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Post-Independence Governance in India

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    Governance: Doing the rights things in the right way
  • Published
    8th Feb, 2022


It is now more than 70 years down the line after a historic non-violent movement won Independence for the country freeing it from the clutches of colonial rule. The democratic form of government chosen by the makers of the Constitution of India has struck firm and deep roots. Also, within India and the world over, the concept of good governance has gained increased recognition over the past two decades and more. Good governance means much more than the mere institutions and the precepts that inform how they discharge their responsibilities.

What is governance?

  • Governance in layman language means how the government should function. It means the process of decision-making and the procedure by which the decision is implemented. It is often realized that the quality of the government depends upon the States. Over time, with changing government, the definition of governance has also been adapted. In the contemporary world, the majority of the States are founded on the principle of a ‘Welfare State’.
  • It is a concept of government where the State ensures full participation of their respective citizens to achieve the common good to attain optimum growth and development of the individual, thereby preserving the societal interests.
  • This evolution has led to ‘Good Governance’, which is an umbrella concept comprising the basic values of the society concerning economic, political, and socio-cultural issues. It also encompasses basic human rights and duties which need to be followed through an accountable and upright administration.

Understanding Governance

Governance is not just about efficient and prompt delivery of goods and services to the citizens. It is a process whose quality touches and impacts every aspect of life at different levels and in different dimensions. It is a goal to be realized as part of the process of growth and development of the nation; in the socio-economic, political, cultural fields and also in the responsive and competent functioning of all the wings of the states - the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive at all levels.

For forms for government let fools contest. Whatever is best administered is best”, said Alexander Pope. What, then, is “best”? According to me the answer can be found in many places. The simplest definition, however, was given by Mahatma Gandhi who said, “not even God would dare to appear to a hungry man except in the form of bread”. Taking Gandhi’s philosophy a little further, a government has many fundamental responsibilities to discharge to the people it exists to serve apart from guarding the sovereignty of the nation, maintaining law and order, and performing essential functions such as establishing good diplomatic relations with other countries and managing the physical and financial aspects of the economy.


A good government is expected to ensure that all citizens have access to basic human requirements such as drinking water, nutritious food, good education, health and medical care, housing, and a remunerative livelihood. The form and structure of the apparatus of the state in India followed the concepts introduced by the Constituent Assembly, into the Constitution of India through the preamble and the various articles. The Indian constitution was fashioned on the lines of several existing models elsewhere in the world at that time, particularly the USA, the UK, and, to some extent, France.

The 1947 or 1950 India was a different kettle of fish from Britain. The experience, democratic temper, internal level of homogeneity in culture, language and social experience, the level of education and awareness of public affairs were far apart. However, an Idealistic group of Founding Fathers, led by Nehru had thought that transferring the British governance system to India mutatis mutandis, was the optimal prescription for ushering in and maintaining quality governance in India. This was thoroughly naive. In British India, the Viceroy and the senior functionaries (the ICS) enjoyed nearly untrammeled power; they were given a mandate, which they discharged indeed with extraordinary efficiency. Thus apart from the guidance of the Viceroy or the Governor, as the case may be, there were no immediate political supervision over Secretariat, District, and field level functionaries. The control strings from Whitehall had a long lead and were rarely exercised. The district magistrate was the ‘king of all he surveyed. The internal checks and balances in that system came from the quality of the men who ruled India, the spirit of sacrifice and missionary zeal displayed by them.

Checks and Balance

  • Checks and balances refer to a system of government in which power is divided between different branches, or parts, of the government.
  • The idea is that the branches will then be able to check and balance each other so that no part of the government can become too powerful.
  • These checks and balances help resist the power of others. They are of fundamental importance in tripartite governments.
  • The Indian Constitution has no explicit provision for separation of powers of organs: Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary. However, separation of power exists between these organs. Also, to avoid supremacy of any organ and prevent abuse of power by it, there exists a scheme of checks and balances.

