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STRUCTURAL REFORMS

By Thelma Cook,2014-11-23 14:23
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STRUCTURAL REFORMS

    VISION 2020

    GOVERNANCE AND PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION

    H Ramachandran

On Governance

    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.

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    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

    2001).

    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

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    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 urbanrural duality and build a rural urban continuum in living standards and infrastructure.

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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.,

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    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.

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    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).

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    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