With the beginning of civilization, there arose a need for smooth administration and division of responsibilities. Since the population started to increase, people grew concerned about their welfare and able ruling. This led to the rise of an organizational structure which dealt with the nuances of firm ruling and governance.

Oxford English Dictionary defined the governance as “the act or manner of governing, of exercising control or authority over the actions of subjects; a system of regulations.

According to The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Governance is the act of governing.

As per World Bank, Governance refers to all manners of exercising control and authority in the allocation of resources (World Bank, 1994). Governance issues are thus closely tied to the processes and mechanisms through which people access resources. These include issues of property rights, social relationships and gender, as well as social capital through which people access resources.

To distinguish the term governance from government; “governance” is what a “government” does. It might be a geo-political government (nation-state), a corporate government (business entity), a socio-political government (tribe, family etc.), or any number of different kinds of government, but governance is the actual exercise of management power and policy, while government is the instrument (usually collective) that does it.

Thus, governance means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Further, governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance etc.

Good Governance

The concept of good governance is not new. Kautilya in his treatise Arthashastra elaborated the traits of the king of a well governed State thus: “in the happiness of his subjects lies his happiness, in their welfare his welfare, whatever pleases himself, he does not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects he considers as good”.

Mahatma Gandhi had propounded the concept of ‘Su-raj’. Thus, Good governance often refers to the task of running the Government in an effective manner. It is qualitatively and conceptual superior to a mere good government.

Further, Good Governance is not a phenomenon which can be easily described in words; it is rather a phenomenon which can be felt by people. Good governance does not depend only on the executive but depends on the efficient functioning of legislature, executive, judiciary, private institutions, NGOs, as well as the co-operation of the people.

According to the World Bank, good governance entails sound public sector management (efficiency, effectiveness and economy), accountability exchange and free flow of information (transparency), and a legal framework for development (justice, respect for human rights and liberties). Good governance has the following eight attributes which link it to its citizens.

8 Principles of Good Governance

As per World Bank Good Governance focuses on four major components, namely:

  • Legitimacy:
    • government should have the consent of the governed
  • Accountability:
    • ensuring transparency, being answerable for actions and media freedom);
  • Competence:
    • effective policymaking, implementation and service delivery)
  • Respect for law and protection of human rights.

Key Characteristics of Good Governance

Good governance aims at providing an environment in which all citizens irrespective of class, caste and gender can develop to their full potential. In addition, good governance also aims at providing public services effectively, efficiently and equitably to the citizens.

The 4 pillars on which the edifice of good governance rests, in essence are:

  • Ethos (of service to the citizen),
  • Ethics (honesty, integrity and transparency),
  • Equity (treating all citizens alike with empathy for the weaker sections), and
  • Efficiency (speedy and effective delivery of service without harassment and using ICT increasingly)
Good governance 8 major characteristics

As per 2nd ARC, Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of Law.

It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.


  • Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Participation needs to be informed and organized. The involvement of citizens in a wide range of policy making activities, including the determination of levels of service, budget priorities, and the acceptability of physical construction projects in order to orient government programs toward community needs, build public support, and encourage a sense of cohesiveness within neighborhoods.

Rule of Law

  • Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially, It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.


  • Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media.


  • Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable time frame. When the governance is good, public services are delivered, and requests and complaints are responded to within a reasonable time frame.

Consensus oriented

  • There are several Oriented actors and as many view points in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.

Equity and Inclusiveness

  • A society’s well-being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

  • Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.


  • Accountability is of utmost importance in good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.
Examples of Good Governance: Making Right to Information Simple

Jaankari – RTI Facilitation on Phone in Bihar:

  • Bihar’s unique attempt to accept Right to Information (RTI) applications through phone calls (‘Jaankari’ project) has been selected for the first prize for ‘outstanding performance in citizen centric service delivery’ at the National Awards for e-Governance.
  • Under this facility, anyone can make a phone call at the specified number (a call centre) and the call centre person will record all the details, charges for making the RTI application are included in the phone call charges.
  • Simplifying, Redesigning, Rationalizing Processes (Issue of government documents such as – driving license, pan card, passport, other certificates etc).
  • Eg. there have been many reforms in the license issuing procedure over the last several years, important among them being the launch of ‘Vahan’ and ‘Sarathi’- a computer application to process various issues connected with the issuance of driving licenses.
  • Vahan can be used to issue Registration Certificates and Permits. Sarathi can be used to issue a Learner’s Licence. Permanent Driving Licence. Conductor Licence and also Driving School Licence to the applicants.

