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“There has been a Huge Governance Deficit.”
Madhukar Gupta, Former Home Secretary (April 2007 - June 2009)
Issue Date - 21/07/2011
Former Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta believes that reforms have to be a broader issue and instead of discussing reforms in India’s structure of administration, judiciary, police et al, we should focus more on the wider aspects of governance reforms. In an exclusive interaction with mayank singh, Gupta discusses crucial areas where governance has failed to deliver to the people, and what the logical solutions can be.

B&E: Many institutions created in the country to serve as centres of good governance are not functioning as required.
Madhukar Gupta (MG): While talking of our system, a very important component that drives matters is the government of the day. Reforms have to be a much broader issue. Reforms in the police or judiciary or anything else are all different aspects of the same problem. So rather than talking of administrative reforms, it is more important to discuss governance reforms, which are of larger interest to the public today. What is a State? At the end of the day, a State is some authority or institution to which all citizens surrender some of our liberties because we, as an individual or a group, are not capable of keeping order in the society, which is what we expect the State to do. That is the genesis of a State everywhere. The government, opposition all have a role to play in this constitution. The Parliament has a role in totality. The judiciary has a defined role. And institutions such as the CAG, the Election Commission, all have a role to play. So, some institutions are there which are provided by the system itself. And other institutions are there which are created by the State in terms of the requirement of that constitution. Therefore, either you talk about the CBI or the Lokpal, which are being discussed today, or any statutory institution like the National Human Rights Commission, which you create to carry forward the spirit of the constitution, ultimately, when you talk of governance, the idea is to deliver to the people the best possible ability of a system for which we have surrendered our liberty to the State – to maintain peace, order and will work towards the general well-being and equitable development of the society. It is important that the police should be an institution that has an attitude to help and not harass. When we go to the courts, justice should be served. And elections should be fair. All this ultimately boils down to the fact that the institutions provided to deliver the functions of governance to the people, should be allowed to function as institutions.

B&E: In recent times, a number mass movements have come to light. Do these indicate some degree of what we can call governance deficit?
MG: Definitely. There has been a huge governance deficit, which is why these incidents are occurring. Today, I cannot go to a normal electricity office or the RTO and get my work done without paying bribes. This is the corruption that you and I are facing on a daily basis. Why does this corruption exist? There will always be excuses – big and small, genuine and untrue. But the point here is that corruption at higher levels of government have actually given rise to this form of corruption. But the point here is that corruption is flourishing in both the day-to-day functioning and at higher levels. How do we deal with this?

B&E: But don’t we elect a government for this very purpose? Is it not the job of the government itself to ensure a system of governance which keeps events corruption free and in-line?
MG: We need to sit down and think whether it is one element in the system which is leading to this or is it a combination of several elements in the system which are either ready to exploit it and therefore compromise on their functions as an instrument of governance. Take the case of an individual in the judiciary whose functions are very clearly defined. Why does he agree to compromise? Media is the eyes and ears of the country. So, nothing better could have happened to this country than a free, fearless and fair media. However, commercial interests exist there as well. Talking of bureaucracy, there was a difference in the general attitude when we joined service. The corporate world was not so big and money was not as important as it is today. There was idealism and the feeling to work for a district was to promote its best interests there – it was a natural desire. The role was more that of a guardian. Things have changed a lot since then. The importance of materialism has grown exponentially and so has consumerism. All these things have led to the creation of distortion.

B&E: You are talking of general decline in the attitude of the entire system. Then, in such a case, we can elect people whom we believe are able enough to handle issues such as security, corruption. Are we failing to do this as well?
MG: Undoubtedly. It recently came to fore in the Supreme Court that a certain percentage of our MPs have cases against them. There are many issues here. Governments come to power with good majority after a 35% vote share, in a set-up where there is no system for recall or accountability. I am not saying that this is what should happen, but we could look to follow a system where politicians fight on the basis of a party and then depending on the share of votes that the party gets, a certain number of people are nominated. Then you have a choice of a winnable party, instead of a winnable candidate as it will also then reduce the influence of vested interests.


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