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Improved governance requires an integrated, long-term strategy built upon cooperation between government and citizens. This requires proper design of policies keeping all stakeholders benefits in mind alongwith proper implementation of programmes and policies at the ground level. 

Thus the critical element of governance is policy making: how to design policy for problems in society, and how to manage the most complex policy phase, namely that of implementation?

A. Public policy making

Public policy making is the principal function of the state. Public policy making is a complex, dynamic process whose components make different contributions to it. It decides major guidelines for action directed at the future, mainly by the governmental organs. These guidelines [policies] formally aim at achieving what is in the public interest by the best possible means. Public policy can be authoritative allocation of values by the political system, a slight variation from the previous or existing policy, equilibrium reached out of the competing group struggle, a rational choice or the preference of the governing elite.

Some of the agencies: which take part in policy formulation are legislature, cabinet, state governments, civil servants, judiciary, boards and commissions mass media, political parties, pressure groups and public. It is essential to examine the role of these agencies in the formulation of an educational policy in India.

Issues in policy making in India

  • Excessive Fragmentation in Thinking and Action

One of the main problems with policy-making in India is extreme fragmentation in the structure. Such fragmentation fails to recognize that actions taken in one sector have serious implications on another and may work at cross purposes with the policies of the other sector. Besides, it becomes very difficult, even for closely related sectors, to align their policies in accordance with a common overall agenda.

  • Excessive overlap between policy making and implementation

Another problem is the excessive overlap between implementation, program formulation and policy making which creates a tendency to focus on operational convenience rather than on public needs. Policy-making in Indian ministries occurs at the levels of Director and above, but the most important level is that of the Secretaries to the Government of India, who are their Ministers’ “policy, advisers-in-chief”. However, Secretaries spend a large part of their time bogged down on routine day-to-day administration of existing policy. Time is spent anticipating and answering parliamentary questions, attending meetings and functions on implementation issues etc. The result is that sub-optimal policies, where adequate attention has not been paid to citizen needs, tend to emerge.

  • Lack of non-governmental inputs and informed debate

Often public policy is made without adequate input from outside government and without adequate debate on the issues involved. The best expertise in many sectors lies outside the Government. Yet the policy processes and structures of Government have no systematic means for obtaining outside inputs, for involving those affected by policies or for debating alternatives and their impacts on different groups. Most developed countries have a system of widespread public debate before a policy is approved.

  • Lack of systematic analysis and integration prior to policy-making

Policy decisions are often made without adequate analysis of costs, benefits, trade-offs and consequences. There are several underlying causes for this:-

I. Fragmentation has led to a widespread prevalence of the ‘blind men and the elephant’ syndrome in policy-making.
II. Inadequate time spent on policy-making, mainly due to excessive overlap of policy-making and implementation and to over-centralisation of implementation authority (discussed above).
III. Inadequate professionalism of policy-makers and advisers
IV. Inadequate consultation of in-house specialists.
V. Mediocrity of in-house specialists: While there are many outstanding specialists working for the Government, there is a widespread feeling that many in-house specialists are not on top of their specialisms. This perception of mediocrity vis-à-vis outside experts tends to worsen the problem of inadequate consultation of even the good in-house specialists who get tarred with the same brush. It also promotes an undue respect for outside specialists and the error of accepting poorly formulated prescriptions from outsiders simply because they have a more professional or expert image.

B.Policy implementation

Implementation is the heart of administration as it consists of carrying out of basic policy decisions. In the policy cycle, it is critical to the successful fulfillment of policy objectives. But implementation is not automatic. The implementation phase is faced with numerous problems. Effective implementation requires a chain of command, and the capacity to coordinate and control; often there are shortfalls in this exercise, more so in a developing country like India.

In India there has been a dramatic rise in expenditure on programmes of social inclusion in the last five years but this is accompanied by growing complaints about implementation. The weaker sections of the society, for whom these schemes are primarily intended, are often not able to benefit because they are not sufficiently empowered to access the benefits due to them. This is despite the fact that there have been a number of legislations aimed at securing legally guaranteed rights to the Indian people, through the Right to Information Act, the Forest Rights Act, the Right to Education Act, the= Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the soon to be introduced National Food Security Act. 

Part of the problem is that the enactment of right based schemes in an environment of illiteracy and lack of awareness and empowerment does not ensure that people will claim their rights. However, it is also true that the schemes continue to be implemented in a business-as-usual mode, while what is demanded by these programmes is an innovative break with the past. Without reforms in implementation structures, schemes aimed at social inclusion will continue to be afflicted by the poor quality syndrome.

For example: 

  • In MGNREGA a draft report by the Comptroller and Auditor General reveals that on average only 3.2 per cent of registered households could avail of 100 days 'guaranteed' work. The average employment under MGNREGA was just 18 days. Due to Administrative deficiencies adequate work has not been accurately calculated for the local workforce. Gaps may result in a lapse of several days between short-term jobs, and there are currently limited projects with the longer-term potential to sustain a village's workforce. Shortages have led not only to “touting” of work, but also pockets where minimum wage is not being provided. This problem is exacerbated when monitoring is ineffective or absent.
  • In implementation Right to Education Public schools suffer from high rates of teacher absenteeism and unfilled posts, lack of resources, deficiencies in basic infrastructure, as well as an overall decline in the number of schools being established that bears no relation to rises in population.

Most schemes follow a blue print and top-down approach, with little flexibility given to field staff. Any change in the scheme requires approval from GOI which is time consuming. Uniformity of schemes all over the country from Mizoram to Kerala, without sufficient delegation to states to change the schemes to suit local conditions, leads to a situation where the states even knowing that the scheme is not doing well become indifferent to its implementation.

Many states are ruled by a political party different from that at the Centre. These governments do not put their weight behind CSSs formulated by the Union Government as they see no political advantage in successful implementation of such schemes. The successful implementation of social sector schemes requires a high degree of political commitment (mid-day meal scheme of Tamil Nadu, EGS in Maharashtra, Antyodaya in Rajasthan, and two rupee rice in Andhra are examples) and administrative coordination, which GOI cannot secure for want of control over the staff.

Routine has taken over the functioning of government at all levels. Little time is left for officers to initiate reforms or change schemes. With the best of commitment it often takes two years to get a scheme changed. In the meantime the officer gets transferred, and his efforts come to naught. Perception of short tenure dampens the enthusiasm to undertake reforms. Many schemes assume a highly committed delivery machinery which will act as ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ of the people. Even if such rare individuals existed in government they do not stay at a particular post for a long time to make lasting impact. Incentive structure is also weak.

Models proposed for reforming governance is Good Governance Model

Good governance helps create an environment in which sustained economic growth becomes achievable. Conditions of good governance allow citizens to maximize their returns on investment.

Good governance does not occur by chance. It must be demanded by citizens and nourished explicitly and consciously by the nation state. It is, therefore, necessary that the citizens are allowed to participate freely, openly and fully in the political process. The citizens must have the right to compete for office, form political party and enjoy fundamental rights and civil liberty. Good governance is accordingly associated with accountable political leadership, enlightened policy-making and a civil service imbued with a professional ethos. The presence of a strong civil society including a free press and independent judiciary are pre-conditions for good governance.

Thus for proper implementation of programmes and policies effectiveness, efficiency, equity in formulation and implementation is needed.

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