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‘Public Participation, an important element of good governance’

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  • Published
    2nd Feb, 2021

With rapid urbanization in India, a focus on good governance is critical for sustainability for the country, as a whole. In this regard, ‘public participation’ is an important element of good governance.


With rapid urbanization in India, a focus on good governance is critical for sustainability for the country, as a whole. In this regard, ‘public participation’ is an important element of good governance.


  • India is the largest democracy in the world and citizens here are highly enthusiastic to be a part of Governance.
  • After Independence, India has adopted representative democracy as form of Government.
  • Public participation is a mainstay of democracy and one of the key components of decision making process. 
  • A fundamental rethinking is under way about the roles of government, citizens, and community organizations in public policy.
  • Can government be reconstructed to make public policies more responsive to citizens and thus more effective?
  • During last seven decades, the government has not directly involved citizens in Public Policy making Process.
  • However, it is important now, to understand how to Indian democracy more people oriented and how to increase citizens’ engagement in the government process.


Why public participation is essential for Indian democracy?

  • Increasing transparency and accountability: Citizens play a critical role in advocating and helping to make public institutions more transparent and accountable.
  • Solutions to complex issues: It also contributes to effective and innovative solutions to complex development challenges.
  • Improved development results: Under the right conditions, citizen engagement can help governments achieve improved development results in creating links between citizen engagement and improved public service delivery, public financial management, governance, social inclusion and empowerment.
  • Surfacing important issues: It helps to surface important issues of social and environmental justice, entitlements and equity.
  • Ensures justice: Public participation have the potential to throw new light on different aspects of the human condition, and follow up with the authorities, through to the judicial system, to secure rights and justice.
  • Reduces corruption: In the deliberative democracy discourse, it has been proposed that a collaborative countervailing power is needed, to help foster the integrity of empowered participatory governance, and reduce its susceptibility to various forms of corruption.

Challenges to democracy

  • India is sometimes called an ‘unlikely democracy’, built as it has been in:
    • Poverty
    • widespread illiteracy
    • a deeply hierarchical social structure which are seen as ‘inhospitable conditions for the functioning of democracy’

Ways of Citizen Engagement

  • Information sharing
  • Consultation
  • Joint assessment
  • Shared decision-making and collaboration

What are the principles of participatory democracy?

The principle of participatory democracy has two integral elements –

  1. Public participation in decision making: The first element is carefully circumscribed by the state of Rule of Law or procedure established by law and a fine balance has been struck between "need for public participation and effective functioning of administration". The participation itself involves three features –
    • the stage
    • the extent
    • the nature of participation
  2. Placing information regarding Government actions in public domain

The trend of ‘public participation’ in other democracy

  • United States: The US Senate makes it mandatory to require written submissions from the public for any Bill introduced, with no restrictions on senate committees.
  • Australia: Australia holds workshops as part of regional consultations in the prelegislative stage, and after a report is finalised. Transcripts of any depositions made as part of submissions before the committees are published.
  • Canada: The province of Ontario in Canada has a long history of active citizen engagement.
  • United Kingdom: The UK Government had released a citizen engagement framework in 2008 that sought to deepen engagement with public on a wide variety of issues including constitutional change, policy formulation, behavioural issues e.g. smoking etc.

Challenges in Citizen Engagement

  • Limited trust in Government: It is seen that generally, government actions are often low on public trust due to many reasons. The primary challenge to initiate consultation is trust building.
  • Political Reluctance: Public participation is essentially a political process and is often not formalised or conducted in a structured manner. As such, people are often reluctant to participate.
  • Limited capacity to engage: Given the limited availability of knowledge and sometimes requirement of specialised skill sets viz. Legal, technical etc, many people believe that their capacity to engage in such processes is limited.
  • Lack of Commitment: Engagement in policy making processes is a long drawn process and often requires individuals to make long term commitments about time and other resources.

What needs to be done to increase participation?

  • Mechanism for regular Participation: The government needs to create mechanisms for interested registered voters to participate in local government on a regular basis, in a meaningful fashion.
  • Greater data collection at micro level: To support this, it needs greater data collection at the ward level, particularly with respect to expenditure, voter rolls and below-poverty-line lists.
  • Public scrutiny: In addition, draft Bills should undergo rigorous scrutiny by experts and ordinary citizens alike — with drafts circulated in advance to academics, trade unions, business bodies and interested citizens. 
  • Other measures: Furthermore, the government can-
  • understand viewpoints of citizens and gather feedback
  • get people's ideas and their contribution through the tasks
  • identify talent and expertise which can be garnered towards the success of projects with people's participation
  • implement best ideas and achieve the goal of 'Good Governance'

Government initiatives to ensure citizens’ engagement

  • MyGov- Itis an innovative platform launched to ensure citizens' engagement in decision making by the Government so that the ultimate goal of "Good Governance" for building India is achieved.

Organic and claimed Participation

  • Social movements, claimed participation spaces, including organic NGO-led participation, are a strong shaping force in India.

Induced Participation

  • In India, the most consequential enablers of induced participation have been the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts (CAA), creating institutions of local self-government in villages and urban areas across the country, with elected councils.
  • Empowered participatory governance in India refers to local self-government in rural India, especially in relation to gram sabhas (village assemblies).

Concluding observations

To build a better, credible state, the country needs to start at the bottom. Rising awareness about the importance of public participation and the benefits of such cooperation will help empower citizens, shifted them away from their current emasculated state.


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