One of the most dominant themes of public discourse in the contemporary civilized world is good governance.’ Simply speaking, the term ‘good governance’ refers to an administration that fosters the multi-faceted development of each and every individual in a given territory.
The finer versions of almost all ancient scriptures command rulers to work towards this end. In the Mahabharata, a dying scholar warrior warns the hunger of even one person in a kingdom renders the life of the king meaningless. Ancient political thinkers, such as Kautilya in India and Confucius in China, laid emphasis on the integrity of the ruling class to promote the happiness of people. Kautilya said : “In the happiness of the people lies his happiness, in their welfare, his welfare.” Confucius stressed official morality for people’s progress and prosperity.
In modern times we have adopted democracy only for good governance. Our assumption is the tool of democracy would automatically promote the interests of the people. In democracy people choose rulers from amongst themselves only. That makes the interests of the rulers and the ruled identical herein.
One, however, finds good governance is still miles away in our world . Due to the lack of good governance , the remarkable feats achieved in the field of science and technology have meant little to the life of the masses . Economic development has by and large been elitist. There is massive poverty, illiteracy , unemployment , mal-nutrition and squalor all around . According to an Oxfam survey ( January 2018) , the global economy today enables wealthy elite to accumulate vast wealth even as hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. There is an unprecedented increase in the number of billionaires. The wealth of this class has risen by an average of 13 per cent a year since 2010 .Over 82 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 worldwide went to just one per cent . Over 3.7 billion people accounting for the poorest half of the world population saw no increase in their wealth in the year.
We find that in most of the states in the world today, Middle Eastern ones in particular, their constitutions themselves deny women , minorities and social and religious non-conformists civil and political rights . In most of other states, their constitutions do grant rights to citizens but the respective governments do little when such rights are violated on the ground. Even the right to life—the most fundamental of all human rights-- is not assured in a greater part of the world. This has been one of the reasons for the on-going massive migration the world over. According to an estimate , more than 60 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced so far.
Regrettably, the state of affairs in our post-Independence India hardly reflects good governance . The record of our successive governments in addressing the problems---such as territorial aggression, communalism, casteism, gender discrimination , terrorism, poverty, squalor, illiteracy and crimes against children, women, Dalits and the tribal population--- the Republic has been confronted with is rather shameful.
According to authentic studies, our Constitution directs the Government to ensure equitable distribution of national wealth and inclusive development. This is nowhere in sight . India today ranks 100 in a world hunger list of 119 countries . Over 45 per cent of our child mortality is due to hunger or under-nutrition. Over 833 million, about 68 per cent , of Indians are living in rural areas. Opportunities for proper education, health care, environment and employment are missing in our villages.
Our farmers are still leading a life on the margins. The pressure of population on our farming has been rising . Small and marginal farmers ( with land holdings of less than 2 hectares) account for 72 per cent of land holdings. They have little marketable surplus. The costs of farm inputs have increased over the years . Their crop production is at risk because of the shortage of appropriate seeds , fertilizers and irrigation facilities. They do not get fair remunerative price for their products . Moneylenders continue to exploit them. The condition of our farmers is so bad that every year many of them are driven to commit suicide.
The studies reveal the rich have disproportionately benefited from the economic policies of the successive governments . Income inequality reached its highest in 2014 since 1922. The top one per cent of earners captured less than 21 per cent of total income in the late 1930s. The share of this segment of one per cent has been on the increase . The Oxfam survey (2018) shows this segment garners as much as 73 per cent of the total wealth generated in the country . Over 670000000 Indians amounting to the population’s poorest half saw their wealth rise by just one per cent in 2017. The Oxfam survey (2017) showed the richest one per cent held 58 per cent of total wealth.
Will our political elites – the Government and the Opposition both-- take to self-introspection, realize why and where they have failed and take appropriate remedial measures for good governance ?