April 21, 2024

Jai Raj Meena

The author is a first-year law student at National Law University Odisha



“Governance is the exercise of economic, political, and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences”[1]. (Policy Report, 1997, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Governance refers to processes and structures that deliver accountability, responsiveness, transparency, stability, rule of law, equity and inclusion, empowerment and participation at the level size. In addition, governance also embodies values, standards and rules of the system through which public affairs are managed transparently, quickly, comprehensively and with the participation of everyone. people. Collectively, governance can be defined as the institutional environment in which citizens and other stakeholders interact with each other and participate in public affairs. Therefore, governance is more important than government agencies.


The fundamental difference between government and governance, as pointed out by many scholars, is the involvement of non-governmental institutions in the management of public affairs. How society itself and individuals created it by regulating all aspects of their group life, which are different. Therefore, State is a ruler and is the main subject of Government. In governance, society as a whole participates in the administration of national affairs. The government continues to play an important role in promoting and promoting the participation of other classes of society. Therefore, The state, as an intermediary, provides an important legal and regulatory framework and a political order in which various agencies act and operate and citizens act and Move without fear. The public administration Government is a structure that allows this and Facilitates the management process. Governance is the process by which different actors work for the benefit of people. It is the mechanism and agency that possesses the powers of the state And includes the executive, legislative and judiciary. It is carried out by a variety of organizations, including Countries and other agencies, civil society, and non-governmental organizations that exist outside the country. It is a formal link that connects and helps to interact the To foreign bodies. It evolves from the formal structure of the State, but extends the reach of government and  Also enhances service delivery.

Various actors participate in the management. In addition to the official government and its institutions,  other actors include NGOs, civil society, research institutions, financial institutions, educational institutions, lobbyists, multinational corporations, media, and cooperatives. All of these agencies play an important role in decision-making influence on decision making and decision-making processes.


Good governance is a predictable, open, and enlightened politics, public goods, the rule of law, a transparent process, and a professional spirit of acting to promote a strong civil society involved in public affairs. It will be embodied in a prepared bureaucracy. Apart from that, good governance refers to participatory governance. It works responsibly, transparently, and accountably, based on the ideas of justification, efficiency, and consensus to protect the rights of individual citizens.

 This idea of ​​providing “good” governance to people has existed for a long time. The concept of the welfare state has been discussed by many world-renowned philosophers, including Chanakya. The government is to bring good luck and serve for the benefit of the subject. In a democratic system, it can also be linked to efficient and effective management. Therefore, such an administration is development-oriented and needs to be committed to the well-being of people.

Kautilya on good governance

Kautilya, in Artashastra, details the characteristics of the king of the welfare state,  that the happiness of the king depends on the happiness of his subjects, their well-being is his well-being, and not for his own pleasure, but for the pleasure of his subjects it is simply a title given to the ruler, and this position can be said to be the brain of the government and those who are ruled are the heart of the government.

Plato on good governance

Plato is credited with creating the philosopher king as an ideal ruler. Plato believed that conflicting values ​​in different parts of society could be reconciled. The rational and legitimate political order proposed by Plato leads to the harmonious unity of society, where each part flourishes, at no expense to the other. Such a political achievement would be impossible without virtue. Plato in his book The Republic calls a philosopher a king to rule.

Aristotle on good governance

Aristotle can be considered the first to mention the term “governance” when he classifies political organizations according to how they are governed as dictatorial, autocratic, and democratic. In his book Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes that only when man lives with virtue can he live a happy life as nature intended. In his other book Politics, he describes the role that politicians and the political community must play in bringing the life of virtue to citizens.


The concept of “good” governance stems from an understanding of the governance process. Governance involves all sectors of society, and the concept of good governance emerged in the late 1980s, an era of volatile global political scenarios.

 The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 triggered a chain of events that culminated in the disintegration and collapse of the Soviet Union and resulted in the breakdown of alliances within the bloc’ Eastern. These political changes have led to a serious discussion of how a state should be designed to achieve economic development, or in other words a  discussion of good governance.

 Thus, governance emerges from an understanding of government, and “good” governance emerges from an understanding of the governance process. This is done to help administrators understand good public sector management strategies. Governance cannot be value-neutral, and so the idea of ​​“good” governance is to satisfy the governance process.  As used by the World Bank and other international organizations, the concept of good governance  has gained momentum and is now being widely accepted and implemented in countries around the world


Good governance is a generally recognized dynamic concept that is primarily related to the effectiveness and efficiency of management systems within the state framework. 

