Governance – Basics and Background


To prepare for GOVERNANCE for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about its Basics and Background. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Governance syllabus (GS-II.). Governance – Basics and Background terms are important from Governance perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams. Even these topics are also highly linked with current affairs. Almost every question asked from them is related to current events. So, apart from standard textbooks, you should rely on newspapers and news analyses as well for these sections.

  • The concept of “governance” has been in use since the medieval
  • Simply put “governance” means: “The process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are being implemented”.
  • Governance can be used in several contexts such as:-
    • Corporate Governance
    • International Governance
    • National Governance
    • Local Governance, etc.
  • 10th Five Year Plan defines Governance as, “Governance relates to the management of all such processes that, in any society, define the environment which permits and enables individuals to raise their capability levels, on one hand, and provide opportunities to realise their potential and enlarge the set of available choices, on the other”.
  • In 1993, the World Bank defined governance as the method through which power is exercised in the management of a country’s political, economic and social resources for
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) lays down the key components of governance as follows:


  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 1997, defined governance as “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their ”
  • Thus, governance focuses on the formal and informal actors and institutions involved in decision-making and implementing those


Elements of governance:
  1. Exercise of power and authority
    • Process and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised, how governments are selected, held accountable, monitored, and replaced;
    • A system of values, policies and institutions by which a society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interactions within and among the state, civil society and private


  • The space where the state as well as economic and social actors interact to make
  • The process whereby elements in society wield power and authority, and influence and enact policies and decisions concerning public life, and economic and social development


  1. Government’s ability and capacity to effectively fulfil its mandate
    • The state’s ability to serve the
    • Capacity of governments to manage resources efficiently and to formulate, implement, and enforce sound policies and regulations;
    • Government / state’s ability to serve the citizens by providing speedy justice, education, health care and sanitation, social and physical infrastructure, law and order, and so


For the first time, the Government of India outlined a governance approach to development in the National Human Development Report 2001. Governance, in this approach, is viewed as involving a continuous interplay of three elements, each representing a specific set of deliberate arrangements that include:

  • Institutions – adopted or created arrangements, both formal and informal, to bring about predictability, stability and efficiency in managing the social, economic or political transactions in any society;
  • The Delivery Mechanism – including the executive apparatus adopted or evolved by the institutions for implementing the agenda and the objectives for which the said institutions have been created; and
  • The Supportive and Subordinate Framework of Legislations, Rules, and Procedures ‐ formulated for delivering and meeting the stated responsibilities of the concerned


Stakeholders of Governance:

  • Typically, the stakeholders of governance at national level can be categorised into

three broad categories – State, Market and Civil Society.

  • The State includes the different organs of the government (Legislature, Judiciary and Executive) and their instrumentalities, independent accountability mechanisms It also consists of different segments of actors (elected representatives, political executive, bureaucracy/civil servants at different levels etc.)
  • The Market includes the private sector – organised as well as unorganised – that includes business firms ranging from large corporate houses to small scale industries/ establishments.
  • The Civil Society is the most diverse and typically includes all groups not included in (1) or (2). It includes Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Voluntary Organizations (VOs), media organisations/ associations, trade unions, religious groups, pressure groups
Governance in India

Dimensions of Governance in India:-


Dimensions of Governance in India

  • Political Dimension
  • Legal & Judicial Dimension of Governance
  • Administrative Dimension of Governance
  • Economic Dimension of Governance
  • Social and Environmental Dimension of Governance


Department of Administrative reforms and Public grievances (DARPG) in its report “State of Governance – A framework of assessment” has broken down governance into five dimensions viz. political, legal & judicial, administrative, economic and social & environmental dimensions.


Political Dimension of Governance and its key components:

  • Political dimension being the most essential aspect of governance looks at the quality of political contestation, conduct of individuals and institutions representing the people, use and abuse of political authority, decentralisation of powers and citizen’s faith in the political
  • It has four key components:

1. Exercise of franchise This is the doorway to democratic governance which establishes legitimacy and accountability of the government by enabling participation by the citizens. It provides opportunity to the people to voice their concerns and issues and hold the rulers accountable. To be meaningful, this process should be widely

participative, transparent, fair and healthily competitive.

2. Profile and conduct of Political Representatives, Political Parties and the Political Executive While the process of electoral democracy provides an enabling environment to the practice of democratic governance, it is the quality of the people’s representatives, which determines effectiveness of accountability and participation in practice. Another key aspect of political governance pertains to the quality of functioning of the political executive that has the duty of steering the government. The functioning of the Council of Ministers affects the nature of governance, both directly and


3. Functioning of Legislature The role of the legislature is critical to the way governance takes shape in any particular State. The time spent on discussing appropriation grants and legislation is

a clear indicator, for instance, of effectiveness of legislature.