Good Governance and Citizen Centric Administration

The concepts of good governance and citizen centric administration are intimately connected. Citizen centricity with the aim of ensuring citizens ’welfare and citizens’ satisfaction, is critical for any government, local, state or national; which aims to provide good governance.

Following are the pre-requisites of citizen centric governance:

  • Sound Legal Framework.
  • Robust institutional mechanism for proper implementation of laws and their effective functioning.
  • Competent personnel staffing these institutions; and sound personnel management policies.
  • Right policies for decentralization, delegation andaccountability.

Also following are the core principles Jor making governance citizen centric:

  • Rule of Law – Zero tolerance strategy.
  • Making institutions vibrant, responsive and accountable.
  • Decentralization.
  • Transparency.
  • Civil Services Reforms.
  • Ethics in Governance.
  • Process Reforms.
  • Periodic and independent evaluation of the quality of Governance.

Finally, to make governance more citizen centric, there are certain tools and mechanisms, which can be usefully employed to make the administration citizen centric. These are:

  1. Re-engineering processes to make governance ‘citizen centric’.
  2. Adoption of Appropriate Modern Technology.
  3. Right to Information.
  4. Citizens’ Charters.
  5. Independent evaluation of services Grievance redressal mechanisms.
  6. Active citizens’ participation – Public-Private partnerships.

Initiatives for Good Governance in India

Right to Information

  • As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India is under an international obligation to effectively guarantee citizens the Right to Information as per Article 19 of the ICCPR.
  • RTI Act, 2005 marks a significant shift in Indian democracy. It gives greater access of the citizen to the information which in turn improves the responsiveness of the government to community needs.
  • The right to information, promotes openness, transparency and accountability in administration by making the government more open to public scrutiny.


  • The National e-Governance Plan envisions to make all government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets and ensure efficiency, transparency & reliability of such services at affordable costs.
  • E-Governance effectively delivers better programming and services in the era of newly emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs), which herald new opportunities for rapid social and economic transformation worldwide.
  • E-Governance has a direct impact on its citizens who derive benefits through direct transactions with the services offered by the government.
    • Programs launched under e-Governance: Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI), Digital India Program, MCA21 (to improve the speed and certainty in the delivery of the services of Ministry of Company Affairs), Passport Seva Kendra (PSK), online Income tax return, etc.
  • Focus on ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’.

Legal Reforms

  • The Central Government has scrapped nearly 1,500 obsolete rules and laws with an aim to bring about transparency and improve efficiency.
  • Reform criminal justice and procedural laws with focus on pre-institution mediation.

Ease of Doing Business

  • Steps were taken by the government to improve business conditions including legislation meant to improve the country’s business environment and policy ecosystems (such as the Bankruptcy Code, the Goods and Services Tax or GST, and the anti-money-laundering law).
  • Government has launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative.


  • Centralised Planning Commission was abolished, replacing it with the think tank called the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), which would usher in an era of “cooperative federalism”.
  • 14th Finance Commission increased the tax devolution of the divisible pool to states from 32% to 42% for years 2015 to 2020. It provides more freedom to states to initiate schemes based on local factors.

Police Reforms

  • Modernizing police forces and implementing the Model Police Act of 2015.
  • Reform of the First Information Report (FIR) lodging mechanism, including introducing filing e-FIRs for minor offences.
  • Launch a common nation-wide emergency number to attend to emergency security needs of citizens.

