I am delighted that the ‘IC Center for Governance Sardar Patel Lecture on Governance’ is being held at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Conference Hall at Upa-Rashtrapati Bhavan.
I welcome you all to the official residence of the Vice President of India. It gives me immense pleasure to deliver this lecture at this conference hall named after the great son of the soil, the unifier and the Iron Man of modern India—Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Firstly, let me remind every Indian that each one of us owes a huge debt of gratitude to Shri Sardar Patel for unifying India into a single territorial entity by spectacularly bringing about the merger of more than 560 princely States with the Union of India at its most critical point in the country’s history.
Had he not displayed vision, firmness, pragmatism and tact in nipping in the bud even the remotest thought of a few princely States to remain independent or join Pakistan, India’s geographical contours would have been totally different. He was a great unifier who integrated the country and defined its geographical identity.
In this context, it is pertinent to recall that the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Indian Union by Raja Hari Singh was without conditions. As such it is irrevocable and final. Another aspect is that Article 370 was only a temporary provision and had outlived its purpose long back. With the abrogation of Article 370, the Union Territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh will witness all-round and faster development.
It was our good fortune that Shri Patel was entrusted with the most challenging assignment during India’s turbulent time and the country found the man of the moment in him. It undoubtedly was one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century.
Patel knew that India was under foreign rule because of a lack of unity. Pointing out that our mutual conflicts and internecine quarrels and jealousies in the past had been the cause of our downfall and falling victims to foreign domination several times, he had cautioned “We cannot afford to fall into those errors or traps again.” Nothing mattered more than the interests of the nation for Shri Sardar Patel.
Apart from ensuring the territorial integrity of the country, he had conceived and created the administrative steel-frame, All India Services, to provide people-centric governance.
Dear sisters and brothers, Shri Patel wanted post-independent India to stay united without any narrow considerations and divisions based on caste, creed, religion or language. With a clear vision for an efficient administrative system, he wanted the civil servants to maintain the highest standards of probity and efficiency and strive to uplift the conditions of the poor without any fear or favour.
Addressing the Probationers of the first batch of Indian Administrative Service, Sardar Patel said, “The service will now have to adopt its true role of national service, without being trammelled by traditions and habits of the past”. He was equally keen to ensure that the governance system empowers the rural India and protects farmers’ interests.
AS you all are aware, governance has been an enduring subject of discussion among practitioners and laymen alike for many years now. As I see it, governance is an overarching concept with many dimensions and institutional and political manifestations. Conventionally understood, governance is the way the state and its various institutions negotiate and mediate with people, markets and civil society, through laws, policies, regulation and finance.
The concept of governance has grown beyond the conventional definition. The process of governance is increasingly influenced by market forces as well as civil-society processes and citizen initiatives.
The discourse on governance has grown as a parallel discourse to that of civil society, human rights and globalization. It also provides institutional and legal interfaces through which citizens mediate and interact with the state and seek accountability.
A just, people-centred and inclusive growth approach seeks to transform political and governance processes. Its purpose is social trans-formation through the realization of rights to all people, and political transformation to challenge unjust power relationships within and among institutions at the national and local level.
Has the degeneration in moral and social values in the society led to a general decline in the functioning of our public services at every level? There needs to be an honest introspection at every level to arrest the declining standards.
It should be always remembered that people have to be at the centre of an effective and just governance system. It must necessarily aim at empowerment of all people in an inclusive manner by providing a transparent and efficient institutional framework and the rule of law.
The right to information is likewise an essential prerequisite for a robust, informed public debate through which decision-makers be-come answerable to their people, and rights-holders are enabled to assess public and private sector conduct.
Just governance is about ensuring that those vested with authority are not allowed to become corrupted by their power.
Just governance holds decision-makers accountable for actions or omissions. It, therefore, can help foster public trust in institutions and the integrity of public officials, while injecting greater accountability into decision-making.
I feel that it is imperative that a movement of ethics is initiated at all levels in governance of the country.
Corruption is a major canker and has to be relentlessly fought at every level. It is said that corruption skews growth and development, affects the economy, deepens poverty and increases inequalities. It sustains informal power structures.
