GOOD GOVERNANCE : PHILOSOPHIES AND STRATEGIES

- Mr. N. Vittal

(B. Mehta Memorial Lecture delivered at the HCN Rajasthan State Institute of Public Administration on 27th September 2003)

I feel greatly honoured to have been called upon to deliver this year’s B. Mehta memorial lecture.  B. Mehta was a legendary chief secretary of Rajasthan and not only was he the first chief secretary of the new born state of Rajasthan after it was formed but he also had a long innings in which he shaped the broad outlines of the administration in a state formed by bringing together many erstwhile states under maharajas. 

A memorial lecture is a tribute to the person in whose name it is instituted.  The eminent people after whom the lectures are instituted are always role models.  The role models in every sector are very important.  As the Bhagawat Gita says the way the great people behave, others follow. The techniques adopted by them are also adopted by others. 

Yadyad acharathi shresta

Tatat deve itarojana

Sayat pramanam kurute 

Loko tat anuvartate

 

As we face the challenges of today, we can draw inspiration from the work of visionaries like Mr. B. Mehta.  This lecture is also an occasion for us to clarify our ideas on issues which are significant in todays administration.  The philosophies of good governance and the strategies to realize it are eminently significant today.  Before we proceed further to examine the issues we have to be clear about what we mean by good governance.  Only then we will be able to work out effective strategies to realize the goal of good governance.

 

The word governance is today being used not only in the context of government, which is public governance but also in the context of the business enterprises where the word used is corporate governance.  If we examine the term governance we find that there are two basic elements, which are significant.  The first is, both public governance and corporate governance have human dimension because, they take in to consideration the impact of governance on the stake holders.  In the case of the public governance it will be the citizens and in the case of corporate governance, it will be the stake holders namely, investors, customers, employees, suppliers and the environment generally.  The second significant aspect are the values. When we use the word administration or  management, we are not bringing in the value element, whereas, in the word governance, the value element is implied.

 

There could be as many definitions as there are people. In the area of public administration therefore, about what can be considered as good governance.  The basic dimensions of good governance, in my view are four:. The first dimension is the fundamental concept of the rule of law.  Nobody is above the rule of law.  Article 14 of our Constitution enshrines this principle.  Equality before law and equal protection of law.  It is the enforcement of the law that ensures the rule of law and it is the rule of law that distinguishes an orderly society, from society, which is an anarchic.  The second dimension of good governance is the degree of probity in public life.  Greater the probity in public life and lesser the corruption, there is good governance.  We can not have good governance if there is too much of corruption.  The third dimension of good governance is related to the dignity of every individual.  God blesses every individual with some talent.  A society that is well governed should provide maximum opportunities for every individual to realize his full human potential.  Finally, governance does not involve only human resources but also physical resources.  So the extent to which there is less wastage and greater productivity one can say that there is better governance.  Today we find in our country, thanks to populism, what is good economics is bad politics and vice versa.  Is it possible to resolve this conflict like the good old challenge of squaring the circle by finding a common parameter, which will ensure that good politics also form good economics. This will be possible if we focused on what the economists call total factor productivity. So we have these four dimensions of good governance.  The rule of law, absence of corruption, opportunity for every individual to rise to his full human potential and maximum productivity in utilization of physical resources. 

 

We can look at the issue of good governance by examining from each dimension where we are today, what are our weaknesses and think of strategies by which those weakness can be overcome and we can make meaningful strides towards achieving good governance. 

