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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 1-2, December 24, December 31, 2022 (Double issue)

Good Governance: A Common Man’s Perception | S. K. Saidapur

Saturday 24 December 2022

by S. K. Saidapur *

December 25th is celebrated as the Good Governance Day in memory of Bharat Ratna, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee the former Prime Minister of India, since 2014 and the date coincides with the his birth anniversary. It is to foster awareness about the significance of good governance among the officials and politicians. Good governance practiced in letter and spirit can lead to quality life for all citizens. In the governance of States the political leaders, bureaucrats and various officials have a key role. Merely talking about good governance/organizing functions leads to nowhere; and tax payers’ money gets squandered. More often than not those concerned with governance (e.g., bureaucrats and political bosses) believe that they are providing great governance (sushasan) despite numerous woes that the citizens face day in and day out with widespread corruption prevailing in all walks of life.

Assuming that the State governments in power are providing good governance, one can ask what the parameters to judge them are. Who should judge? How does a common man judge the State governance with no defined parameters or methodology, competency or license to assess the functioning of the offices and officials, and the political masters, the elected legislators, ministers and the Chief Ministers? He needs simple visible parameters. So, let me deliberate on what governance means and its indicators are from a common man’s perspective.

In running a State to the satisfaction of its citizens, both ‘governance’ and ‘leadership’ are needed. These two seemingly different facets must go hand in hand as they are the Yin and Yang of noble governance. One without the other is futile. Governance without leadership leads to atrophy, bureaucracy and indifference. Likewise, leadership without governance leads to autocracy, fraud and personal fiefdoms. So, governance and leadership are actually complementary, interconnected and therefore essential in accomplishing the perceived goals. The State governance can improve remarkably by providing user-friendly administration, streamlining various administrative processes, decentralizing and delegating powers to subordinate officers to help speedy disposal of files. It ensures transparency, credibility and accountability. Attributes of a leader include vision, open mindedness, commitment and concern for institution and stakeholders and above all honesty and integrity. Leadership is driven by the capacity to influence and inspire others by innovative actions motivated by a purpose, generated by a passion and produced by a vision.

Undeniably, quality of governance percolates along the gravity- from top to bottom and not in the reverse direction. It is also true of a leaking roof or corruption which rolls in a top-down direction. Value of good governance and leadership is enormous; it leads to happiness of citizens, promotion of innovative practices and building brand name and pride for the institution/State/country.

With the aforesaid in mind let us revert to the issue of judging a State by common man (who is always at the receiving end) having no formal expertize. Such a person will evidently judge the administration and the governments based on what he routinely encounters in day to day life. For instance, one commonly encounters garbage dumps, plastic and filth all along the road sides, encroachment of roads for variety of purposes including parking vehicles, absence of pedestrian pathways, highly polluted water bodies, and unruly traffic behaviour to name a few. Invariably, motorists violate traffic rules by overtaking from both left and right sides, lean down to spit germ filled tobacco laden saliva on the road, liberally use mobile phones, create traffic jams, do not give side to overtaking vehicles, uses motorbikes with modified silencers making horrifying sound disturbing sleep of senior citizens and the sick. In good governing States such things are never heard. Let us try to understand meaning of good governance from a common man’s point of view. No doubt India is a free country; we need to understand the scope of freedom. Liberty of one person should not inconvenience the other. Clearly, in order to enjoy social liberty, individual liberty must be curtailed; lest governance fails and becomes helter-skelter.

Lastly, for common man parameters like clean environment, traffic behaviour, quality of roads, and corruption free administration in all spheres reflect the State governance. He is unlikely to feel overwhelmed by the moon mission. He basically needs clean air and water, good healthcare facilities, good roads, disciplined traffic, corruption free and efficient administration. Anyone can see and feel these things easily and form opinion on the governance. To make the Good Governance Day meaningful all Indian States should pledge to raise governance to global standards by coupling administration with leadership and eliminating bureaucracies. In the absence of good governance celebration of good governance day can be an embarrassment. Besides, when we accomplish good governance we can boast of fulfilling the aspiration of Shri Vajpayee, the revered and former Prime Minister of India.

* (Author: S. K. Saidapur, Former Vice Chancellor, Karnatak University, Dharwad. Email: saidapu[at]gmail.com)

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