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Take notes UPA! Here are Pranab's tips on good governance

Last updated on: April 6, 2013 16:26 IST

Pranab's tips on good governance

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President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday delivered the 14th D P Kohli Memorial Lecture on the topic of Good Governance: Empowering Institutions, Society and Public on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Central Bureau of Investigation in Delhi.

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

The term, good governance, appeared in the development lexicon about two decades ago. The concept has today gained greater importance and relevance than ever before because of the increasing recognition of its inseparable link to social welfare and public good. It has become the key concept in development philosophy. Countries too are evaluated on the basis of the quality of governance that they may have succeeded in establishing. The concept of Police State long ago was replaced by the concept of Welfare State.

Lack of good governance has been identified as the root cause of many of the serious deficiencies in society. It robs the citizenry of their security, and their social and economic rights.

Though there is no exhaustive definition of the term good governance, its underlying import and idea is wide. It encompasses virtually all aspects of human interaction. It is equally relevant at the local and national level as it is at the international level.

Every organisation within a society has a decisive role in promoting good governance. These roles may vary depending on the form of structure and institutions that each society may have evolved.

Good governance is critically dependent on the existence of some fundamental pre-requisites. At the core is the inviolable adherence to rule of law. From it would emanate critical need for participatory decision-making structure, transparency, responsiveness, accountability, equity and inclusiveness.

In brief, good governance means the existence of an elaborate architecture that has the good of the people as their only focus. Good governance should create a conducive and enabling environment for the people to pursue their happiness.

As emphasised by Kautiliya in the ancient treatise Arthashastra, and I quote: The happiness of the people is the happiness of the king; Their good alone is his, his personal good is not his true good; the only true good being that of his people: Therefore let the King be active in working for the prosperity and welfare of his people. 

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Image: President Pranab Mukherjee
Photographs: PIB

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Pranab's tips on good governance

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Mahatma Gandhi's vision of a strong and prosperous India or full implementation of Purna Swaraj has the essentials of good governance forming its base.

Echoing its universal relevance, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said, "Mahatma, by his stress on the underprivileged and poverty stricken, forced all of us to think in terms of social justice".

These basic principles of good governance were incorporated in the Constitution by our founding fathers. The objective of establishing a welfare state found expression in it. Our Constitution outlines the values that should be fundamental in the governance in our country.

How do we measure up in terms of governance after 66 years of our independence? There is little doubt that we have made great strides in almost all major areas of development.

From 3.5 per cent growth rate per annum during the First Five Year Plan period, we achieved 8 per cent per annum during the Eleventh Five Year Plan period. The Green Revolution in the 1960s made our country self-sufficient in food grains. We have also reduced the incidence of poverty. Today India is the third largest economy in the world in purchasing power parity terms.

We can certainly be proud of these achievements. But it is equally true that much more remains to be done. The challenges to our governance systems are reflected in some important international analyses which are mainly dependent on the social index. India's ranking in key governance indicators like Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption are lower than countries such as Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.

We are at the cross roads of transformation and cannot afford to lose the momentum of change. There are several challenges we face and we should face them with determination and conviction. And, at the root of them is the issue of governance.

We have achieved remarkable progress in several of the grids that constitute good governance. In some, our achievements have been greater than others. There is still immense scope to better our participatory decision making structure, improve the application of rule of law, enhance transparency, increase accountability, promote greater equity and inclusiveness and improve consensus based approach.

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Image: A homeless man sleeps in a pipe in Mumbai
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Pranab's tips on good governance

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For the sake of brevity, I will elaborate on some of the few grids.

The incidence of poverty is still around 30 per cent and it is not something that we can live with. Statistics of economic progress will count for nothing if we are not able to uplift the marginalised sections of the society. Our growth, therefore, has to be inclusive and sustainable.

Inclusiveness calls for equity in access to basic needs like education and healthcare. Our efforts should be directed at making the entire population literate. I am confident that the flagship schemes in the education sector, such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan would be addressing many of our problems.

Affordable healthcare should be our priority. Many people in this country are forced into poverty due to high costs of medical treatment. It is gratifying to note that building on the success of the National Rural Health Mission, a new National Health Mission combining the rural mission and a new urban mission is being envisaged with a budget outlay of over Rs 21,000 crore in 2013-14. A healthy population holds the potential to make greater contribution to nation-building.

Another important aspect in changing our development paradigm is to be noticed today.

The new terminology is empowerment through entitlement which is backed by legal enactments. We have adopted a rights-based approach to our development process. The Rights to Education, Employment and Food Security are the core of this development strategy. I wish this development strategy should be implemented fully.

To help empower our marginalized sections, we gave them the right to employment and education.

We piloted legislations such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 and the Right to Education Act, 2009. The process of enacting a law to provide food security to people is also in the process of completion.

The Adhaar Project would provide every resident with a unique identification number. It would help our citizens, especially the poor and needy, to easily access several benefits and services more efficiently.

The Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme, launched in January 2013, too would leverage the Aadhaar system, helping the achievement of greater transparency and reduction in transaction costs.

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Image: A villager goes through the process of eye scanning for the Unique Identification database system at an enrolment centre at Merta district in Rajasthan
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

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Pranab's tips on good governance

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Our delivery systems need mending and only good governance can provide an answer to the problem. If what is meant for the poor does not reach them in the proportion it is meant to, then corruption and inefficiency are its two main causes.

Corruption is a threat to the democratic fabric of our country. It would frustrate the efforts to bring equity to all its citizens.

I am happy to note that in the recent past, several steps have been taken to reaffirm our commitment to bringing more transparency in governance. Some of the steps taken include the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2011, membership of the Financial Action Task Force since 2010, introduction of the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organizations Bill 2011, and initiation of a proposal to make bribery in private sector a criminal offence by bringing an amendment in the Indian Penal Code.

At the root of poor governance is our lethargy for change, whether it is in the implementation of schemes or adherence to values. I do not have to remind you how grievously hurt the nation was when a young woman, the symbol of an aspiring nation, lost her life in the brutal assault in India in December last year. As I had said earlier, I repeat and I do believe that it is time to reset our moral compass.

The police and investigative organisations can play a crucial role in creating conditions that could engender societal changes. An alert police force and investigative agency can ensure that no crime goes unpunished. It is important to ensure speedy and thorough investigation of allegations. The prosecution should also be speedy so that the guilty are punished without delay. This would enhance the deterrent value of punishment. It would improve responsiveness, one of the most important features of good governance.

To conclude, let me reiterate that good governance should be our unwavering goal. It holds the key to sustainable development, inclusiveness and economic progress. Let us, therefore, rededicate ourselves to the achievement of this noble objective.

I congratulate all the medal winners and their family members who I am confident will continue to serve this nation with devotion, professionalism and foresight. I also wish the CBI every success in their future endeavours.

I congratulate all the past and present officers and staff of CBI whose untiring efforts and single-minded devotion have made it not only the premier investigating agency in the country but perhaps the most sought after agency for investigation by every section of the society. That speaks of the credibility of the organisation.

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Image: Children stand in line to collect their free mid-day meal in a school
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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