 

Let us begin with the rule of law.  In our country we have too many laws and too poor implementation.  The net result is that our judicial system is that it is enormously time consuming and our courts have become, as observed by some that they are courts of evidence and not courts of justice.  Further, a person with sufficient money power can engage the best legal veins and quibble his way to freedom and get away literally with murder.  The conviction rate in criminal courts in India is 6%.  This must be one of the lowest in the world. This poor  performance of our judicial system is perhaps at the root of our problem of gppd governance in our country.  In the vital area of cross border terrorism this aspect of our judicial system makes our case very difficult.   We had some of the terrorists in our jail but for more then five years we could not bring them to book. As a result when the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane from Katmandu took place, a few years back, those five terrorist were released with honour.  They went back to Pakistan and were able to plot further terrorist acts in our country.  We are now asking for 20 criminals to be handed over to us by Pakistan.  Even if they are handed over, are we sure that in another next ten years we will be able to bring any one of them to book and punish them? It is said that if the courts today stop taking any new cases all over the country and the cases are disposed off at the present rate, it may take 300 years to clear all the existing cases.

 

We must also take note of the initiatives taken by eminent people in judiciary like Chief Justice Venkatachallaiah and Chief Justice Ahmedi to bring in information technology in the management of Supreme Court where the number of pending cases was dramatically brought down from 1,60,000 to nearly 20,000.  Perhaps this effort is being made in other High Courts also.  There is also talk about fast track courts and judicial reform including the setting up of the National Judicial Commission.  These are welcoming developments.  But if we are thinking in terms of good governance and the rule of law is one of the basic elements of good governance, then we must take the issue of judicial reform in a more pragmatic way. 

 

Unfortunately, there are vested interests who will oppose any reforms in the speedy disposal of cases.  We have seen in the past the Bar and the lawyers opposing any reforms and resorting to strike etc.  We must make systematic efforts to ensure that our courts perform as speedy dispensers of justice.  A number of measures that can be thought of in this connection. One method may be to look upon judiciary as a legacy for economic development.  L.K. Jha pointed out many years ago, that they can provide lot of job opportunities for white collar workers clerks and typist and so on. 

 

One of the reasons that our judicial system is slow is because they are lack of manpower.  Another important aspect is that the judiciary and courts are not covered under plan scheme. So the finances required for improving radical infrastructure are not adequate.  This can be overcome by changes in approach.  I understand that the court fees can be modified as to ensure that the revenue expenditure of the courts are fully met from this source itself.  In fact this concept of regulatory agencies like OFTEL in U.K. meeting their own establishment requirement through licence fee is in practice.  Why can’t we extend that concept so that our judicial infrastructure does not suffer for want of resources or manpower?  A third set of reform would be to drastically cut down the delay in the hearings.  The 153rd report of the Law Commission has given suggestions about how proceedings in cases can be expedited and these suggestions can be implemented and criminal procedure code amended suitably.  The recent judgement of the court in the Best Bakery case, has once again brought in to focus on the dispensation of important aspect in justice in our courts especially in sensitive cases like communal riots.  The issue is being taken up by the National Human Rights Commission also but what is probably forgotten in the whole process is how purgery or lying under oath is almost condoned apparently by many people with the result it is not considered as a serious offence as in developed countries.  Apart from the improvement of judicial infrastructure, there is also need for bring in the basic discipline of treating purgery virtually as a very serious offence so that people are do not get away with lying under oath.

 

We then come to the second dimension of good governance, namely probity in public life and checking of corruption.  As Central Vigilance Commissioner for four years, I had an opportunity to look into different dimensions of this disease in our body politic.  The level of corruption in any society or organization depends on three factors.  The individual sense of values, social values and the system.  Unfortunately, in our educational system, we are not teaching values and the present impact of globalisation has given a boost to consumerism.  Consumerism has indirectly got a culture of greed and after all greed lies at the root of corruption.  In addition to this, there have been ancient social evils like dowry system, which have also provided environment for corruption to flourish.  Above all is our caste ridden society, where just as we are attached to our family, we are attached to our caste and we tend to take a lenient view if the person is corrupt happens to belong to our own community. 

