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Requisites for good governance

INDIA IN SEARCH OF GOOD GOVERNANCE: Jayanta Kumar Ray; Published for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Calcutta, by K. P. Bagchi and Company, 286, B. B. Ganguly Street, Calcutta- 700012. Rs. 400.

EVEN AFTER 50 years, independent India has not attained any reasonable level of good governance. The author examines in this book the reasons for such a poor performance. First, it is the lack of balance in the relative roles of the public, private and civic sectors that has led to innumerable policy lapses. They include, among others, an agricultural policy that gave no freedom to farmers, large-scale socialisation of economy leading to corrupt and incompetent industries, imbalance between the public and private sectors in the important fields of telecommunication and power, losses in some of the public sector banks, inordinate delay in amending the Companies Act and indifferent measures adopted in matters of public health and population control. The author recommends that non-government organisations should be encouraged to cooperate with government organisations say, in the fields of education, health, employment or any other basic infrastructure. He cites the example of the U.S. where 60 per cent of the social service agencies are run by non-profit organisations.

Next is the imbalance in the roles played by the three authorities, namely, the Union, the State and the local. Under the Indian Constitution, the States are in utter dependence upon the Union. The legislative and revenue-raising powers are concentrated in the hands of the union, crippling the performance of the State. Nor has the government shown any will in unearthing black money, a very rich monetary source. Though there is a provision for panchayati raj institutions in our Constitution and even after the 73rd and 74th Amendments which make them an essential component of our constitutional system, they have not come into full stream yet. The author squarely emphasises the potentialities of public-private-civic (i.e. panchayat) sectors collaboration as an essential element in good governance.

Thirdly, there should be proper balance between the rights and responsibilities of politicians, civil servants and the people. Excessive power with politicians and administrators over the people and perpetual interference by the politicians with the administrators lead to corruption and inefficiency. He also alludes to a variety of criminal activities on the part of the government, which leads to an unholy alliance among bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians, criminals and the police force. As a solution, he prescribes large-scale transfer of power from the government to non-government sectors, i.e., the establishment of entrepreneurial government to minimise wastage and infuse accountability. A partnership between government and non- profit/non-government organisation could function in any field of public service like education, public works, sanitation, police organisation. But to enforce accountability, an efficient and powerful judiciary should be in place. Despite the emphasis laid by the Fifth Central Pay Commission Report upon re-engineering the government, no significant programmes have emerged.

The balance that should exist between economic development and social justice is mentioned as the fourth requisite for good governance. Faults in public health and education policies have produced little uplift in the economic conditions of the under- privileged.

Fifthly, globalisation offers immense possibilities in banishing poverty and building a progressive society. An appropriate dovetailing between globalisation and self-reliance needs to be achieved and exploitation by foreign players prevented by protective legislation.

Lastly the author calls for a proper balance between the rights and responsibilities of the individual, especially the entrepreneur and the government, so that the former could function freely. Another serious issue is the violation of human rights on the part of the government bodies in cases of custodial torture, rape and death. Fortunately, the Protection of Human Rights Act of 1993 seeks to render violation cases more transparent arousing public consciousness.

The author quotes case studies from political life to illustrate his views and has taken pains to provide copious reference material. The book, however, leaves the readers quite depressed at the enormity of the country's failings. This is more so because he has not elaborated how to eschew the ills, foremost among them being corruption and non-accountability. A formidable task this, writing on such a difficult and absorbing subject but Mr. Ray has made it quite readable. This book is a must for every citizen who has anything to contribute to good governance of our country.

Cdr. R. GANAPATHI (Retd.)

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