Democracy is meaningful when citizens in general and the most marginalised people in particular have the capacity and the power to ask questions, seek accountability from the state and participate in the process of governance. Democracy works when the elected representatives and the people who elect them work hand in hand both recognizing the other as absolutely required to manage the affairs of the state. The state and the citizens must think and reflect together, discuss and decide together and act and react together. Both must accept a mutually inclusive style of management. Only then will the state be capable of creating enabling social, political, economic and legal conditions wherein people can exercise their rights and realise their responsibilities.
It is not easy to achieve the ideal of good governance within a short period of time. We must first undo the past and that is not an easy task. The culture of corruption-ridden politics needs to be cleaned with patience and determination. All over the world the efforts are on to demand better governance and make the governments transparent and more accountable. Transparency International publishes its index of corruption every year and the whole world can know the extent of corruption in different parts of the world. The civil societies across the globe are more and more aware of their role in ushering good governance in their respective countries. What?s needed is patience and determination to deal with the various issues of governance. The ethical quality of political process must definitely improve. At the same time it is also important that people improve the ethical quality of their public life. Exercising the franchise alone is not sufficient to ensure good governance. The citizens must continually be alert and watchful and play a proactive role in improving the quality of governance.
In the Indian context, with strong family ties that still prevail, governance must be viewed as a process which belongs to the whole community. The elements of caste or creed must not be allowed to surface. There should be an equal opportunity to all to participate in the processes of governance. Issues can be dealt with, problems can be solved and developments can take place when governance is actually felt as a community concern. Political parties and those in power must begin to realize that the process of governance must be open to all. Confrontation should give way to collaboration. Many conflicts between the civil society and the government can thus be avoided and the collective energy and the time be saved for greater productive work.
Participatory governance can avert many ills of the society. Likewise, many of our problems can easily be solved when government takes people into confidence. The government and the citizens are like two faces of the same coin. They can therefore never be mutually exclusive. On the one hand, the government can avoid greater headaches by asking people?s advise in solving many local problems. On the other, people can also get what they want by cooperating with the government. For example, when the government fails to respond to certain emergency needs like the repairs of roads or filling of potholes, citizens can provide some quick solutions by rendering voluntary service. It is ultimately the community that benefits. While it is important to make the government deliver goods, it is also important that citizens do not neglect an issue that is both important and urgent. People of goodwill can come together, pool their resources and provide much needed relief to the general public. The various civil society organizations can come together on a common platform as they have done on several occasions and find common solutions to problems that make citizen life more difficult and unpleasant under certain circumstances. But this is not an excuse for the government to shirk its responsibilities. It should recognize the people power, appreciate people?s proactive role in governance and promote such pro-society interests. When people provide immediate solutions to some serious problems, the government should reward such efforts all done in public interest and for the benefit of the local community.
This model of local governance where there is people?s participation in all processes of governance will certainly set an example to others. The government readily responding to people?s needs and the citizens not just finding fault with the government but helping it by cooperating and assisting in running the city will take the country forward by leaps and bounds. Let both the government and the people who have the power to ask questions, now ask the most important question. Is it not possible for us to make this form of governance happen in our city?
Author: Cyril Vas- Bangalore