 Good governance is characterized by the following aspects:

• Participation: Participation means that people should be empowered to participate in decision-making through participation in the administrative, legislative, and judicial departments. As good governance envisions, society as a whole needs to be involved in governance. A good governance motive is that people need to not only be the ultimate beneficiaries of development, but also active actors in development.

• Transparency: Transparency is another important function of good governance. Freedom of information flow, separation of powers, legislation, administration, control, and balance between judicial departments, control of the bureaucracy, etc. are the most important features of transparency. Government secrets create corruption and inefficiencies and undermine overall governance.  Good governance requires the public to have access to quality information about governance and to expose all transactions in the public interest.

• Accountability: Accountability is the key to good governance. It is a duty or willingness to take responsibility or be accountable. Good governance ensures that both legislators and managers are responsible for their actions, performance, and use of public funds. It is the responsibility of the authorities to explain or justify their actions to the people of the country, as the authorities draw their authority from them. Accountability is closely tied to participation and creates transparency.

 • Rule of Law: The rule of law is a principle that everyone and institutions should follow and must be responsible for the law, which is applied and enforced fairly. Good governance ensures that the legal framework is fair and impartial, includes excesses, protects human rights, and protects justice.

In addition to the above aspects, good governance also includes:

• Comprehensive: Good governance guarantees the dignity and honor of all people, regardless of gender, color, caste, or belief, and provides an opportunity for happiness. No one should be excluded from the mainstream functions of society.

• Responsiveness: All stakeholders in society must be serviced by institutions and their processes within a reasonable time frame. This is one of the goals of good governance.

 • Consensus-oriented: In society, not all individuals need to have the same interests.

 The purpose of good governance is to convey the differences in interests that can be communicated through broad consensus and to reach solutions that are in the best interests of society as a whole.

Development of the concept of good governance

Reinventing the concept of public governance in the light of the development of the concept of good governance As pointed out in the previous paragraph, good governance characteristics require us to redefine and reinvent the basic understanding of the states. Since ancient times, the nation has performed functions related to development, protection of national sovereignty, and law and order. Gradually its function began to grow, and it became huge enough to cover all aspects of civilian life, so it became Leviathan. It was strained on all these functions, but it only increased in strength and density over time.

 Therefore, State could not perform all these tasks alone. Therefore, this has led to the neglect of some important aspects of governance. Some important aspects of socio-economic development have been ignored or overlooked. Such a system of governance does not work in today’s good governance environment. Therefore, you need to redefine the state in this context. Some of the major scholars studying these aspects state that states usually consist of only three traditionally essential parts: legislature, executive branch, and judiciary. Local government, private sector, and civil society aspects were considered components that existed outside the formal mechanism. In the past, these factors, civil society, the private sector, and local governments, were considered self-existent, with no connection to other state institutions. If they were, they had little effect. But during their nature and role began to change. These “informal” agencies began with an investigation and expanded when officially approved by a public agency, the government.

Therefore, Authorities encouraged the private sector and civil society to participate in the governing process. Such developments led to many “new” institutions in the state in terms of social acceptance, autonomy, and resources, and required a redefinition of the state itself. Therefore, it became necessary to redefine governance. It has replaced the traditional governance system for the conscious politics of the state in an evolutionary way, or for the expansion of the enthusiastic private sector and civil society, including NGOs and Similar facilities.

How governance takes place in India

India, like the vast majority of countries across the world, is democratic. The country, according to the constitution is a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic[2]. Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarian look at politics is perhaps what the Indian State is aiming towards- dispensing the greatest good to the greatest number of people. Despite these lofty ideas, whether the state really has achieved greater prosperity is under discussion here. Ideally, the Indian State is primarily Welfare-based, subject of course, to legislations made on the particular issues in question.

The governance of India takes place in multifarious ways. The Government of India as proclaimed in the constitution is a Union of States. The country follows the British Parliamentary system of governance. At the national level is the Sansad, or the legislative branch, with each state or union territory having powers of governance in their respective jurisdictions. The country is a federation of 28 states and 8 union territories. The president, the ceremonial head of the state, the Prime Minister, the council of ministers, and the bureaucracy are part of the executive of the country. The robust judiciary is Common Law based, with the supreme court being the highest court of the land.

In terms of administration, the bureaucracy has the superior hand. Both Central and State machinery work largely on the policy implementation of the executive wing of the government.  The civil services are a remnant of the colonial era. Nehru is attributed to have said at independence, ‘‘the old distinctions and differences are gone, in the difficult days ahead our Service and experts have a vital role to play and we invite them to do so as comrades in the service of India.”[3] However, dowdy work on behalf of this crucial arm of the machine has led to public distrust and a phenomenon that has been termed Red Tapism, a brickbat term given to the convoluted and confusing roadblocks set by the bureaucracy.  This has led to a chasm between the administration and the general public.

