Peoples Report Card Outlines Governance
Agenda for India
The realization of the promises for development, made by the Indian
government at the national and the international level, call for necessary
political will, adequate budgetary allocation, and civil society participation,
emphasizes Citizens Report on Governance and Development 2004, which
was launched in New Delhi on December 14.
Published by Social Watch India, the report seeks to assess critically
the contribution of the Parliament, the executive, the judiciary and
local self-governance institutions to the countrys social development
from peoples perspectives. Says John Samuel, international director
of ActionAid International, Peoples participation is important because
governance is too important to be left to politicians and bureaucrats.
Adds Kuldip Nayar, a senior journalist and former Member of Parliament,
Its important for people to be vigilant and to speak up.
Social Watch India, a network of civil society organizations, has
analysed the functioning of the four institutions of governance in
the context of the countrys 10th Five Year Plan, the United Nations
(news - web sites) Millennium Development Goals and the Common Minimum
Program of the ruling government.
The report is in four sections - Seeking Accountability: Parliament
Watch; Broken Promises: Policy Watch; Access to Justice: Judiciary
Watch and Grassroots Democracy: Local Governance Watch. Says Dr Rajesh
Tandon, president of PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia),
These may be broad pillars of governance, but they are the most relevant.
In the section on Seeking Accountability: Parliament Watch, the report
notes that the Parliament did not live up to its role as parliamentary
time and public money were wasted on inter-party political controversies.
Over 60 hours, worth US $1,505,971, were wasted due to disruptions
in the Lok Sabha, which sat for only 74 days in 2003 as compared to
an average of over 100 days during the first 36 years since 1952.
The report tracks the government policies on livelihood, education
and health in the section titled Broken Promises: Policy Watch. The
report notes that the growth rate of employment between 1987 to 1994
and 1993 to 2000 dipped from 2.03 per cent to 0.58 per cent in rural
areas and from 3.39 to 2.27 per cent in urban areas.
The state of health also continues to be unhealthy. Indias public
expenditure on health is amongst the lowest in the world. Spending
4.46 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product on healthcare, India ranks
171st out of 175 countries in the world on the index.
The assessment in the section on Access to Justice: Judiciary Watch
is mixed. The report recognizes that the number and the manner of
interventions by high courts and the Supreme Court on various aspects
of the fundamental rights to food, work, education and health are
steps towards rights-based approach to social development.
The apex courts interpretation and inclusion of the right to work
as a positive right guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution
and upholding of the right to health as a fundamental right under
Article 21 came in for special mention. At the same time, the report
points out that the biggest problem nevertheless continues to be implementation
of the law.
The last section - Grassroots Democracy: Local Governance Watch rues
that the laudable initiative for decentralization of governance has
been circumvented by the alliance of elite political interests, change-resistant
bureaucracy and the rent-seeking class, which has well entrenched
interests in the continuation of a colonial, centralised, state structure.
Nevertheless, on a positive note, India has constitutionally mandated
232,332 village panchayats, (village-level local bodies) 6,000 intermediate
panchayats (block level local bodies) and 534 district panchayats
(district level local bodies). The three-tiered elected bodies consist
of 27,75,858 village panchayat members, 1,44,491 members of the intermediate
panchayats and 15,067 members of district panchayats.
The report does not stop here. Stating that apart from generating
awareness about the functioning of the parliament, executive, judiciary
and local self governments, the need of the hour is to leverage the
space and positive initiatives of these institutions to make democracy
work. Says Jagadananda, head of Centre for Youth and Social Development
(CYSD), an Indian NGO, Democracy is real when people are empowered.
Social Watch India is creating an enabling environment for empowerment.
The Social Watch Coalition has initiated state-level processes in
the Indian states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh,
Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. Adds Dr Yogesh
Kumar, executive director of Samarthan, The expectation is that these
processes will raise and articulate citizens voices and concerns from
grassroots and open up the possibility of linking up these with the
process of governance, democracy and development.
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