Aspirational Districts Programme

  • The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) was launched in January 2018 to transform the lives of people in the under-developed areas of the county in a time bound manner.
  • Anchored in NITI Aayog, the programme is aimed at transforming 115 most backward districts with focused interventions in the field of health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water management, financial inclusion and skill development.

Good Governance Index (GGI)

  • The Good Governance Index Was launched on the occasion of Good Governance Day on 25 December 2019.
  • The Good Governance Index is a uniform tool across States to assess the Status of Governance and impact of various interventions taken up by the State Government and Union Territories.
  • The objectives of Good Governance Index are to provide quantifiable data to compare the state of governance in all states and Union Territories, enable states and Union Territories to formulate and implement suitable strategies for improving governance and shift to result oriented approaches and administration.
  • The GGI takes into consideration the following ten sectors:
    • Agriculture and Allied Sectors,
    • Commerce & Industries,
    • Human Resource Development,
    • Public Health,
    • Public Infrastructure & Utilities,
    • Economic Governance,
    • Social Welfare & Development,
    • Judicial & Public Security,
    • Environment
    • Citizen-Centric Governance
  • The States and UTs are divided into three groups — the Big States, North-East and Hill States, and Union Territories.
Good Governance Index

Citizens’ Participation

Citizens’ Participation in governance embodies a shift in the development paradigm from citizens as the recipients of development to one that views them as active participants in the development process. Equally, it involves a shift from a “top-down” to a “bottom-up” approach to development involving increasing decentralization of power away from the Government and closer to grassroots levels. The concept of citizens’ participation in governance is essentially based on them premise that citizens have a legitimate role in influencing decision making processes that affect their lives, their businesses and their communities.

In other words, citizens’ participation refers to the mechanism and modalities by which citizens can influence and take control over resources and decision making that directly impacts their lives.

At the ideological level, direct citizens’ participation in governance is seen as contributing to a healthy democracy because it enhances and improves upon the traditional form of representative democracy to transform it into more responsive and thus a participative grassroots democracy. It is now widely accepted that active citizens’ participation can contribute to good governance in the following ways:

  • It enables citizens to demand accountability and helps to make government more responsive, efficient and effective.
  • It helps to make government programmes and services more effective and sustainable.
  • It enables the poor and marginalized to influence public policy and service delivery to improve their lives.
  • It helps to promote healthy, grass root democracy.