The discussion on how to successfully formulate good policies and the idea of good governance has taken long to get rooted in the Indian psyche. It did start surprisingly early, with legislations like the Industrial Policy Resolution dating back to April 1948. However, policymaking that would affect the larger masses, most of whom were destitute and starving, came painfully slowly. The local governments played a major role here. While India did not follow a Gandhian model of establishing very centralized local bodies, the establishment of Panchayats, District and Taluks made administration and policy implementation vastly easier. With more grassroots level engagement came more accountability and a general improvement in the welfare of the masses.

The political consciousness of the public is also a major shaper of policies. After all it is the public that elects their representatives and hands them the mantle of power. Increased discourse often is the sole driving factor for how well a government functions and how efficiently its policies are developed.

State of Governance

In India, the status of governance is very much a mixed bag. “Development in India, does not appear to be progressing neatly through a series of predetermined stages nor through a set sequence from traditional to transitional to modern. It has political structures that are modern, competitive, and institutionalized and yet a political style that is highly traditional, consensual, and personalized”.[4]

The establishment of a welfare state that works for the upliftment and empowerment of the downtrodden was an initial driver of change. While there have been significant strides made in the areas of upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden with various poverty alleviation programs, a UN report from 2019 said that almost 364 million people were poor in India, which is about 22% of the overall population.

Much has also been done for the welfare of the historically oppressed classes. Various commissions were established following independence like the National Commission for the Backward Classes, and the very concept of Reservation aimed to uplift millions of disadvantaged communities and societies. However, concrete realities prove something completely different; violence and discrimination against the so-called lower classes and minorities have only risen in recent years. Similar conditions are seen with respect to the status of women. There has been increased representation in almost all arms of the Government, but it is still far from ideal.

“The Indian state was committed to wide-ranging land reforms at independence. The peasantry was essentially freed from the power and domination of the feudal landlords. Though it was indeed very creditable that India achieved land reforms within the framework of democracy, nevertheless the reforms occurred in a manner that initially the relatively better-off sections of the peasantry got unequal advantage from it compared to the poorer sections. This happened partially because the class balance at the ground level and in the perspectives of many state apparatuses such as the judiciary, the police, and bureaucracy, particularly at the lower levels, was not in tune with that of the government. It was far less favorable to the poor, and the government in a democracy could not force its way”. [5]

Notwithstanding all the flaws, the concept of dispensing good governance is perhaps the most overarching characteristic of a state like India. Good governance refers to the introduction of citizen-centric governance in the areas of public health, economics, agriculture, with special emphasis on robust public institutions and the judiciary. In June 2019, the central government, in an effort to revitalize the existing status quo of governance put forth reforms. They attempted to establish an All-India Judicial Services, merge certain ministries and most importantly act upon the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission, which advocated bringing down the number of ministers to 25, to ease overall governance. [6]

While all efforts are welcome, concrete change is a far cry from what is seen on the ground. The concept of e-governance, or the idea that governance should catch up with the times and government services be meted out through electronic means, indicates a shift to reform. This however glosses over the very real issue of low internet access in the rural areas, not to mention significant language barriers.

Challenges to Reform

As India is an incredibly vast and complex country, governance is an uphill process. While the fruits of industrialization and liberalisation definitely sweetened our tongues, it posed new challenges. With increased industrial activity came more environmental, economic and social problems.

 A major problem is that of public health. Strengthening public health systems in India, especially in the wake of the COVID 19 Pandemic is pertinent. The gaping holes that our public heath institutions suffer from were brought to the forefront, not to mention the miscommunication between the public administration and health centres.

Corruption is galore and so is sweeping inequality, with experts suggesting that it was lack of political will that fostered the former. Illiteracy in India did decrease by a large amount from 1956, but it is still only about 78%, indicating a need for large scale reforms in the area of education backed by plans that bring even the poorest of the poor to quality centres of instructions. The right to Education Act passed in 2006 and the new National Education Policy aim for just that, but their reach and implementation remain uncertain.

Another area badly in need of reform is agriculture, where more than half of the Indian workforce are employed. Agriculture in India is plagued by archaic machinery, hidden unemployment and an overdependence on the vagaries of the market. Another major issue is the concentration of power in the hands of few politicians and bureaucrats, who wield near absolute power in matters relating to both politics and governance. The judiciary too, works on a non-transparent system, open to corruption and heavy-handedness, not to mention the voluminous number of cases pending in most courts of the country, indicating a characteristic of tardiness.