4. Political Decentralisation Last but not the least is the quality of decentralised governance that has taken shape in the State. This not only reflects the willingness of the State to comply with

constitutional imperatives, but also is an important indicator of empowerment at the grassroots level.

Legal & Judicial Dimension of Governance and its key components:

  • This dimension seeks to measure whether the state’s exercise of power is within its boundaries. Also its ability to effectively maintain law and order, safeguard human rights and enable access to & delivery of
  • It has four basic components:


1. Law & Order and Internal Security This pertains to the basic function of the state – its raison d’etre – to ensure that law and order prevails and citizens live in an environment wherein their lives

and property are generally safe and secure.

2. Safeguarding of basic rights This aspect relates to the ability of the state to protect the basic rights of the citizen, particularly those of poor, women and weaker sections.
3. Police Administration and Citizen‐ friendliness of the


The police force is an important instrumentality of the state. Its role is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. This is indeed the cutting edge of the governance as an inept or / and corrupt police force would fail governance as nothing else does.
4. Access to Justice and Judicial Accountability Lastly, under this dimension, a significant indicator of the quality of governance relates to the access to and delivery of justice which is reflected in its capacity to provide timely justice, judicial efficiency, judicial accountability and citizen



Administrative Dimension of Governance and its key components:

  • This dimension determines the ability of government to deliver basic services to citizens by efficiently managing the human and financial resources. It also includes performance of the State on vigilance and anti‐corruption matters as well as responsiveness and transparency in
  • It has following four components:


1. Citizen Interface and Engagement: This component indicates the citizen‐centricity of government agencies in their day‐to‐day functioning viz. accessibility, responsiveness, quality of grievance redressal /complaint handling, compliance with RTI Act provisions, etc.
2. Managing Human, Financial and other resources: This aspect looks at how human resources in government are managed with particular focus on the profile of the staffing, recruitment process, transparency in transfers and postings, training and skill building, motivation levels among employees, performance appraisal, etc. A key aspect of governance is effective financial management. This aspect examines the quality of financial management in terms of expenditure patterns, liabilities, outstanding loans and compliance to basic financial accountability systems

like audit etc. It also assesses use of IT in governance.

3. Basic Service Delivery: The cutting edge of administrative governance is the timely delivery and the quality of basic services such as primary healthcare services, primary schooling, drinking water, sanitation facilities, public distribution system, electricity, roads and transportation. For the majority of population, this reflects governance – good or


4. Corruption Perception,

Vigilance & Enforcement:

Lastly, this dimension also examines corruption (in terms of citizen perception) and

vigilance mechanisms and the willingness of the State to punish the defaulters, particularly those at the higher echelons of administration.


Economic Dimension of Governance and its key components:

  • The economic dimension pertains to the ability of the state to ensure macro-economic stability and create conducive climate for economic activity to take place across different sectors of the economy. Economic Governance is also reflected in the state’s ability to provide support to the primary
  • It has three basic components:

1. Fiscal Governance: This aspect of economic governance relates to how the State has managed its finances over the short to medium term. This is examined both in terms of revenue mobilization indicators as well as indicators pertaining to expenditure


2. Business Environment: This component pertains to those aspects of economic governance which affect the way businesses operate within the State and includes general investment climate,

legal aspects, procedural issues, infrastructure and manpower, regulatory systems, etc.

3. Support to the Primary Sector: As the primary sector is the backbone of the economy with very high dependence on it among poorer sections of the population, the quality of governance is also reflected in the State of the primary sector and how the State provides various services to support this sector through extension, input supply and marketing


Social and Environmental Dimension of Governance and its key components:

  • The social dimension pertains to the ability of the state to take care of the vulnerable sections of the society. It also seeks to assess governance by examining the role and quality of the civil society and
  • Environmental management as a separate component is also included due to its increasing importance in governance.
  • This dimension has three key components:


1. Welfare of the Poor and Vulnerable The changing emphasis of governance (both in expression and action) towards the welfare of the poor and the marginalised is well recognised. The test of

governance in that sense lies in the state of the poor and the vulnerable segments such as the poor, women, children, minorities, etc.

2. Role of Civil Society and Media It is not only important for the civil society to play a watchdog role in governance, but also important for it to be a responsible actor. Hence this facet of governance pertains to two basic aspects (a) the space and the role that civil society gets to occupy in the governance process and (b) the quality and capacity of the civil society organizations to take up the role that they are expected of them. The mass media, both print and audio‐visual, wields a lot of influence in shaping public opinion. More than civil society organizations, it is important for the media to be a responsible actor in the governance process while enacting its traditional role as an instrument

of social change and empowerment.

3. Environmental Management Lastly, this component seeks to examine governance from the perspective of the state as the custodian of natural resources and its ability to regulate and manage

natural resources for sustainable development.


