GOVERNANCE AND PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION
th century, the need for good governance has been an In the last decade of the 20
important and recurring theme in the literature dealing with human development – both
research and popular. There is now a growing body of evidence, which shows that the quality of governance is related to differentials in growth and development. However, much of this literature deals with improving the performance of short term normal government functions such as increasing efficiency of public services, accountability of bureaucracy and enhancing transparency in decision making but ignore the larger and critical role of governments geared to the national future. Governance needs to be seen not merely in terms of managing resources and people during the tenure of a government but its ability to take a long-term view not only of the nation but nation in the global context.
Attributes of good governance must be determined by the nation‟s vision of the larger
social and economic goal(s) and the value system it wants to promote. While a consensus among political parties on the former is more easily achieved and therefore possible to insulate it from the government of the day, to reach such a consensus in the case the latter is extremely difficult. It is however, possible to move towards a minimal common agenda across the spectrum of political thinking on a value system that would be promoted.
The goals and value systems tend to be dynamic and change more often at a sedate pace resulting in a sense of continuity thus enabling the society at large to adjust more easily with those changes. Along with such changes in goals, therefore, the system of governance, the institutions as well as attributes of good governance also changes. It is necessary, however, to note that (i) the changes that have swept most nations in the last quarter of the th20 century have been rapid and decision making at all levels have become more complex and dependent on a whole range of factors that are outside the control of decision makers and (ii) that a substantial part of the governance concern must pertain to long term view. A system of governance that has performed well in the past would also require to be changed due to larger changes that take place both within the nation and across nations. What should
continue as central to governance, are the people.
th Century was an era of radical As noted earlier, the latter part of the 20
transformations, some brought about by internal compulsions and the way in which the country was governed and partly due to technological change and the global context. These changes have reduced predictability of the future. As Akio Morita, former president of SONY said the only way to predict the future is to create it. But creating future requires vision as swell as commitment.
A working definition of governance could be “processes, systems and structures that guide the social, economic and political relationships”. The relationships could viewed
between government and market, government and citizen, government and private sector and Voluntary Organisations, elected and appointed officials, levels of governments (Union, state and local), and between legislative and executive structures.
A widely prevalent perception of state of governance in India has been summarised as “Those in the government, continue to feel that that they are doing a fine job and nothing could be better. The citizen clearly feels otherwise. This mismatch in the perceptions of the people and the government is made worse by the credibility gap that exists between the citizen and the government. By now, the general feeling outside the government is that the government is huge, it lacks direction, it is unmanageable, is wasteful and it is uncaring of the citizen. The government on its part keeps on reasserting itself with new policy prescriptions from time to time in a bid to „win friends and influence people‟. A stage has been reached when the people take with a pinch of salt whatever the Government says or claims” (Gupta
Central to the theme of achieving economic and social development is the quality of Governance. The common and oft repeated attributes of good governance include participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus based, equity concerns, effectiveness, accountable and strategic vision. Governance therefore is larger than government and envisages a role for private sector, civil society and citizens at large. Improvement in governance cannot be limited to reforms within government but would need to encompass a wider arena including civil society. Thus, people and civil society institutions themselves form an important link in the governance chain. Notwithstanding several shortcomings and limitation in different models the experiences across the world show the emergence of self-instituted civil society as an independent social partner has thoroughly modified governance system. However, increasing role of market, civil societies and non-government organisations cannot compensate the inadequacies of governance, even though their role is crucial in shaping the quality of governance. Government is the focal point for
instituting good governance as all other institutions function within the overall institutional framework provided by the government. An incremental approach to quality of governance cannot meet the emerging challenge of rapid transformation.
In order to develop a vision of governance, it is necessary to map out the social goals in a time perspective. For operational purposes these goals may be stated as:
Through accelerated social and economic development, by harnessing advances in
science and technology and through related concerns for sustainability, by 2020 India
will banish poverty and hunger, provide an enabling environment for near full
employment through multiple livelihood opportunities and improve living standards
qualitatively and quantitatively, while leap-frogging up the ladder of Human
Development Index. There will be significant improvements in environmental hygiene,
sanitation, health and nutrition. Decentralizing decision making, strengthening local
institutions and empowering them will sensitize them of their rights, responsibilities,
entitlements and contributions to overall sustainable development. Sustained
attention towards conservation of the natural resource base will improve productivity,
enhance income and maintain ecological balance and promote environmental safety.