Bipin Chand in his book India since independence sums up the challenges quite nicely when he says “Most of the political institutions, as a consequence, have been losing their moral authority and the country has been difficult to govern—at least, difficult to govern well. This ‘crisis of governability ’ takes multiple forms: unstable governments, frequent elections and changes of electoral moods, inability to accommodate and reconcile contending demands and needs of different social groups and classes, weakening of law and order, growing civil discord and disturbance, sometimes reaching the proportions of insurgency, communal violence, increasing recourse of people to violent and extra-constitutional agitations, growing corruption, and, above all, the failure of the governments at the Centre and the states to implement their policies or to provide effective governance.” [7]


The Chandler Governance Index report, published globally, places India 49th in its rankings, saying, “Civil service innovation and capacity building is a key focus for the Indian government. (This report) highlights a key need for ‘pracademics’ in government – people who combine a rigorous understanding of research and data with a practical and grounded sense of what governments need to do to succeed.”[8]

While it is understood that India’s problems regarding governance are deep rooted, it is not entirely a slippery slope. A robust modern economy whose policies focus on more equitable distribution of resources, where powerful politicians are held accountable must be India’s future. More reforms in banking and increased job creation and employment will also facilitate greater economic growth. As for social change, increased opportunities for the attainment of education which thereby facilitates greater social mobility, is the way to go. Naturally, flattening a pancaked hierarchy must be accompanied by decentralized budget and decision-making power[9]. More effort on pressing issues, like greater climate related reform in areas of regulation of climate related crimes and greater effort in directing public consciousness would be appreciated.


A democratic country like India, where representatives are elected by the people by means of free and fair elections and is a federation of states, has progressed in fits and starts. Despite being a welfare state that caters to the needs of the downtrodden, it still faces enormous challenges in reaching out to every individual and wiping every tear from every eye. Large-scale programmes on combating illiteracy, unemployment and poverty alleviation have been introduced, but implementation remains a massive untreated problem.  Governance is overrun with issues of centralisation of power, lazy bureaucracy and sub-par policy making. 

But not all of it is dismal. Good governance can truly change the face of most problems we face in India today. Proper governance that has caught up with the rest of the world, can change India for the better. At independence our country, with hopes and ambitions, had a monumental task; to bring millions of Indians suffering under the clutches of social, racial and economic oppression forward and realise their true potential. What good governance does is provide a platform and framework for efficiency and greater development of requisite skills in the populace. “India alone among the post-colonial countries has sustained a democratic and civil libertarian polity since its inception. Commitment to democratic values has deepened over the years among most Indians. Paradoxically, even the experience of the Emergency underlined this attachment. The belief has also taken root that social transformation through a democratic political framework is possible. Nationalization of banks and several industries, land reforms—even quite radical as in Kerala and West Bengal—and effective functioning of Panchayati Raj, with its provision for 30 per cent reservation of seats for women, and successful working of the system of reservations for the SCs and STs in several states, has shown that political democracy as such is not an obstacle to social transformation and socioeconomic reforms in the direction of equity and equality.” [10]

In a world that is increasingly becoming globalised, this crisis of how to balance good governance with increased opportunities is a tight-rope to walk. The world, not just India, has come to realise that the process of development is unique to different societies and geographical locations. This process of economic, political and societal change is transient and may sometimes even look akin to taking two steps forward and one step back, but consistent ethically and morally sound governance is what can work wonders in upholding equality.

[1] United Nations Development Programme Policy Report (1997)

[2] The Constitution of India, 1950, Preamble

[3] Jawaharlal Nehru, Independence and After (John Day, 1950), 9

[4] Samuel J. Eldersveld and Bashiruddin Ahmed, Citizens and Politics: Mass Political Behavior in

India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978),  3–18.

[5] Bipin Chand, India Since Independence (Penguin Books,2000), 477 

[6] Anubhuti Vishnoi, ‘Governance Reforms take Centre Stage’, The Economic Times, <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/governance-reforms-take-centre-stage/articleshow/72286868.cms>

[7] Bipin Chand, India Since Independence (Penguin Books,2000), 480

[8]India ranked 49th in CGGI, The Hindu, (New Delhi, 27 April 2021)

[9] Sanjeev Ahluwalia,’ Governance in Small Steps,’ Observer Research Foundation, <https://www.orfonline.org/research/governance-reform-in-small-steps/>

[10]   Bipin Chand, India Since Independence (Penguin Books,2000), 497

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