In an interconnected world is inevitable, but it should not be at the cost of the people. The institutions of state – legislative, executive, and judicial – will have to be strengthened to meet the challenges of globalization.
The aspirations of the younger generations, uninhibited by past baggage, and emerging from institutions of higher learning and frontier technologies, will have to be fulfilled as they become the torchbearers of the new century.
In general, the positive power to promote public good seems to be severely restricted, making it difficult for even the most conscientious and competent functionaries to deliver optimal results.
The systemic rigidities, needless complexity and over-centralization have made most elected politicians and appointed public servants ineffective and helpless. But the negative power of abuse of authority in pursuit of pelf, privilege and patronage, or harassment of public through flagrant violation of law, petty tyranny and nuisance value is virtually unchecked.
This imbalance in the exercise of power is at the heart of the crisis of governance. As a result most agencies of government are functioning sub-optimally, and government programmes have not yielded the desired results. At most levels, authority is divorced from accountability, leading to a system of realistic and plausible alibis for non-performance. Most functionaries are thus caught in a vicious cycle.
This situation is further aggravated by the phenomenal asymmetry of power in our society. Only about 8 percent of our work force is employed in the organized sector with a secure monthly wage and attendant privileges, and over 70 percent of these workers are employed in government at various levels and public sector undertakings.
Such a privileged position gives even the lowliest of public servants enormous power over most of the citizens, given the abject poverty, illiteracy, excessive centralization of power, a culture of exaggerated deference to authority, hierarchical tradition in society, and the legacy of colonial traditions and practices. Any serious effort to make our governance apparatus an instrument of service to the people and a powerful tool to achieve national objectives needs to take into account these two cardinal factors plaguing our polity – the imbalance in the exercise of power, and asymmetry in the wielding of power.
There are two fundamental, interrelated objectives, which need to be achieved in the coming decades. The first is the fulfillment of human potential, prevention of avoidable suffering and ensuring human dignity, access to justice and opportunity to all Indians so that every citizen is a fulfilled and productive human being.
The second is the rapid economic growth realizing the nation’s potential and allowing India to play her rightful role in the global arena in order to protect the vital interests of present and future generations, and become an important factor in promoting global peace, stability and prosperity. We need to sharply focus the state’s role and fashion instruments of governance as effective tools in our quest for these national goals.