Mechanisms for Citizens’ Participation

Citizens Seeking Information
  • Access to information is a fundamental pre-requisite for ensuring citizens’ participation in governance. Making procedural information available is the first step in any strategy to empower citizens for their interaction with government.
  • Right to Information Act in India has in essence already laid down the ground-work for ensuring this prerequisite for citizens’ participation in governance but it is only by greater citizens’ awareness of their rights under this Act that its vision of transparency can be realized.
Citizens Giving Suggestions
  • Listening to the voice of citizens not just during periodic elections but on an ongoing basis is the starting point of participation of citizens in governance. Such listening could be done through public hearings, surveys, etc., where citizens can give their suggestions with regard to their problems as well as the possible solutions. Citizens are in the best position to articulate their needs and suggest the appropriate solutions which is why there is often need to complement local knowledge and skills with governmental expertise.
  • Such participation can lead to proactive engagement with the policy making process thus creating entry points for further participation and mobilization of citizens to enter the arena of governance.
  • For Example: the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) was set up in 1999 with the goal of transforming Bangalore into a world class city with the participation of its leading citizens including the heads of its major IT companies, as well as prominent members of the Bangalore civic community. While uniform model for receiving the suggestions of citizens or holding consultations can be suggested, it should be mandatory for all government organizations to develop a suitable mechanism for this purpose.
Citizens Demanding Better Services
  • The objective of citizens’ participation is to make sure that government organizations work for the constituencies which they are meant to serve. However, for this to happen, government servants should be accountable not only to their superiors but also to citizens. It is only when this is realised by government agencies that citizens can voice their grievances with assurance that due attention is given to them.
  • For example: the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) created a campaign called the Customers’ meet campaign which “compelled senior managers to leave the comfort and security of their offices to interact directly with citizens in neighbourhoods throughout the city. The campaign not only provided valuable customer feedback to the Metro Water Management, but also sparked pressure from citizens for further reform by raising expectations. The campaign was covered extensively in the media, thereby magnifying its impact.
  • The efficiency of a government organization is best judged by its responsiveness to complaints /demands from its clients. For this, every government organization must ensure a fool-proof system for registration of all complaints and a prescribed time schedule for response and resolution. Also, a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to ensure that the norms prescribed are complied with.
Citizens Holding Service Providers and Government Agencies Accountable
  • Making public agencies work and ensuring that their service delivery would meet the criteria of efficiency, equity and customer satisfaction, requires citizens to voice their grievance and their dissatisfaction in an organized manner. Citizens should be given the opportunity to rate the services provided by government organizations, on a periodic basis. Regular citizens’ feedback and survey and citizens report cards should therefore be evolved by all departments for this purpose. This would not only give a voice to the citizens but also enable the agencies concerned to judge satisfaction ratings and the need for improvement.
Active Citizens’ Participation in Administration/ Decision-Making
  • Giving citizens on-going access to the decision-making process, beyond periodic consultations is a more mature and intensive form of citizens participation in governance which can help them negotiate with government for better policy, better plans, better projects etc. Through this, the citizens no longer merely voice their grievances with government, but it involves government actually working with citizens. Some examples are as under:
  • Examples of such participation would include participatory municipal budgeting, allowing citizens to vote directly through a referendum on specifi c proposals for changes in public policies, projects and laws; mandatory public hearings before approval of projects or decisions such as changes in land use plans, that affect the environment and/or the local community, givin citizens’ representation on management committees for local hospitals and schools, social audit, empowering the Gram Sabha to decide on issues of implementation in government welfare schemes etc.

Challenges to Good Governance

The reasons for Governments not being citizen centric can be attributed to the attitude and work of some government servants, the deficiencies in existing institutional structures and also to some citizens. While the laws made by the Legislature may be sound and relevant, very often they are not properly implemented by government functionaries. The system often suffers from problems of excessive centralization and policies and action plans are far removed from the needs of the citizens, results in a mismatch between what is required and what is being provided. Inadequate capacity building of personnel who are to implement the laws also results in policies and laws not being implemented properly. Further, lack of awareness about rights and duties and callous approach to compliance to laws on the part of some of the citizens also create barriers to good governance.

Social Audit
Social audit generally refers to engagement of the stakeholders in measuring the achievement of objectives under any or all of the activities of a government organization, especially those pertaining to developmental goals. The basic aim here is to have an understanding of an activity from the perspective of the vast majority of people in society for whom the institutional/administrative system
is designed and to improve upon it. Various participation techniques are used to involve all stakeholders in measuring, understanding, reporting and improving the social performance of an organization or activity, e whole process is intended as a means for social engagement,
transparency and communication of information, leading to greater accountability of decisionmakers, representatives, managers and officials. It can be a continuous process covering all the stages of the target activity/programme.

Attitudinal Problems of the Civil Servants

  • There is a growing concern that the Civil Services and administration in general, have become wooden, inflexible, self-perpetuating and inward looking. Consequently, their attitude is one of indifference and insensitivity to the needs of citizens coupled with the enormous asymmetry in the wielding of power at all levels which has further aggravated the situation end result. The officers perceive themselves as dispensing favours to citizens rather than serving them and given the abject poverty, illiteracy, etc. a culture of exaggerated deference to authority has become the norm.

Lack of Accountability

  • A common reason usually cited for inefficiency in governance is the inability within the system to hold the Civil Services accountable for their actions. Seldom are disciplinary proceedings initiated against delinquent government servants and imposition of penalties is even more rare. It is primarily because at most levels authority is divorced from accountability leading to a system of realistic and plausible alibis. Cumbersome disciplinary procedures have added to the general apathy towards discipline in Government.
  • Moreover, the safeguards provided to civil servants, which were well intentioned – have often been misused. Another reason for lack of accountability is that performance evaluation systems within government have not been effectively structured, complacency that the system breeds has resulted in employees adopting an apathetic or lackadaisical attitude towards citizens and their grievances.