India, with its committed democracy would provide a leadership role in this regard.
If we expand on this vision, by 2020, no family will lack basic needs of food, clean water, clothing and shelter. Every citizen would have opportunities to learn and develop skills and the country would have a quality-and-productivity-conscious workforce that would command commensurate returns to lead a respectable life. The vulnerable segments – the
old, the physically disabled, mentally challenged, and children would be able to lead a secure life with dignity. Need of the every segment of the life-cycle of our citizens would be addressed – the child hood, adolescent, youth, middle-aged and the old. Values would be promoted toward creating an egalitarian society. The pattern of development would rapidly reduce the urban–rural duality and build a rural urban continuum in living standards and infrastructure.
Governance, Decentralisation and People’s Participation
All political power in democracy stems from people. Central therefore to governance is empowerment of people by increasing their control over governance. The irony of a discourse on empowerment of people is because “As the colonial state had consciously distanced itself from the people, and as that distance did not significantly narrow in the post-independent era, tradition of consultation of and participation by the people did not develop. Accessibility of government to the common people and their sensitivity to people's need had progressively declined” (Iyer 2001). “Over the decades, after having inherited very substantial
powers from it‟s colonial legacy, the State apparatus has steadily amassed functions – and
more powers. The new developmental State has been bestowed a vast number of new responsibilities and vastly extended financial powers. Although the exercise of these powers is not untrammelled – there are a number of checks and balances imposed by the democratic system -- the labyrinthine and obscure processes through which decisions are taken, over-regulation in many spheres of public life, the weakness of democratic institutions, and the sheer monopoly which vests with the State, creates sufficient ground for arbitrary exercise of this power. This has led to two very major problems in the governance structures, inefficiency
and corruption” (Srivastava 2001)
A culture of dependency on government for almost every thing developed over the last few decades that needs to be broken. One of the important components of the solution to
the crisis of resource distribution lies in the involvement of people through appropriate institutions at the local level. It is only in recent years that a consciousness of the importance „stakeholder participation‟ and „share holder participation‟ have begun to emerge. From a
situation extreme of state control the pendulum has started moving back in the other direction - towards the user communities and people. Devolution to local bodies has emerged as a major plank of governance reform, both in the Centre and the States. According to the Human Development Report 1993, where decentralisation has taken place, it has often been quite successful, encouraging local participation, increasing accountability of local officials, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
As Iyer (2001) notes, Project Affected Persons (PAPs), with the assistance of some NGOs have become more conscious of their rights (both their fundamental rights as citizens and their traditional rights of use of river waters, forest produce and other natural resources. It is by now evident to all but the most diehard proponents of centralism that in this increasingly worsening scenario of water scarcity, centralised and inefficient systems of water management will not work. Civil society (in the sense of the people concerned, i.e.,
beneficiaries and those who are likely to be adversely affected and the community in general) plays little or no role in the planning and implementation of such projects. For example, the Irrigation Acts vest the management and control of waters in the hands of the state, and project planning and implementation are largely internal activities of the state. In the absence of institutional arrangements for consultation and grievance-redressal, the process of displacement, resettlement and rehabilitation often generate serious dissatisfactions leading in some cases to conflicts.
Up-till early to middle of the last century, there existed throughout India numerous water harvesting structures and small irrigation schemes, and systems of community involvement around these. Since the responsibility for the operation and the maintenance of these
structures lay with the community, the close involvement of people in the management of water resources was ensured. The situation changed completely during the latter part of the last century. The community-managed structures went into disuse and decline and the state assumed complete monopoly of water supply and management, even at the local level.
As a World Bank study points out, India‟s policy clearly contradicts these elements. “First, water is provided free of cost (up to 40 litre per capita per day), and users do not contribute to the capital cost associated with higher level of services. Second, ownership of rural water supply installation is not transferred to communities… Communities do not have any control
over what, when, where and how installations are provided. Lastly, mechanisms for communicating feedback from users to water agencies are poorly developed, with few offices to which to report defunct installations. In general, water agencies are not responsive to even
this limited feedback” (World Bank, 1999b).
As Kundu (2002) observes, in the urban context community participation dates back to early seventies largely limited to a few pockets and to creation of local infrastructure.