 

These are social evils and as strategy for good governance, therefore, I would emphasis the focus on the system.  Our democratic system, the way it works, has become increasingly dependant on black money.  All political parties require funds and they collect funds in cash, which is black money.  Black money is oxygen for corruption.  Corruption is oxygen for black money.  In such a situation, therefore, corruption tends to perpetuate.  To overcome corruption, therefore, we must start with the measure for eliminating black money from the system.  As CVC, I have suggested a package of legal measures that can be taken to bring down the level of black money in our system.  These legal measures are (i) enacting the Corrupt Public Servants (Forfeiture of property) Act, which ensures that ill-gotten money of corrupt person will be confiscated.  (ii) Strengthening the prevention of money laundering Act by including in the schedule the customs Act, Excise Act, Sales Tax and Income tax act so that the black money generated by evasion of these roads is not laundered.  (iii)  Implementing the provisions of benami transaction prohibition act which empowers the government to confiscate benami property.  This act has been enacted from September 1988 but has not been implemented for all these 15 years.  (iv) making the income tax simpler by deleting the 211 exemptions and making it a no-exemption income tax act. There could be total tax exemptions of all annual income upto Rs.5 lakhs rupees and above that there can be a tax of 20%.  This will eliminate the scope of corruption and also increase revenue to the government.  Similarly, the element of discretion available in Excise act should be totally eliminated.  These legal measures would provide requisite background for tackling economic offences and one time opportunity can be given to all those who have black money to bring them out in open on payment of a token 1% extra on the income tax of 21%.  In this way, the system will be better than the VDIS, which was tried some time back where an indirect bonus of 10% was given to the holders of black money while certain honest tax payers would have paid 40%.  The black money holders got away with 30%. 

 

It is not enough to have the law but as mentioned in earlier section, we should also ensure that the laws are implemented if we have simultaneously improvement in legal administrative system and also have the laws to discourage economic offences.  We would have taken as effective steps towards extra sizing corruption from our system.  The next aspect is to understand the dynamics of corruption.  Corruption is a vicious cycle of political corruption leading to bureaucratic corruption into business corruption and criminalisation of politics.  There is need to tackle each of these corruption levels.  So far as the bureaucratic corruption is concerned, we must implement a three point strategy, (i) simplification of rules and regulations so that scope of corruption is reduced, (ii) transparency and empowerment of public and (iii) effective punishment to the corrupt. 

 

Criminalisation of politics, perhaps can be tackled by following two strategies.  The first is, to ensure that the lawbreakers do not become lawmakers.  Thanks to initiatives taken by two professors of IIM, Ahmedabad, the Supreme Court has finally held that every candidate to an election has to declare his criminal background, educational background as well as his assets.  This will ensure that the voters are sensitized and the do not vote criminals to the legislators.  The second measure needed is to delink the nexus between the corrupt bureaucrat and the corrupt politician.  This can be done by extending to all sensitive posts in government, the principle which is adopted today, in the selecting the post of Director, CBI.  A neutral committee of credibility, like in the case of CBI committee headed by CVC with Secretary, Personnel and Secretary, Home as members should make a panel of names for every post. Government may appoint only from the panel and once a person is appointed he should not be transferred for three years without the permission of the panels.  To ensure, that the corrupt elements in politics and bureaucracy do not come together,  and there by perpetuate the vicious cycle of politics and corrupt elements in political corruption, bureaucratic corruption and business corruption mentioned earlier.  Business corruption can be greatly tackled if the overall system improves, in the light of the situation mentioned above.  Simplification of rules and procedures and further implementation of the second stage of reforms, to ensure that the inspector raj also goes is one method of bringing in greater transparency in system.  In this context, the right to information act becomes important and here in Rajasthan we have seen the impact of MKSS in bringing in greater transparency in the system.

