Modi government inaugurated a new chapter in India’s democratic history by becoming the leader of the first non-Congress party to retain power after a full term with an overwhelming majority. On May 23, the people of the world largest democracy reposed their faith on PM Modi for the second time who has promised to deliver good governance and underlined it as ‘the key to a Nation’s progress.’
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines governance as ‘the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs, including citizens,’ articulation of their interests and exercise of their legal rights and obligations.’ In light of the changes taking place in the 21st century, the challenges confronting the task of governance are complex and diverse. As a result, the concept of governance has adapted itself to meet new challenges. Also, in a developing country like India, governance plays one of the most significant roles in the socio-economic and political development of the country. The concept of governance has become more dynamic and aims towards comprehensive development of a country. Governance has therefore modified itself into good governance that includes participation, transparency, and accountability and suggests the recent advancement of communication and information technology to have facilitated the rejuvenation of the relationship between the government and citizens and enabling those involved in governance to achieving the goals of good governance. It not only makes the government actively involved with the citizens but also makes it more efficient and cost-effective (UNESCO 2005).
Needless to say, good governance forms the fulcrum of development for a developing country like India. The Preamble to the Constitution of India sets an ambitious goal to secure Indians ‘Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity’, and promote Fraternity and assure the dignity of individuals. Good governance is the only means through which these goals can be achieved. Being the world’s largest democracy and a diverse nation, India faces some of the critical problems such as high incidence of inequality, gender discrimination among others, as reflected in the Human Development Index of 2018 that ranked India 130 out of 189 countries (UNDP 2018).
In the era of digitalization, e-governance that is ‘governance via the electronic medium in order to facilitate an efficient, speedy and transparent process of disseminating information to the public, and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities’ is vital to delivering good governance (UNESCO 2005). Acknowledging the imperative of e-governance, Modi government 1.0 had worked towards delivering good governance by emphasizing on a knowledge-based economy. The drive towards Digital India is one of the major initiatives undertaken by Prime Minister Modi to transform India into s digitally empowered nation. The renewed drive towards transforming the entire spectrum of governance into e-governance under the National e-Governance Plan 2.0 is one of the main aims of the Digital India program. Apart from this, there were a number of projects and programmes such as the Direct Benefit Transfer through which subsidies were transferred directly into the bank accounts of authentic beneficiaries, the Ujwala programme, health insurance scheme for the poor under Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana that ‘seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers’ , infrastructural development of rural areas under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, lighting up villages under Gram Jyoti Yojana, promoting social and cultural development of villages under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, extending banking services for the welfare of all under Jan Dhan Yojna, encouraging entrepreneurship under Start-Up India and Stand Up India; all these programs initiated by Modi Government 1.0 had special target areas, and many were undertaken to address the critical and marginalized sections and boost economic development.
Good governance calls for inclusive development. Though a remarkable achievement is witnessed in the reduction of multidimensional poverty, which has nearly halved itself in 10 years between 2005/6 and 2015/16, climbing down to 27.5 percent from 54.7 percent (UNDP 2018), there are vital areas that require immediate attention such as inequality and low sex ratio. There has been a decline in Child Sex Ratio (CSR) from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 918 in 2011. In order to rectify this trend towards disempowerment of women, the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program is one of the commendable efforts that seek to eliminate the roots of gender-based discrimination thereby ensuring not only survival and protection but also education and participation of the girl child and empowering girls especially in those areas that has low Child Sex Ratio (CSR).
Again, it should be mentioned that good governance and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin, and both are intrinsically linked to one another. Environment is intrinsically linked to ensuring sustainable development and therefore the call for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Namami Ganga/ Namami Brahmaputra are few steps towards achieving a health and clean India.
India is a diverse nation, and the problems encountered are multifaceted. Again, one has to understand that there are multiple and diverse causes of some of the pertinent yardsticks of development. For example, poverty in India cannot be measured using the same yardstick across all the regions. There is regional differentiation in the causes and nature of poverty. This is to say that the policies that can successfully alleviate urban poverty cannot be used while targeting rural poverty. Poverty again has gender connotation attached to it. There is a complex linkage between poverty and gender with regional diversity. Added to this, the developmental needs of all regions cannot be categorized along the same lines. India’s northeast, west and south cannot be clubbed along similar agendas. What makes the scenario all the more complex is the intra-regional diversity. India’s rank in HDI leaves a lot of space for good governance to work. There are a number of grey areas which requires urgent attention. Ensuring good governance calls for greater outreach of governmental mechanism. Again, some of the problems are deep-rooted in our societal structures that cannot be shattered but by good governance.
In the first five years, the Modi government has well enunciated the various developmental programs and projects; however, it is not possible to fully realize the objectives in a limited period of five years. While following ‘citizen-first’ approach, Modi government 2.0 will not be averse to using the latest boons of technology such as artificial intelligence to deliver good governance to more than 1.34 billion citizens together with protecting the privacy of data. One of the significant areas of Modi 2.0 would be focusing upon ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ by operationalizing Good Governance Index for States that will assess the performance of states in 10 significant sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture, commerce, human resource development among others using 51 indicators and scientific framework for assessment. Providing citizen-centric governance and faster redressal of public grievances, paperless e-offices are the key issues that the new government will concentrate upon in its first 100 days.
Modi 2.0 requires diversification and increase in the outreach of the programs that had been undertaken under Modi 1.0. One way of achieving this would be involving the local population who would actively work as agents of change. Education and empowerment go hand in hand, and an educated India would definitely make a strong India. Building a strong, developed, empowered, and inclusive India is an impressive call given by PM Modi that would definitely require actively involved and action-oriented governance. The goal is laudable; however, the task is huge and requires the involvement of both the macro and the micro level actors. It has been a little more than a month that PM Modi has re-entered his office and the nation awaits to see whether governance and its services can reach even to the lowest layer and usher the ‘good’ of all the citizens.
*** The author is Assistant Professor at Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Kolkata ***