Involving Community in Infrastructure Development
Community participation in urban development projects has a history dating back to the early seventies when Urban Basic Service Programme was launched by the central government with assistance from UNICEF. The projects covered only a few slums in select
number of cities. There was no perspective for building a network to cover all the slums even within the selected cities and, consequently, the solutions pursued were local in nature. Attempts were made to do social mobilisation by creating community groups and involving these in implementation of the project at the grassroots level. Community was, thus, viewed merely as an agent, providing support to state sponsored development activities to ensure better implementation, in the initial experiments of community participation.
In subsequent years it was realised that community involvement not only results in effective implementation of the projects but also leads to better designing and substantial reduction in operational costs. Following this, community was often involved not just for project implementation and supervision of work but also in designing the project. All these initiatives notwithstanding, community participation remained a state sponsored activity until
the late seventies.
Community participation as a component of development strategy gained currency in the eighties as a consequence of failure of public agencies and growing deficiency in the level of basic amenities. It was argued that the community can help not only in social mobilisation but also in raising financial resources that the local authorities need very badly. In many cases, it became possible to have substantial reduction in project cost as the prospective beneficiaries provided their labour free or at a wage rate much below that in the market. Further, the pressure of peer group under participatory arrangement resulted in better monitoring, more productive engagement of the beneficiaries in the project and better recovery of development loans sanctioned to individuals. The community was mobilised not merely for making contributions in terms of ideas and labour but also for sharing a part of the capital and current expenditure. Only, there was demand for making credit available outside
the formal institutional structure, which was beyond the access of the slum communities. In several cases, attempts were made to build mechanisms at community level to ensure timely repayment of loans.
The most innovative form of community participation in infrastructural projects, which
has been hailed as a major achievement in the nineties, is the neighbourhood and slum networking schemes, launched with substantial financial support from the state or central government (Kundu 2002).
While the need and the rationale for people‟s involvement in local resources management is increasingly accepted by the government, and some efforts in this direction have been made on the ground, legal provisions and effective institutional structures to facilitate such involvement is yet to be put in place. Thus, Reddy (2000) succinctly notes: "while participatory development is propagated on a large scale, one hardly finds any legislative, policy or political support for it.
Simultaneously the government sponsored initiatives for people‟s participation have come into several programmes: Water Users Association in irrigation projects, Watershed Association in watershed management, JFM committees in forest areas, VEC in Primary education and SHG in micro credit and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) or Neighbourhood User Groups (NUGs) in urban areas.
“People‟s participation has become a standard rhetoric in India today. Different actors interpret it differently. One view is that participation means getting people to agree to and go
along with a project already been designed for them or to get support of a few leaders…. The important question is participation for whose benefit and on what terms? …It must be therefore understood as a process by which the people are able to identify their own needs
and share in the design, implementation and evaluation of the participatory action. Thus various elements of participation are decision making at various stages, control and management of funds and resources, share in usufruct and final produce and certainly of benefits.” (Mid Term Appraisal of the Ninth Five Year Plan (Planning Commission, 2000)
Institutional Framework for Decentralisation – The Panchayat
Two major policy shifts took place in India in the 90‟s - one dealing with the economic
rdrestructuring and the second concerning decentralisation of political power, through the 73
thand the 74 amendments to the constitution of India. The factors that culminated in these two policy shifts were different - the former brought about by compulsions of balance of payment and the latter by increasing inefficiency and costs of delivery systems of development programmes. This basic difference in the factors that led to the two reform processes of
globalisation and decentralisation resulted in an artificial distinction between issues relating to national governance and those of local governance.
rdth and the 74 amendments to the constitution of India, enacted in 1992, lay The 73
down ground rules with basic structural framework for decentralised governance at district and lower levels which can sustain themselves against external interference and emerge as effective and strong people‟s institutions. The Amendments mandate that every state shall establish a three-tier system of Panchayat, at the village, intermediate (with some exceptions)
and district levels. The Panchayat will consist of persons elected directly from the territorial constituencies, all members of the Panchayat shall have the right to vote in the meetings, a
fixed tenure of five years, (if dissolved, election must be conducted within a period of six months of the dissolution), each state will constitute a State Election and a Finance commission to review the finances of the Panchayat and recommend principles on the basis
of which the taxes could be appropriated by or assigned to various tiers of the Panchayat and
the state. The primary role of the Panchayat will be in the area of development planning and
implementation of programmes of economic development and social justice. The Eleventh and the Twelfth Schedules of the Constitution lists 29 and 18 functional areas to be transferred to the rural and urban elected local bodies respectively.
