The Prime Minister’s concept of good governance is as much about efficient administration as about development. It is about improving the efficiency of public enterprises and introducing social programmes that benefit the poor
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech the single subject that received maximum coverage was his reference to the human rights situation in Balochistan, Gilgit and other areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Though important from geopolitical perspective, PoK is a small part of his rather eclectic speech.
Quite apart from slogans like ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat (One India, Great India)’ and alliterations like ‘reform, perform and transform’, the Prime Minister’s speech provides rich insights into the concept of ‘good governance’. For Modi, good governance is as much about efficient administration as about promoting growth and development. It is as much about improving efficiency of public enterprises as about designing effective social programmes that benefit the poor.
Good governance means an efficient administration. It is not enough to be clean, or to be non-corrupt. The administration needs to be sensitive to the issues that the citizens encounter in their interface with the Government and address those efficiently. Whether it is about getting a new passport or a railway ticket or a tax refund or registering any new company or a business – these processes ought to be made simple. Modi mentioned how the use of technology has enabled his Government simplify these processes which has also reduced the rent-seeking or favor-seeking opportunities by bringing greater transparency. And success must be measured by the extent to which the change benefits the common people. Good governance means an accountable Government.
Good governance is all about promoting growth and development, about providing conducive economic environment for the private sector to thrive.
Prime Minister Modi mentioned how a series of reforms, both big and small, undertaken by his Government has led India to (a) improve its ranking in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ (b) become the most favored nation for foreign direct investment, and (c) leave behind the big economies of the world in economic growth.
It is not about policy reforms alone. It is also about bringing an all-round development by designing and implementing programmes/initiatives in an integrated fashion so as to have the maximum impact. In this context, Modi mentioned about agriculture promotion for which his Government has taken several initiatives such as providing soil health cards to the farmers, promoting micro-irrigation, solar pumps and use of new seed varieties, augmenting supply of fertilisers, offering crop insurance, creating additional warehousing capacity for grains storage, improving public system of procurement of agricultural produce and so forth. Modi also believes in empowering the youth through skills and entrepreneurship training so that they create jobs for themselves and others.
Good governance is about improving performance of public enterprises. In a mixed economy like ours, the Government is both an owner of, and investor, in many commercial enterprises. Good governance means improving the performance of public enterprises by giving them managerial autonomy to take decisions on commercial principles. In this context, Modi mentioned about the turnaround in the performance of public airlines, Air India, and public telecom, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, both of which have now started reporting operational profits. Ditto for the Shipping Corporation of India. Similarly, for Indian Post offices that have become irrelevant due to the spread of information technology (whatsapp, messages, online, and e-mail), the Government is taking steps to convert post offices into payment banks.
Good governance also means fast tracking of projects that are stalled for variety of reasons. In this context, Modi mentioned how his Government is making efforts to get the several pending projects worth a few lakh crores of rupees, completed. The Prime Minister believes that it’s a criminal negligence to hinder plans, delay projects, and waste public money.
Good governance means having effective social programmes for the poor whether it is to bring electricity to the 18,000 un-electrified villages or providing LPG connections to poor families or stopping the practice of open defecation by building toilets. The Modi Government is implementing various social programs in a fast-paced manner.
For decades, successive Governments have run various social programmes for the poor with huge leakages of public funding. Resultantly, the intended benefits never reached the beneficiaries. However, by linking Aadhaar card with Government schemes, not only have these leakages stopped but the benefits are now reaching the needy who were earlier left out.
Besides, good governance also means confronting problems and not avoiding them, pursuing transformative change and not incremental change, converting impossible into possible, building image of the country and not of any political party, and much more. In other words, Modi’s concept of good governance is pretty broad.