The World since 1991
Key Concepts and Issues since 1991: Globalisation
Key Concepts and Issues since 1991: Humanitarian Issues
Contemporary India: Challenges to Peace, Stability and National Integration
Contemporary India: Good Governance
India and the World
Programmes aimed at bringing Good Governance:
1) Lokpal and Lokayukta:
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 came into force in 2014. The Act provides for the establishment of a body of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States. This office would inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries. It shows the Government’s commitment to clean and responsive governance.
The concept of Lokpal has been taken from Sweden where the office is called the Ombudsman. The typical duties of an ombudsman are to investigate complaints against government officials and attempt to resolve them.
The State of Maharashtra was the first and pioneer State in India to introduce the concept of Lokayukta. The Maharashtra Lokayukta Institution came into being in 1972. The Lokayukta can investigate allegations or grievances arising out of the conduct of public servants including political executives, legislators, officers of the State Government, local bodies, public enterprises and other instrumentalities of Government. A member of the public can file specific allegations with the Lokayukta against any public servant for enquiry. The Lokayukta can also initiate suo-moto inquiry into the conduct of public servants. The Government of India appointed Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first Lokpal in 2019.
A Suo Moto cognizance is a Latin term which means an action taken by a government agency, court or other central authority on their own apprehension. A court takes a Suo Moto Cognizance of a legal matter when it receives information about the violation of rights or breach of duty through media or a third party’s notification. In India, Article 32 of the Indian Constitution and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution lay down the provisions for filing Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in Supreme Court and High Courts respectively. This has given rise to the court's’ power to initiate legal action on their cognizance of a matter. Suo Moto’s actions by Indian courts are a reflection of activism by the judiciary and captivated the general public with the speedy delivery of justice by the courts. Suo Moto cases in India are generally taken up by the Supreme Court. The Indian Judiciary has been undoubtedly holding the baton for democracy for the past few years. In numerous instances, different High Courts and the Supreme Court have risen to the occasion by taking cognizance of a legal issue on their own and provided swift justice. Various courts in India have initiated legal proceedings on their own based on media reports, telegrams and letters received by aggrieved people, taking a Suo Moto cognizance of the issue. Suo Moto action is when a High Court or Supreme Court on its own take control over the matter or the case.
2) Citizens’ Charters:
Citizens’ Charter is based on the premise that the Citizen is “King” and government organisations exist to serve the citizens. In order to ensure that both, the service providers as well as citizens realise that public agencies are meant to provide service, each organisation should spell out the services it has to perform and then specify the standards/norms for these services. Once this is done then the organisation can be held accountable if the service standards are not met. Government of India commenced the exercise to formulate Citizens’ Charters in 1996.
Revolution in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has the potential of elevating the governance process to new levels. That is the reason why countries around the world are increasingly opting for ‘e-Governance’. Governance has become more complex and varied in the last few decades. Citizens’ expectations from the government have also increased manifold. ICT facilitates efficient storing and retrieval of data, the instantaneous transmission of information, processing information and data faster than the earlier manual systems. This helps in speeding up governmental processes, taking decisions expeditiously and judiciously, increasing transparency and enforcing accountability. It also helps in increasing the reach of government – both geographically and demographically.
Over the years, a large number of initiatives have been undertaken by various State Governments and Central Ministries to bring in an era of e-Government. Efforts have been made at various levels to improve the delivery of public services and simplify the process of accessing them. e-Governance in India has evolved from computerisation of Government Departments to such initiatives in Governance, such as citizen centricity, service orientation and transparency.
The objective of the National e-Governance Plan of the Government of India is to bring public services closer home to citizens. This is to be achieved by building a countrywide infrastructure reaching down to the remotest of villages and large-scale digitisation of records to enable easy, reliable access over the internet. Today application for a birth certificate, death certificate, PAN card or even a Passport can be done online. This has brought administration closer to people.
4) Right to Information:
Right to information is one of the most important aspects of good governance. It provides access to information about public policies and actions. It is the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ushering in people centred governance. Transparency in government organisations makes them function more objectively, predictably and also enables citizens to participate in the governance process effectively. In a fundamental sense, right to information is a basic necessity of good governance. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has enabled citizens to seek important public information from the government.
5) Citizen participation:
Citizen participation in governance is seen as contributing to a healthy democracy. It enhances and improves upon the traditional form of representative democracy to transform it into more responsive and thus a participative democracy.
All the above programmes ensure citizens participation in governance. Citizens are not to be considered as recipients of development but as participants in the development process. It is essentially a ‘bottom- up’ approach and not a ‘top- down’ approach. It refers to the modalities by which citizens can influence and take control over resources and decision making about development. It accepts that the citizens have a legitimate right in making decisions about their future.