In this era of Information Technology, corruption can be best compared to a computer virus. The hardware looks the same; the software generally works, but some part of it gets “corrupted” and you find yourself in danger of losing the whole system. Like the virus, corruption may be invisible, small, contained to a few people, but like the virus, its mere existence in an organization puts everything at risk. We have to declare a total war on corruption which has to become a people’s movement.
I think the system of governance adopted by our constitution makers and national leaders after independence has substantially stood the test of time. It is reflected in the national and political stability and has also, to an extent, aided in the development and economic progress. One can reasonably conclude that the system is capable of managing change from time to time, as observed in managing the economic reforms in the last two decades, and in making progress in many key development sectors.
That is not to say that the system is perfect or that its functioning has been without any defects. I am only saying that the system, if followed honestly and efficiently, is capable of taking care of the problems of the people. Also, in my view, there is no other system of governance more suited to the plurality of our country.
The same, however, cannot be said at the level of institutions and the processes in government. Perhaps, we need Process Reengineering in governance. We don’t have to change the system, as is being suggested in some quarters, but we have to make the system work better.
IN the last few years, several administrative and legal reforms were initiated to bring in transparency and accountability. They include measures to curb corruption, unearth black money, and promote ease of doing business and speedy delivery of services to the beneficiary in a hassle-free manner.
In view of increasing globalisation, there is a need to take action against economic fugitives who should not find any safe havens anywhere in the world. There should be greater cooperation at the international level. Various countries must not only exchange information but also enter into extradition treaties. The United Nations must take the lead in this regard.
The implementation of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code was another important reform undertaken by the government.
Promoting the use of IT for the delivery of services is equally important to control corruption and ensure transparency. Everything should be online so that people need not stand in line. Direct Benefit Transfer through JAM (Janadhan-Aadhar-Mobile) is a fine example of the use of technology to eliminate bogus beneficiaries and check corruption.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi’s three-word mantra of ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ seeks to bring in total transformation in all walks of life. A responsible citizenry, honest political class, ethical bureaucracy and a vibrant judiciary will help India to be-come a role model for others.
Public institutions are at the heart of governance. Good governance thrives on good institutions. To deliver public services, we have a number of public institutions. The overall performance of the government can be judged by an aggregation of performances of these public institutions.
IT should be remembered that in a rapidly changing world, public institutions cannot remain rigid. They need to suitably change their ways of functioning to meet the mounting aspirations of the people. We have to do away with lot of outdated and time-consuming procedures and increasingly use IT to promote transparency and provide efficient delivery of services.
What we need today is effective implementation of laws and policies. The bureaucracy must take the lead in the transformation of institutions. These institutions must be instruments of effective and efficient delivery of public services and socio-economic development. They should have credibility and competence.
The integrity of the governance institutions is very essential. They should be transparent and accountable in respect of everything they do.
In the rapidly changing 21st century, it is critical that state institutions are agile, adaptable and resilient. The bureaucracy must become more pro-active and ensure that there is no gap in the intent, execution and delivery of various services to the people.
Various transformative policies and programmes like BetiBachao, BetiPadao, Ayushman Bharat, Goods and Services Tax, ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Make-in-India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Start-up India’, and ‘Skill India’ are aimed at accelerating the progress and empowering people. We can accomplish the desired goals only if we have a robust governance system and there is an unflinching commitment to excellence at every level.
Taking a leaf out of Sardar Patel’s life and the extraordinary mission accomplished by him, I would suggest that we focus on strengthen-ing programme implementation; on building up the competence and credibility of institutional structures and adopting a work ethic that keeps the national interest at the top and public welfare at its core.
People need to develop a positive outlook and not become cynical. Everybody, particularly the youngsters, should be constructive and not destructive or obstructive. Through a collective endeavour, all Indians must work together for ushering in Gandhi Ji’s Ram Rajya, where there is all-round inclusive growth without poverty, fear, corruption, discrimination, inequality, illiteracy and hunger. Every citizen must strive to protect the unity, safety, security and sovereignty of the country.
I am sure that all those involved in delivering public services will rise to the occasion and strive to make India one of the best countries in the world in providing citizen-centric governance.
GOVERNANCE / Vice-President / Sardar Patel / by M Venkaiah Naidu