There were two schools in a locality, one famous for its good administration, teaching standards and morally sound environment and the other with equally contrasting features like favouritism, discrimination and rampant cheating. It used to become a matter of shame for the well governed school if few of its students perform badly whereas the other school was never admired, if not despised for the high marks its students claimed. The analogy clearly explains why a well governed country considers poverty as a blot on its impeccable record and badly governed country is deplored for the wealth confined within few hands.
Prof. Amartya Sen defines poverty as something not merely limited to economic deprivation or inadequate income but one that also encompasses lack of essential services like education, drinking water and healthcare. Poverty impedes a person from realising his full potential and to lead a dignified life, primarily by restricting accessibility to necessary resources. Further, the detrimental impact of poverty is not confined to individuals but also to society and nation.
To eliminate poverty from our society is the primary objective of every state. Government through various means provide essential services and employment opportunities to enable people to pull themselves out of deprivation. Governance, by ensuring distributional justice and allocative efficiency, is one of the crucial means to alleviate poverty. Accountability, transparency, participatory, inclusiveness and responsiveness are attributes of good governance that contributes to the well-being of a nation.
A well-governed nation has institutions that uphold accountability and transparency at every level. It enables establishment of responsible administration on which citizen place greater degree of trust. It augments to integrity and dignity of governing institutions that manifests in the form of higher revenue and facilitate developmental activities. For instance, inhabitants of Left Wing Extremist states in India are apprehensive of their administration and hence they thwart any effort towards development. Further, a transparent and accountable system removes leakages and mistargetting associated with various poverty alleviation measures taken by government. It thus improves the effectiveness of policy action towards ending various forms of deprivation.
Similarly, greater participation from people is another sign of enabling governance structure. A governance that is participatory ensures effective policy formulation by encompassing varied opinions of different stakeholders. It not only results in smooth implementation but also ensures effective monitoring at the site of implementation. Decentralisation of power is one of the important instrument to secure people’s participation. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in India has been successful in achieving citizens’ involvement in governance at grass-root level.
Participation at local level helps in better planning because specific deprivations of locality are well known to indigenous people, who then endeavor to resolve local issues through locally available skills and resources.
Inclusiveness is yet another prominent feature of a high quality governance that emphasizes that fruits of economic growth is fairly distributed in society. It also seeks to empower vulnerable and downtrodden section of society thereby generating enough livelihood sources for everyone to improve their living conditions.An inclusive policy measure also tends to reduce inequality in society and encourages greater cohesion.
Lastly, a responsive governance is sensitive to the needs of people. It is citizen-centric and hallmark of a well governed country. For example, pro-active support to farmers during droughts is a characteristic of responsive administration. It enhances economic and social well-being of people by better identifying their needs and decisively works towards thir resolution. Such governance constantly improvises its structure through robust grievance redressal and feedback mechanism.
All the characteristics of a well governed nation conspicuously improves the standard of living and provision of basic services for its citizens. In such a country, poverty is seen as shameful existence of inefficiencies and corruption in the system irrespective of how minimal it is.
On the other hand, in a badly governed nation where poverty is widespread, wealth is seen with contempt. It becomes a grim reminder of an unequal society wherein resources are often acquired through immoral means and at the cost of suffering of poor people. Like a good governance framework enables reduction in impoverishment and inequality, a bad governance structure perpetuates these social evils.
Entrenched corruption is a prominent feature of a poorly administered country. Presence of leakages and misappropriation of funds defeats the very objective of welfare schemes. It renders poverty alleviation measures ineffective and also widens trust deficit between people and those who govern them. Further, it facilitates concentration of wealth in few hands and prevent it from ‘trickling-down’ to the lowest rung of society.
Delays and red-tapism are another feature of bad governance. Economically, it hurts the investment sentiments in the country resulting in lower business establishments and inadequate job creation. This also distorts supply-chain and fuels inflation, burden of which falls upon impoverished masses. Further, delays in provisioning of essential services and creation of infrastructure exacerbates the situation.
Opaque nature of governing institutions provide veil for all sorts of corrupt practices including crony capitalism, extortion, bribery etc. Institutional opacity shields political leaders, government officials and businessmen in their effort to acquire wealth unscrupulously. Resource distance of masses is increased and inequality is perpetuated in such a country.
In a country where children are dying of hunger and farmers are committing suicide due to poor management, concentration of wealth is contemptible on which country must be ashamed of.
India provides a very glaring example of a nation that is transition from a system marred with exclusivity, discrimination and immorality towards one that is transparent, inclusive and ethical. It is progressing towards achieving a good governance model through incorporation of technology, mass awareness and literacy programmes.
Technology catalyses this transition as it reduces human discretion. It empowers people to question governmental actions and fix greater accountability on them through few mouse-clicks. Proliferation of social networking sites and apps has facilitated rapid mobilization of public opinion thus making governance more responsive. For example, emergence of ‘whatsapp governance’ in Bengaluru where people raise their grievances on a whatsapp group entails quick response from governing bodies. Further, it provides a platform to plug leakages and problem of identification through electronic transfer of benefits and bio-authentication respectively.
There are various initiative both at central and domestic level to encourage practices of good governance. One can say that governance is a good parameter to judge our extent of evolution into a civilized race. A race whose ultimate goal should be to secure food for every mouth, work for every hand and dream for every eye.