Participative governance is a model of governance that emphasizes the active participation of citizens and stakeholders in the decision-making process of government. It is based on the idea that people who are affected by decisions should have a say in those decisions. Participative governance seeks to increase public participation and involvement in the policymaking process, as well as in the implementation and evaluation of government policies and programs.
The key features of participative governance include:
Collaboration: Collaboration between government and citizens is the cornerstone of participative governance. This involves developing partnerships and relationships between government officials, citizens, and stakeholders to identify and address public concerns.
Transparency: Transparency is essential to participative governance. Government officials must be open about their decision-making processes and be willing to share information with the public.
Accountability: Participative governance emphasizes accountability. Government officials must be held accountable for their decisions, and citizens should have the ability to hold them responsible.
Inclusiveness: Participative governance aims to include a diverse range of perspectives and voices in the decision-making process. It recognizes that different groups have different needs and interests and seeks to ensure that all voices are heard.
Empowerment: Participative governance seeks to empower citizens by giving them a greater role in decision-making. This can include providing access to information, resources, and training to help citizens participate effectively.
The Indian Constitution provides several provisions that ensure participative governance in the country. These provisions include:
Fundamental Rights: The Constitution of India provides fundamental rights to all citizens, including the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to form associations, and the right to participate in peaceful assemblies. These rights ensure that citizens can express their views and participate in the decision making process.
Directive Principles of State Policy: The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for the government to follow while making laws and policies. These principles aim to promote the welfare of the people and ensure their participation in the decision-making process.
Panchayati Raj Institutions: The Indian Constitution provides for Panchayati Raj Institutions, which are local self-government bodies at the village, block, and district levels. These institutions ensure participatory democracy by allowing citizens to participate in the decision-making process at the grassroots level.
Right to Information: The Right to Information Act, 2005, provides citizens with the right to access information held by public authorities. This act ensures transparency and accountability in government functioning and allows citizens to participate in the decision-making process.
Constitutional Amendments: The Constitution of India has been amended several times to ensure participative governance. For example, the 73rd and 74th Amendments introduced the concept of local selfgovernment and empowered local bodies to participate in decision-making at the grassroots level.
73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts
The Constitution of India has been amended several times to ensure that the principles of participative governance are enshrined in the Indian democratic system. One example of this is the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, which were introduced in 1992 and provide for local self-government and empower local bodies to participate in decision-making at the grassroots level.
The 73rd Amendment introduced the concept of Panchayati Raj, which is a system of local self-government at the village, block, and district levels. It aimed to ensure democratic decentralization of power and to promote participatory democracy. The Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) were given powers and functions to promote the economic development and social justice of the rural areas. The Amendment mandated the holding of regular elections to these institutions and ensured the participation of women and marginalized groups in the decision-making process.
The 74th Amendment introduced a similar system of local self-government for urban areas. It mandated the creation of urban local bodies such as Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils, and Nagar Panchayats to govern urban areas. These institutions were given powers and functions to provide basic services such as water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management, as well as to promote economic development and social justice in urban areas. The Amendment mandated regular elections to these institutions and ensured the participation of women and marginalized groups in the decision-making process.
Overall, the 73rd and 74th Amendments were crucial steps in ensuring participative governance in India. They empowered local self-government bodies to participate in decision-making at the grassroots level, ensured the participation of women and marginalized groups, and promoted democratic decentralization of power.
Certain initiatives towards Participative Governance
- Social Audit is a powerful tool that citizens can use to monitor and evaluate the performance of various government bodies. It was first initiated by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) as ‘jansunwai’ or public hearing in the 1990s. Since then, social audits have been made compulsory by several statutes, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. These audits have led to an increase in citizen participation and have helped to ensure a system of checks and balances.
For example, in Andhra Pradesh, state-wide social audits discovered large-scale fraud, resulting in administrative or criminal charges against almost 7,000 officials. Social audits have also led to the promotion of environmental democracy and governance.
- The Bhagidari scheme of the Delhi Government involves citizens directly through Resident Welfare Associations in monthly meetings, mobilizing the community to take responsibility for their respective zones and areas. These RWAs also act as the first point of contact for state utilities while planning development related and other changes.
- People’s Plan Campaign (PPC) in Kerala was an experiment in decentralized planning in 1996. It required local governments to make their Five-Year Plans with direct engagement of the public. Adequate funds from the State’s development budget were also devolved for the process. However, this scheme has been discontinued.
- Resident Welfare Associations: These are groups that are given state-specific incentives to incorporate the views of society or to devolve the decision-making power for basic civic functions to the citizens. Such initiatives have been highly appreciated for their implementation and the intent of engaging common citizens in promoting public participation or ‘janbhagidari’.
FAQs of Participative Government
Q: What is participative government?
A: Participative government, also known as participatory democracy, is a political system in which citizens are actively involved in decision-making processes and government policies. It encourages the direct participation of individuals in various aspects of governance, such as policymaking, budget allocation, and public administration.
Q: How does participative government differ from representative democracy?
A: Participative government differs from representative democracy in that it goes beyond the periodic election of representatives to make decisions on behalf of the people. In a participative government, citizens have a more direct role in shaping policies and can often engage in public deliberation, referendums, and community decision-making.
Q: What are some common methods of participation in a participative government?
A: Participative governments employ various methods to engage citizens, including:
- Public hearings and town hall meetings to gather input on specific issues.
- Citizens’ assemblies or juries that deliberate on complex topics and provide recommendations.
- Participatory budgeting, allowing citizens to allocate a portion of the public budget.
- Online platforms for feedback and public opinion gathering.
- Referendums and initiatives for important decisions.
- Community organizing and activism to influence policy outcomes.
Q: What are the benefits of participative government?
A: Participative government has several advantages, including:
- Increased citizen engagement and empowerment.
- Enhanced government accountability and transparency.
- Better-informed policy decisions.
- Improved problem-solving through diverse perspectives.
- Fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility among citizens.
- Reducing the potential for corruption and authoritarianism.
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