Constitution and Governance

The nation is passing through critical times. Our polity is under severe strain. Faith of the people in the quality, integrity and efficiency of governmental institutions stands seriously eroded. There has been a steep fall in the standards of conduct in public life and administration.That there is a crisis of character and values in politics and public administration, is saying the obvious. Growth of a certain cynicism towards normal democratic processes and an erosion of respect for political parties, politicians, legislators and civil servants, present a disturbing scenario. The source of many of our maladies is in the disregard of the interests of the citizen and the absence of good governance.

For some decades now, the issue of good governance has been in the forefront of political science discourse and discussions in the academia.The study of institutions that had been relegated to the footnotes is back in the reckoning and the problems of good governance have come to occupy important space and generate renewed interest. Both in the developed and developing parts of the world, there has been a welcome shift of focus from traditional concepts of mere government and politics to the paradigms of good governance, its attributes and imperatives.

Several studies were taken up by various organizations. The world development reports, 1997 onwards, underlined the effectiveness of the State as an essential prerequisite for sustainable economic growth.

The Bretton Woods institutions realized even though very late in the day, that economic liberalization reform could not succeed without first ensuring quality and clean governance. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made good governance a criterion for sanctioning loans.

Sometimes, the terms ‘government’ and ‘governance’ are used rather indiscriminately to mean the same thing. While there is no one accepted definition of governance, it means more than maintaining law and order. Besides the World Bank indicators of good governance encompassing democracy, transparency and accountability, it may be said that the whole idea of good governance is that of a participative system in which those who are called upon to govern on behalf of !he people are motivated with a will to giving their best to the people.

There is nothing really new in stressing the principles and of governance in political science. The concept in ancient Indian polity of the rulers being bound by dharma was precisely that of ensuring good governance to the people. Even though monarchy prevailed, there was no place for any theory of the divine rights of the kings or of arbitrary rule. Rajdharma was the code of conduct or the rule of law that was superior to the will of the ruler and governed all of his actions. The jataka tales,shantiparva Anushashanparva of Mahabharta, Shukracharya’s Nitisar, Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, Aatreya Brahmans,Valmiki’s Ramayancz, and not the least Kautilya’s Arthashaxtra are replete with descriptions of tenets of good governance.

Ancient Indian polity recognized the rights of the people to good governance. Manu goes so far as to lay down that if the ruler ignored his responsibilities And was unjust or oppressive, the people had a right to rebellion, even regicide was accepted and the people were free to kill such a ruler as a mad dog”.

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