The journey of the concept of Good Governance in modern times has gone through many phases. In the pre-independence period Gandhiji’s vision of good governance essentially meant democratic decentralisation which entailed power to the Gram Panchayats and people at the lowest level of political hierarchy. By the early 1990s, however , the idea of good governance had turned into a metaphor of donor-conditionality for the debt-ridden countries of Asia and Africa. It was often blamed for social unrest and political upheaval in many parts of the world. But freed from the element of coercion and external force, the concept retained a certain attraction spurring a number of policy initiatives based on the demand for participatory development, transparency in decision making and empowerment of people to decide and shape their destiny. It would be good to bear in mind that governance refers to the interaction between government and other actors of the social sphere and the process of decision making in a complex world. Important though it is, the idea of governance need not be restricted only to the government. It is to be seen as a part of the complex matrix of relationship between the political and administrative structure and the society in the process of decision making, implementation and accountability. The core values that go into the making of good governance are participatory decision-making, accountability and transparency, efficient and responsive structure underlying the political system and equity which involves fairness and rule of law. A society striving to achieve the ideals of good governance needs to work on these values to ensure that people get their rightful share in the fruits of development of the country. A number of initiatives have been taken in this direction which are having a significant impact on the lives of people and their relationship with the structures of governance.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act has been a powerful instrument in the hands of people to ensure transparency in the decision making process. There are a number of cases where this right has been used by the people to get better civic facilities, cut down red-tape and delay in decision making and punish the corrupt. State governments have taken steps to come out with a public service charter that fixes time limit to the government departments for providing services to the people. This is expected to address a number of grievances of people arising from delayed delivery of public services which often lies at the root of corruption and inefficiency. The information architecture of the administrative and political set up plays a crucial role in making governance answerable and responsive to the people. E-governance initiatives are among the other sets of measures which is transforming the way the government functions and relates to the citizens. Models of e-governance being implemented in many parts of the country seek to answer this issue. While information dissemination at a wider scale remains important, these models have tried to leverage the advantages of ICT to channelise information of critical importance to the targeted audience to engender change. It is also proving helpful in inducing people into desirable action from the public policy point of view. It is indeed true that exclusion of large segments of people from decision making process results in unresponsive governance and gives rise to an exploitative system. The Panchayati Raj Institution is now an essential forum for direct and participatorygovernance at the village level. Reservation in these institutions has empowered women and it is bound to dent political and social discrimination suffered by women and break the monopoly of still dominant paradigm of patriarchy in society. Good governance is a dynamic concept. It has many facets and a detailed discussion of the related aspects are contained in the pages of this issue of Yojana. But it would be worthwhile to reiterate that governance is not only the concern of the government. A constant and critical dialogue between the government and society is essential to refine and effectively put to practice the principles of good governance.