Red Tapism

  • Bureaucracies the world over are expected to adhere to rules and procedures which are of course important for good governance. However, at times these rules and procedures are ab-initio ill-conceived and cumbersome and therefore, do not serve their purpose. Also, government servants sometimes become overly pre-occupied with rules and procedures and view these as an end in themselves.

Low Levels of Awareness

  • Low levels of Awareness of the rights and duties prevent citizens from holding erring government servants to account. Similarly, low levels of compliance of Rules by the citizens also acts as an impediment to good governance; when citizens do not adhere to their duties they infringe on the freedom and rights of other citizens. Thus, awareness of rights and adherence to duties are two sides of the same coin. A vigilant citizenry, fully aware of its rights as well its duties is perhaps the best way to ensure that officials as well as other citizens, discharge their duties effectively and honestly.

Ineffective Implementation of Laws and Rules

  • There is a large body of laws in the country, each legislated with different objective – maintaining public order and safety, maintaining sanitation and hygiene, protecting rights of citizens, giving special protection to the vulnerable sections etc. Effective implementation of these laws creates an environment which would improve the welfare of all citizens and at the same time, encourage each citizen to contribute his best towards the development of society. On the other hand, weak implementation can cause a great deal of hardship to citizens and even erode the faith of the citizenry in the government machinery.

Criminalization of Politics

  • According to the Association of Democratic Reforms, 43% of Members of Parliaments of Lok Sabha 2019 are facing criminal charges. It is a 26% increase as compared to 2014.
  • The criminalisation of the political process and the unholy nexus between politicians, civil servants, and business houses are having a baneful influence on public policy formulation and governance.
  • The political class as such is losing respect. Therefore, it is necessary to amend Section 8 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1951 to disqualify a person against whom the criminal charges that relate to grave and heinous offenses and corruption are pending.


  • Corruption is a major obstacle in improving the quality of governance. While human greed is obviously a driver of corruption, it is the structural incentives and poor enforcement system to punish the corrupt that have contributed to the rising curve of graft in India.
  • According to the Corruption Perception Index – 2019 (released by Transparency International, India’s ranking has slipped from 78 to 80.

Gender Disparity

  • According to Swami Vivekananda, “it is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing”.
  • One way to assess the state of the nation is to study the status of its women. As women comprise almost 50% of the population it is unfair that they are not adequately represented in government institutions and other allied sectors.
  • Therefore, in order to ensure good governance it is essential to ensure the empowerment of women.

Growing incidence of violence

  • Resorting to illegal force is considered to be a law and order problem. But when one looks at it from the point of view of the principles of Good Governance, it becomes clear that peace and order is the first step to development.

Delay in Justice

  • A citizen has the right to avail timely justice, but there are several factors, because of that a common man doesn’t get timely justice.

Centralisation of Administrative System

  • Governments at lower levels can only function efficiently if they are empowered to do so. This is particularly relevant for the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), which currently suffer from inadequate devolution of funds as well as functionaries to carry out the functions constitutionally assigned to them.

Marginalization of Socially and Economically Backward People

  • The socially and economically backward sections of the society have always been marginalised in the process of development. Although there are constitutional provisions for their upliftment but in practice, they are lagging behind in so many areas like education, economic well being etc.


  • In conclusion, Good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality. However, sustainable human development actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality.
  • The effective functioning of governance is the prime concern of every citizen of the country. The citizens are ready to pay the price for good services offered by the state, but what is required is a transparent, accountable and intelligible governance system absolutely free from bias and prejudices.
  • There is a need to reformulate our national strategy to accord primacy to the Gandhian principle of ‘Antyodaya” to restore good governance in the country.
  • India should also focus on developing probity in governance, which will make the governance more ethical.
  • The government should continue to work on the ideals of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas which will lead to inclusive and sustainable development.

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