Evolution of governance in India Post Independence

  • Alike any other post-colonial state, India after gaining Independence, adopted the policy of planned economy, led by the government and its public sectors. But this policy was found to be inadequate and inappropriate in achieving the required goals of economic progress and poverty alleviation. By the late 1980s, there was a growing realization among the policymakers in the government that the planned strategy of economic development failed to achieve the developmental goals of India. Some of the reasons behind it were:
  • Deeply entrenched corruption in governmental institutions and programs along with all-pervasive political corruption.
  • Rapid transformation in the international political and economic environment
  • Due to the financial crunch and lack of competitiveness in the public sector, there was critical pressure on the state to open the economy for the private sector (market). The public sector proved to be incapable and inefficient in delivering public goods, leaving a vacuum in service delivery. It provided legitimacy to the role of the market and civil society.
  • It was an Acknowledgement of the limits of the government in terms of resources and legitimacy.
  • The term governance gained currency in India with the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991.
  • When during the 1990s World Bank raised the issue of governance, this immediately, became an issue of concern in India. The document of the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997- 2002) released in April 1999 included a Chapter on “Implementation, Delivery Mechanism and Institutional Development.” In this chapter, a review had been done on the implementation of five-year plans in India to identify weak spots in the formulation and implementation of plan programs to find a solution to the weaknesses.
  • The issue of decentralization in development planning, accountability of the implementing agencies, and monitoring and evaluation of programs were raised. This was followed by a more specific chapter titled, “Governance and Implementation” in the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007). It defines Governance as “the management of all such processes that, in any society, define the environment which permits and enables individuals to raise their capability levels, on one hand, and provide opportunities to realize their potential and enlarge the set of available choices, on the other.
  • The Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) signified that the vision of inclusive growth, reducing poverty, and bridging the various divides that continue to fragment our society can only be achieved if there is a significant improvement in the quality of governance. The twelfth five-year plan (2012-2017) defined good governance as an essential element of any well-functioning society.
  • These processes, covering the political, social, and economic aspects of life impact every level of human enterprise, be it the individual, the household, the village, the region, or the national level. It covers the State, civil society, and the market, each of which is critical for sustaining human development.

The core thrust of the idea of governance is the Network relationships of three actors – state, market, and civil society in reaching the decisions. At the national level, informal decision-making structures, such as "kitchen cabinets" or informal advisors may exist. In urban areas, organized crime syndicates such as the "land Mafia" may influence decision-making. In some rural areas locally, powerful families may make or influence decision-making. Such, informal decision-making is often the result of corrupt practices or leads to corrupt practices.

Features of governance

  • The reduced role of the state and acknowledgment that it is no longer the only actor that steers society.
  • It is an interactive process where government frames policies in collaboration with other non-state actors.
  • None of the actors in governance is dominating, services depend upon the process of exchange between actors.
  • The monopoly of political institutions in providing services is diluted; the private sector and institutions of civil society fill in the space previously occupied by these institutions.
  • Curbing the role of state and expanding the space for market and competition.

Evolution of the concept of GOOD GOVERNANCE in India

                                                After decolonization, developmental activities of all the Third World countries had been dependent on foreign financial and technological assistance and long-term loans from the various international economic and financial agencies. Till the late 1970s,’ it was the general perception world over that the state should be the engine of economic growth and public welfare, but shortly this perception was under question. The disappointing development outcomes in the aid recipient countries sparked serious debate on aid effectiveness because, despite all the money given, a large number of recipients remained gripped in chronic poverty. The search for the underlying reasons for these development failures led the donor agencies to focus on the quality of governance in the recipient countries. All this led to the proposal by the International aid donors that aid should be allocated not only based on poverty and underdevelopment but also based on good governance within the aid-seeking countries in 1998 the World Bank’s annual report Governance in Asia: From crisis to Opportunity, presented a more cogent concept of good governance. The report elaborates four key components of good governance: accountability, transparency, predictability, and participation.