In this backdrop, the emerging literature tends to reduce the issues of decentralisation in to one of simple redistribution of administrative power and financial resources among different governing units and viewing them as a question of turf. It can also be viewed as an attempt by higher levels of governments to get rid of trivial local issues and concentrating on larger national issues. In such a case, it is necessary to ask whether the decentralisation merely directs people towards local issues and deflect their discontent from the larger structural questions of political and economic organisation.
Distribution of Power between Various Tiers of Governance
The devolution of power between the Union and the States is more or less clear and constitutionally derived, and the encroachments are minimal. The elected heads of government – the Prime Minister of the Government of India, and the Chief Ministers of various states are recognised as the chief political executive. The control of the state bureaucracy vests with the states and it cannot by-pass the state governments - the formal lines of command are well defined. The friction that appears is largely a result of the demands for greater autonomy from the states, which has accentuated over the years with different political combinations getting elected to the Union and state governments. This clarity is lost when we consider the emerging intra-state arrangements. The functions, power
and authority at the sub-state levels are invariably derived not through statutes and can be withdrawn at any time at the pleasure of the state governments. Even in those states, which are considered rather progressive, in terms of their efforts to decentralise, we can find several instances, where, devolved power/authority, has been withdrawn. One exception to this general trend is the state of Kerala, where an ordinance was passed barring the state government from taking back official notification on the subjects devolved; this could only by done through legislation.
The bureaucracy at the district and lower level comes under the direct control of the state government, rather than that of the local bodies. Unless, the political and administrative arrangements between the state and sub-state levels are broadly comparable to those between the Union and the state governments, effective decentralisation cannot take place.
Decentralisation – The Process of Learning by Doing
rdthMany events relating to decentralisation are taking place after the 73 and the 74
Constitutional Amendment. The action has shifted to the states, and the Union Government is continuing to prod the states along the path of decentralisation. How various states are responding and at what speed they are implementing the Panchayati Raj as envisaged in the
Constitution Amendment is of interest not only to the politicians, researchers and bureaucrats, but also, more importantly, to the masses and therefore the nation. Implementation of the provisions of the Constitution Amendments could either be done after a detailed blueprint of all actions are developed at the state level, or with a combination of details of major actions and adhoc responses to emerging field level questions. Almost all the states, have chosen the latter approach.
Following the new Constitutional mandate to the PRIs, issues of administrative decentralisation was referred by the Government to of Uttar Pradesh a committee chaired by J. L. Bajaj. The Bajaj Committee in its report on decentralisation of administration (1995) recommended a modest set of proposals compared to what is already in place in several
states. The response of the state government to the recommendations of the Bajaj Committee was initially cautious and implementation was slow. Subsequently a High Powered Committee (HPC) also examined the report. Government line departments have
also naturally been slow to decentralise. It took nearly five years after the amended state legislation for thirty-two government departments to issue instructions for devolving powers and functions to PRIs. But almost in all cases, the administrative control of the officers
concerned still remains by and large with the line departments.
In response to the field level needs for participatory approach, a number of informal but state sponsored groups appeared. Some of these, as noted earlier are Water Users Association in irrigation projects and SHG in micro credit, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs). The need for such forums did exist when the Panchayat institutions were not in
place. The need for such parallel forums along with the functional Panchayat institutions has
to be reviewed, since their continuance would undermine and erode the legitimate role of Panchayat. Similarly, the concept of development funds allocated to Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly is a contradiction in the context of Panchayat
Institutions and needs to be revisited. These parallel structures and arrangements often state sponsored and patronised will have to be brought within the ambit of Panchayat institutions –
perhaps in the form of standing committees for which there is a provision in the Act.
Despite reservations for weaker sections and women in Panchayat, because of the
wide inequity in control and access to resources across class, caste and gender, people‟s participation is stymied and skewed. Unless this distortion is corrected people‟s participation would remain notional. It is in this aspect of meaningful participation of weaker segments of the population where Voluntary Sector should play a significant role.
thAlmost a decade after the 74 Amendment, which provides for mandatory District
Planning Committees, only some states have taken steps to constitute them. However, in some states such as Kerala, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, decentralised development planning has progressed substantially. The People‟s Campaign for the Ninth Plan gave the