harness the power of new technologies, including information and communication technologies, to simplify government procedures, reduce costs and improve interface with business and citizens;

  • Utilize e-Governance as a tool for enhancing service delivery, improving transparency, cutting red tape and ensuring better performance management in government;

  • Improve from outlays to outcomes

  • Create Citizen’s Charters and Service Charters covering all public services,

  • Develop and implement a legal framework for institutionalizing accountability, transparency and performance across the government and periodically disseminate status papers on the sectoral issues and options for wide discussion and involvement;

  • Develop, standardize and implement a comprehensive grievance monitoring and redressal mechanism to ensure sensitivity of the government to the Problems faced by the citizens;

  • Declare zero-tolerance for corruption, strengthen vigilance and anti- corruption machinery, and take strict action against those found guilty;

  • Popularize best practices and initiatives in good governance and to incentives innovation in governance by instituting rewards

The above set of recommendations is laudable and make up the crux of good governance in a developing country like India where poverty and inequality plague the society. They essentially pertain to administration .What is even more important is to render them doable.

Electoral reforms, administrative reforms (some of which are mentioned above) and civil service reforms are necessary in equal measure for good governance.

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