Role of Judiciary Post Independence in Promoting Governance

                                                  An interesting aspect of the evolution, over time, of constitutional institutions in India, has been the acceptance of the expanded role of the judiciary over and above what was originally envisaged. In its landmark judgment in the KesavanandBharati case, the Supreme Court laid down a new doctrine of the “basic structure” of the constitution. As a result, the power vested in Parliament to amend the Constitution of India can no longer extend to curtailment of that basic structure – which includes chapter-III in which the fundamental rights of citizens are enumerated. Since then there have been many judgments of the Supreme Court that have had the effect of that Court being accorded the role of a forum not merely for testing the constitutional validity of laws made by Parliament or the state legislatures, but also for handing down rulings that have had the force of law - the recent judgments regarding the rights of “transgender” persons and the children of “live-in” parents are striking examples. Some other examples of that proactive role are directions/verdicts in a host of issues such as ensuring the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) by public transport vehicles in New Delhi, ordering the venues of cricket matches out of drought-affected areas, entry of women into temples and a Suo Motu examination of the constitutional validity of the Muslim Talaq law.

                                                  One of the essential functions of democratic governance is the presence of constitutional limits on the extent of government power. Such limits include periodical elections both in the center and the state, an independent judiciary that guarantees the citizens protection of their rights, and seeking redress from the government actions. The judicial system is the most important facet of good governance and plays an essential role in ensuring better public governance. Hence, to resolve various issues the Constituent Assembly has rightfully made two sections of the judiciary in the Constitution: the Union Judiciary that is, the Supreme Court, and the State Judiciary, that is, the High Courts in the states. The judiciary through its various rules, regulations, and procedures resolves disputes ranging from various issues of environment, health, human rights, gender justice, education, minorities, police reforms, election, etc., keeps in check the constitutional validity of the parliamentary amendments in the Constitution. It has played a significant contribution to good governance through its judicial precedents.

Role of executive Post Independence in Promoting Governance

                                     The contribution of the higher civil services and the higher judiciary to the nation has been incalculable. We have already seen how the political class has acted as a predator. The lawyer class played a significant role in our independence movement, but in the past 50 years or so they have probably not contributed to nation-building. The professional classes – the doctors, the engineers, and the accountants have played their role, in a limited way. As regards the business community; suffice is to say that they can hardly take any credit for the growth of the nation, despite some bright spots. The higher judiciary has played a key role in nation-building – notwithstanding the weaknesses or the major acts of omission by the judiciary, but the role of the higher judiciary in continuing to uphold the concept of ‘rule of law’ in the country has to be applauded. While the role of the judiciary is in full public view, by definition the role of bureaucracy is played out silently, behind the scenes, almost anonymously. There is no question but that the esprit de corps of the services has vanished; its élan a thing of the past. Indeed the higher civil services are now seen, especially in urban areas, with a sense of ridicule and even pity. To some extent, this is well deserved and has been wrought on themselves by the members of the services. However, even today, if one travels to districts and other rural areas, the IAS collector or district magistrate, is looked up to by most citizens as a bright, effective, and respected representative of the government. While the public may talk loosely about corruption at the level of the clerks in the collectorate or the tehsil office, in general, the district magistrate is even today highly regarded, spoken of with a sense of awe, and is a role model for the youth of the district. He may not be the ‘king of all he surveyed’ of yore but still plays the key role in holding the district administration together. His freedom of action has been seriously impaired in recent years, with the henchmen of the state’s political leadership looking over his shoulder; however, most district magistrates still manage to carry themselves with dignity and are highly effective.

Civil servants discharging magisterial functions (members of the IAS as sub-divisional magistrates, additional magistrates and district magistrates and those of the IPS entrusted when entrusted similar functions in commission rates of police are examples) or quasi-judicial functions in certain posts, the central and state governments making rules under acts passed by Parliament or the state legislatures (rules which have statutory force and are subsequently tabled in Parliament or the state legislatures as the case may be), are illustrations of the executive performing what amount legislative actions.

Several Governance strategies in India

                                        The governance system operates by the goals set by the planners. These include self-reliance, economic growth, industrialization, modernization, and social justice. The Constitution of India provides for the setting up of important Commissions such as the Election Commission, Finance Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Union Public Service Commission, etc. that play an important role in the governance system. In addition, there are some commissions created by Parliament through the enactment of Acts. These include the National Commission for Women, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Human Rights Commission, and State Human Rights Commissions. All these Commissions function to secure social, political, and economic justice, liberty, equity, and dignity of individuals.

