ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Democratic Good Governance

Good governance espouses freedom of information, a strong legal system and efficient administration, backed by political mobilisation of the disadvantaged through movements or political parties. Despite the increasingly individualist premises of state theory, representative democracy still provides avenues for public debate on social issues. The emphasis should thus be on strengthening democratic institution rather than bypassing them through increased individual or governmental interventions.

Major changes are being inaugurated in state and civil society in India today in the name of ‘good governance’ and reform. In terms of the prevailing thinking, economic reforms, good governance and democracy form three interrelated and mutually supportive aspects of the development process. A package of measures is being presented by the government, backed up by international agencies and donor governments, as necessary for efficient and honest administration and efficient administration is perceived as the precondition for the success of economic reforms and for political stability. States like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are receiving high praise for being pioneers in the enterprise of promoting good governance. Considerable publicity has been given to their efforts and, given the widespread cynicism and even despair which exists about the prospects of reforming the political system, the promise of reform has aroused some enthusiasm. Changes are being introduced in these states in a phased manner almost as if they form part of a preconceived package. But there has been relatively little critical debate about the nature of the reforms and their likely impact on the society. Given the far-reaching nature of the new measures we need to examine carefully not only the reforms but also the assumptions which lie behind the connections which are being made between economic reforms, good governance and democracy keeping in mind the segmented and class divided character of society in India today.

The Historical Trajectory

If we examine the historical context of the current emphasis on reforms and good governance we will see that it represents yet one more stage in the thinking about the role of a developmental state. The globalisation of the economy has added a new dimension to the problems of developing countries and the reforms are intended to address them. In political science, theories about the requirements of a developmental state date back to the post-second world war period. Modernisation theories in the 1950s and 1960s advocated models of state-led development for developing countries. At this stage there was some ambiguity about whether or not democracy was a necessary pre-requisite for development or its desired consequence. Faster economic growth however was seen as a primary objective of development and the importance of social reforms, attitudinal changes and the building of infrastructure to generate growth were emphasised. The state was expected to take the lead in promoting development. But many newly independent countries lacked the governmental infrastructure to implement ambitious development goals. Donor governments and international agencies emphasised the need to reform the government apparatus and develop a professional and apolitical bureaucracy. If governments could not be made autonomous of social pressures, perhaps bureaucracies could be trained to work in a non-partisan and professional manner [Kuldeep Mathur 1999]. Not unexpectedly only very limited success was achieved.

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