Governance Issues in India
  • India faces a range of various governance related issues in political, economic, administrative, social and legal domain. Some factors attributable to poor governance are:



Political Issues:

  • Criminalisation of Politics: In current Lok Sabha, 43% MPs are facing criminal cases while among them 29% are facing heinous crime
  • Misuse of political power: This has observed in various scams like Bofors scam, Commonwealth Games scam, Coal scam, Spectrum scam. Recently Rafael deal also came into limelight because of potential
  • Decentralisation more in letter less in spirit: Though 73rd and 74th Amendment Act enacted only few states like Kerala, West Bengal have taken steps to empower local bodies. In other states local bodies have no sufficient powers.


Legal and Judicial issues:

  • Delayed justice, issue of under trials: Overall 3 crore cases are pending in Indian judiciary where 50000 are pending in Supreme Court itself. Also undertrial proportion goes upto 68% in which 23% are
  • Lack of accountability in Judiciary where judiciary as a whole is still out of RTI though there is little development in this direction where Office of Chief Justice of India was brought under RTI in Subhash Agarwal
  • Threat to life and personal security: Since enactment of RTI 25 RTI activists have been killed in India. There is little development in the field of witness


Administrative issues:

  • Lack of sensitivity, transparency and accountability in the working of State machinery where bureaucracy still strives to maintain secrecy, negligence towards vulnerable sections
  • Bureaucratic Delays are still a common phenomenon where there is a direct interface between common people and administration. While on the other hand government laying red carpets for
  • Resistance to changes which promote transparency and accountability such low technology adoption, no voluntary disclosure of information, acquiring new
  • Corruption: recently Transparency International released its report called Corruption Barometer in which it stated that India is most corrupt country in South Asian


Economic issues:

  • Poor management of economy like recession due to structural problems, stagnation in agriculture, less utilisation of manufacturing potential
  • Persisting fiscal imbalances where fiscal slippage has become common phenomenon. Government has always failed to meet the targets established under FRBM Act. Ad hoc and reactive export-import policies have resulted into higher Current Account Deficit and persistent outflow of foreign
  • Regional disparities have crept into every sector of Example- Green revolution benefited northern states but eastern states are still dependent on subsistence agriculture. Western and South India is hub for manufacturing and service sectors. Where eastern and north eastern states are still underdeveloped.


Social and Environmental issues:

  • Denial of basic services to a substantial proportion of the population. Example: According to Shanta Kumar Committee, there is 66% exclusion error of beneficiaries, only 33% farmers covered under
  • Marginalisation and exclusion of people on account of social, religious, caste and gender Tribal people are always on risk of exclusion due to their remote habitats.
  • Existence of a significant number of voiceless poor with little opportunity for participation in governance; and
  • Deterioration of physical environment, particularly in urban areas. Example- urban heat island, dumping of solid waste, encroachment on rivers and wetlands.


Good Governance:


  • Governance’ by itself is a neutral term while “Good Governance” implies positive attributes and values associated with the quality of governance. Good governance is a dynamic concept and there is much subjectivity involved in defining the aspects of good


  • Governanc
  • Ethical Governance
  • Good Governance


  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recognizes eight core characteristics of Good Governance:

Features of Good Governance:

  • Good education facilities offered by the government having greater employability,
  • Development of basic infrastructures like roads, bridges, power, telecom, airport, irrigation and transport
  • Safety of public life, property, peaceful law and order,
  • Creating new employment opportunities in the government and private sectors,
  • Effectiveness and efficiency of working of government and its staffs,
  • Good business environment with free-market economy,
  • Reducing inequalities in the society through positive discrimination in favour of poorest of the poor
  • Providing total freedom of speech, of religion, of work and attitude of non-interference by
  • Provision of more concessions to citizens and free from
  • Good business
  • Citizen centric



Strategies for good governance

  • Reorienting priorities of the state through appropriate investment in human needs
  • Provision of social safety nets for the poor and marginalised
  • Strengthening state institutions
  • Introducing appropriate reforms in the functioning of Parliament and increasing its effectiveness
  • Enhancing Civil Services capacity through appropriate reform measures that matches performance and accountability
  • Forging new alliances with civil society, NGOs
  • Evolving a new framework for government-business cooperation

The Worldwide Governance Indicators project – World Bank

  • As mention above, World Bank defines Governance as the process and institutions by which authority in a country is
  • ‘The Worldwide Governance Indicators project’ – By World Bank ranks more than 200 countries on six key indicators of governance. The six indicators are:
    • Voice and Accountability
    • Political Stability and Absence of Violence
    • Government Effectiveness
    • Regulatory Quality
    • Rule of Law
    • Control of Corruption
  • Specifically, governance is:
    • The process by which governments are selected, held accountable, monitored, and replaced;
    • The capacity of governments to manage resources efficiently, and to formulate, implement, and enforce sound policies and regulations; and
    • The respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social Interactions among them.
  • These aggregate indicators combine the views of a large number of enterprise, citizen and expert survey respondents in industrial and developing