                                        India's governance structure and mechanisms had been designed and reformed from time to time to meet the overall welfare goals and objectives. The role of government at the time of independence was mostly confined to revenue collection and maintenance of law and order. Having attained a certain level of development in several spheres, now the government is initiating several steps to make citizens partners in the development process. Attempts are now on to foster the holistic development of the people and promote a more accountable, responsive, and citizen-friendly government.

Some of the initiatives in this context include:

  1. Citizen's Charters: The government or public agencies such as railways, hospitals, dispensaries, electricity, and water department, etc., provide services of varied nature to the citizens. Generally, people are unaware of the various types of services, procedures, mechanisms of lodging complaints, and grievances if they are not satisfied with the services and so on. To facilitate this, the government has introduced the concept of citizens' charters. These are statements that provide information to the public on various aspects useful to them about the concerned such as the objectives, its functions, the procedures of accessing the services, etc. This exercise enables citizens to make use of services provided by these agencies with ease and convenience.
  2. Right to Information: We have earlier mentioned in this Unit that the information. -. About the government activities mostly were inaccessible to the citizens. For example, it was even very difficult to track the status of file movement in a government organization. There was always secrecy in governmental operations. There was reluctance on the part of the concerned organization to provide Governance in India: information to the citizen. There is a change in the scenario now. The Central Issues and Challenges Government has enacted the Right to Information Act 2005 and several state governments such as Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have also passed the Act. This enables an interested citizen to approach any ministry, department, or government organization for getting the required information except certain types of information that relate to national defense or security. The Act has laid down various procedures through which one can ask for information and the time frame within which one gets it.
  • Use of Information and Communication Technology: The developments taking place in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are facilitating efficient and effective service delivery. Even in rural areas computerization of land records is taking place. People are having access to computers at Panchayats and they get information about prices of agricultural commodities, auction rates, etc. You know how electronic mail or e-mail is fascinating a faster and smooth flow of communication. Some states such as Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have introduced one-stop service centers where people can secure services such as registration of births and deaths, payment of property tax, electricity, water bills, etc. You know that from home, one can get reservations done through a computer in trains and airlines. ICT has facilitated extensive access of the information in many areas to people. In Bangalore, to make governance responsive, the City Corporation has launched a Customer Complaint System (CCS). Once a person complains, an acknowledgment receipt is issued and an Assistant Revenue Officer has entrusted the responsibility of examining this grievance. Upon action taken by the concerned officer within the given time frame, the information is fed into the computer and the concerned citizen is communicated about the response.
  • Public-Private-People Partnership: The Panchayati Raj Institutions at the local level and the urban local bodies known as Nagar Palinkas are institutions of self-government functioning with the participation of people. Presently the government is securing the participation of the private sector and people in several activities. In urban areas, the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) are playing an important role in ensuring sanitation, garbage disposal, environmental protection, etc., in their respective localities. For example, in Delhi, the Bhagidari (Partnership) Project started in 2000 is getting wide recognition. It is a partnership between the government and other agencies such as Municipal Corporation, Water Supply Board, Electricity Supply Undertaking, and Resident Welfare Association. They meet at regular intervals and attempt to solve the problems of common concern. In Kolkata, the waste management activity of the municipal government involving the collection, segregation, and disposal of the waste is done by a private company, which has been assigned this task by the Corporation. Similarly in Bangalore, to improve the city; Bangalore Agenda Force was set up which is a partnership between the citizens, corporate groups, and other public organizations such as Police, Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore Electric Supply Corporation, Water Supply, and Sewerage Board.


We have seen India evolving from Governance to good governance and also in the present scenario how the concept of e-governance and m-governance has evolved along with the requirement for transparency and accountability on the part of government and at the same time, it is also a tool to increase the participation of people in policy-making by empowering them with the right information at right time. The penetration of the internet, telecommunication services in India has increased in the last decade and this gives a ray of hope to the citizens of India to fight the long persisting problems of poverty, corruption, regional disparity, and unemployment. But at the same time, due to the slow pace of project completion, red tape, and resistance from the side of the government employees and citizens have not given the desired result.

Verifying, please be patient.

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