 

The third dimension of good governance is creating an environment where every citizen can rise to his full extent of his potential.  The fact that our country is not well governed is obvious from the following comparison.  There are 1032 million residents in India.  There are 25 million non-resident Indians.   The GDP of India is 240 Billion dollars, where as the GDP of the 25 million NRIs is 400 billion dollars.  The annual savings of both the resident Indians and NRIs is 100 million dollars.  Per capita income for Indians is $440 whereas, it is $4000 annually for the NRIs.  These Indians could rise to their full potential in country other than India.  Imagine what would have happened if all resident Indians also get the opportunity which the NRIs found.  That bring us to the question of looking at our systems and seeing how we can create an environment where talent can flourish. For example, in the age of knowledge economy, patents have become very important.  Sam Pitroda who was a student of the Engineering college at Baroda, went to USA, got 30 patents, made $25 million came back to India and made a great contribution in the telecom sector. If Pitroda was in India, do you think he would have got a single patent?  It takes six years to get a patent in India, whereas, in United States, it takes only 22 months.   We should look into this aspect and ensure that not only we give opportunity to talent to flourish but also remove the bottle necks by changing and revamping our entire system relating to entice property rights.

 

Education is considered as the basic requirement for development, whether it is economic development or human development.  We have still got 40% of our people who are illiterate.  And what is more, our philosophy of affirmative action and our policy in reservation of seats in engineering colleges and medical colleges have led to annual regular wasting of potential talents available in the non backward or non-SC/ST communities, who are denied opportunity to pursue careers in professional course like engineering and medicine, which they would have liked to.  I am not against affirmative action or reservation.  But when we look from the point of view of good governance and creating an environment to ensure that every Indian rises to his full potential, we should think of alternative strategies by which such talents can also be utilized.  I would suggest, therefore, we must encourage what would I call a fourth stream of education.   The three regular streams are the existing system of colleges and universities, the private sector institutional education and the in-company trainings given by companies.  The fourth stream should consist of institutions giving industry specific training in especially advanced areas where the industries are requiring talent.  The syllabus can entirely decided by the industry. Fees paid should be commercially decided as they will be quite high.  There should be an alliance between industries and banks to set up such institutions where the banks will give the requisite loans for students who can readily repay the loan once they complete the course and get employed.  The basic issue of illiteracy should be tackled on a war footing and if necessary an education emergency is declared so that full freedom is given for different people in education sector to experiment new solution and existing restrictions are set aside to achieve the goal total literacy in the shortest period possible, say within three years.  Yet another area where we have to focus on human potential is the area of child labour. Can we not convert these factories where children work in to educational institutions where they can be given training and see that the environment is so well organized that their health is not spoiled.

 

We then come to the fourth dimension of governance, namely improving productivity of the physical resources. We have the example of three countries namely, Japan, USA and Singapore which focused on productivity and progressed.  In 1973, when the first petroleum shock was delivered, the Japanese went in a big way for energy conservation.  They used both technology and law to ensure that while they consumed 30% less in energy, the GDP was not affected. Similarly, in the United States, during President Regan’s time, the focus was on American industrial productivity vis-à-vis the Japanese and others and the net result was that the tremendous progress in productivity made by United States, which has effected in the 1990s with the increasing use of information technology.  The third example is of Singapore where Le Quan Yoo focused on productivity and ensured that Singapore emerged as one of the most advanced nations, starting as a third world country more than three decades back.  In our country also we must make it a national mission for increasing productivity in every sector and fine tune our policies so that they do not come in the way of realizing the goal of maximum productivity in every sector of our economy as well as public life.

 

I have placed before you some of the important aspects of what I consider the good governance and also strategies for realizing the goal of good governance.  Ultimately, nobody has the monopoly of ideas. We should create an environment that can be free exchange of ideas so that avoiding the danger of misunderstanding or hatred to achieve the goal of good governance.  This probably the best tribute we can pay to people like B. Mehta who blazed a trail by setting up a system of administration in our country immediately after independence, and when new states like Rajasthan were formed.  As the Traitiya Upanishad says:

 

Let us come together.  Let us enjoy together.  Let our strengths come together.  Let us move from darkness to light.  Let us avoid the poison of misunderstanding and hatred.  That way lies progress

 

Sahana vavatu Sahanau bhunaktu

Saha Viryam kara va vahai

Tejas vina maditha vastu

Ma vidh visha vahai

Om Shanti! Shanti! Shanti!

Add comment


Security code
Refresh