Good Governance Initiatives in India

  • India has to make big leaps to improve its governance records. Multiple steps have been taken in this regard. For example, the two biggest initiatives which have been taken in India for empowering common man and effective functioning of governance include Right to Information Act and E-governance


  • Good governance initiatives can be summarised as following:
    • Decentralisation and People’s Participation – 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendment Act
    • Developing programs for weaker sections and backward areas
    • Financial management (FRBM) and budget sanctity
    • Simplification of procedures and processes – Single window system and online approvals
    • Citizen’s Charters
    • Sevottam model
    • Redress of Citizen’s Grievances – Lokpal and Lokayukta
    • E-Governance and use of ICT tools
    • Public service morale & anti‐corruption measures
    • Transparency and Accountability measures:
      • Right to Information
      • Social Audits


Good Governance Index:

  • The purpose behind developing a comprehensive index is to create a tool which can be used uniformly across states and eventually district level to assess status of governance and impact of various interventions taken up by central and state governments including union
  • The index is developed by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances. The index takes into consideration following sectors:


The National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG)

  • The National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) is an autonomous institute under the aegis of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India. Its head office is at New Delhi and branch office at Mussoorie.
  • The NCGG has been set up to assist in bringing about governance reforms through studies, training, knowledge sharing and promotion of good
  • It seeks to carry out policy relevant research and prepare case studies; curate training courses for civil servants from India and other developing countries; provide a platform for sharing of existing knowledge and pro-actively seek out and develop ideas for their implementation in the government, both at the National & International
  • The National Centre for Good Governance traces its origin to the National Institute of Administrative Research (NIAR). NIAR was set up in 1995 by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) The Government of India’s apex training Institution for higher civil
  • During its 19 years of existence it provided research and training support to the Academy in areas of public administration. NIAR was subsequently rechristened with an expanded mandate, as National Centre for Good Governance, which was inaugurated on February 24th,


Minimum Government, Maximum Governance Philosophy

  • It focuses on citizen friendly and accountable
  • Simplification of procedures, identification and repeal of obsolete/archaic laws/rules, leveraging technology to bring in transparency in public interface and a robust public grievance redress system are some of it’s
  • On these lines, Digital India has helped Ministry of Panchayati Raj move to 100% e-office.
  • Ease of Doing Business’ also focuses on ease of governance. The emphasis has been on simplification and rationalisation of the existing rules and introduction of information technology to make governance more efficient and
  • is citizen centric platforms to empower people to connect with the Government and contribute towards good
  • PMO website also seeks expert advice from the people, thoughts and ideas on various topics that concern



  • Infusion of ethics into politics so that the political elite can demonstrate integrity and in still faith among subordinates about their fairness and impartiality:
    • The 2nd ARC has advocated for the cordial and hassle-free relations between Citizens and Personnel so as to create favourable opinion towards Public Services and public
    • 2nd ARC has suggested that Character Building is the most essential part of the Training of civil servants both at induction level and in-service
    • Healthy relation between the politicians and bureaucrats is also
  • Simplifying the government
  • Ensuring High Standards of Conduct among the top Personnel
  • Bringing in Stability of tenure and guarantee against arbitrary punishment. This is essential if you want to get the best out of public
  • The institutional arrangements like “whistle blowing”, should also be put in place to curb corrupt practices.
  • To enhance accountability effective Implementation of Citizens Charters’ for monitoring service delivery and also effective enforcement of Right to Information Act is to be
  • Civil Services Board:
    • The question of appointments, transfers and placements is not to be left to the discretion of the politicians or administrative bosses but be entrusted to independent and autonomous boards constituted (under the Constitution) on the lines of
  • Technical and Managerial Competence –
    • Technical and managerial competence of civil servants is a factor of good
    • This may be less of a constraint than it used to be, as access to education has improved, but rapid changes require ongoing development of skills.


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     PWOnlyIAS is NOW at three new locations Mukherjee Nagar ,Lucknow and Patna , Explore all centers     Download UPSC Mains 2023 Question Papers PDF  Free Initiative links -1) Download Prahaar 3.0 for Mains Current Affairs PDF both in English and Hindi 2) Daily Main Answer Writing  , 3) Daily Current Affairs , Editorial Analysis and quiz ,  4) PDF Downloads  UPSC 2022 Final Result🔥5 out of Top 10 from PW OnlyIAS Community. UPSC Prelims 2023 Trend Analysis cut-off and answer key

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