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Ushering good governance in India

May 25, 2009

Social Watch India’s report on Governance and Development 2008-09 explores the intrinsic relation between effectiveness and legitimacy in achieving a stable democracy. To maintain a balance between the two, the performance of the institutions of governance becomes significant.

Governance and Development 2008-09

Publsiher: Social Watch India

Democratic functioning has to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between effectiveness and legitimacy in order to achieve stable democracy. Admittedly, there are some countries which fall in the extreme categories of having low scores on both counts and others having high scores.

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The two factors (i.e. effectiveness and legitimacy) are inextricably interrelated where one affects the other. Stable and meaningful democracy necessitates maintaining a desirable level of equilibrium between effectiveness and legitimacy. In India the need to strike a balance between the myriad forces becomes quite essential.

In this context, institutions of governance become a crucial link in maintaining the aforesaid equilibrium rendering democracy more stable and meaningful and yet the institutions themselves under various pulls and pressures have become the ‘weakest link’ in the crucial process. The health of these institutions, therefore, is of great significance to address the twin challenges of democracy and development. A constant ‘watch’ along with objective evaluation and monitoring of these institutions is the call of the day.

It is with this objective in mind that Social Watch Report attempts to evaluate the four key institutions of governance, namely the Parliament, the Judiciary, the Executive and Local-Self Government.

The report does an analysis on the parliamentary functioning with specific focus on the years of 2007 and 2008. The conduct of business in Parliament, marked by reduced number of sittings, insufficient apportionment of time to the main functions of deliberating and legislating as well as the frequent and prolonged disruptions due to commotions and pandemonium in both the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha, has been a matter of concern for a long time and this sorry trend has further accentuated in the years under consideration.

The document deals with the participation of the members in both the houses with special status namely the celebrities and corporate bigwigs. Finally the attempt has been made to understand the committee system of the Parliament to give an overall picture of the functioning of the institution.

A peek into the public spending

The report shows some of the spending on human resources, health and other areas. It gives a disturbing account of the total Union Budget outlay for the economy of rural India such as agriculture and allied activities, irrigation and flood control, village and small industries and rural development combined together which has fallen from 2 percent of the GDP in 2006–07 to 1.84 percent of the GDP in 2007–08 and 1.7 percent of the GDP in 2008–09.

The performance and the functioning of local self governance presents a marred picture of the unresolved questions related to what can be termed as the 3 Fs: functions, functionaries and funds. The section on rural governance looks at both the structural and functional aspects of the Panchayati Raj system.

The delivery functions of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are examined by giving a closer look at some of the key development programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), etc.

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