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I have read with interest Shri U.C. Agarwal’s book “Governance and Administration: An Insider’s View”. Shri Agarwal’s analysis and views on different aspects of the country’s governances and administration have considerable validity. His observations on the poor quality of grassroots administration, based on his personal experience are noteworthy. Some of his suggestions for improvement also deserve serious consideration. The accusations and reasons for the Indian Bureaucracy being “most bureaucratic” have been well-explained, and his suggestions as to how to improve its functioning are worth serious consideration and action. The Indian administration has to be truly “Indian”, in name and spirit for the aam admi. Shri Agarwal’s discussion brings to focus the crying need for self-restraint and discipline at different levels in our democracy as well as the comprehension, conviction, and adherence to ethical dimensions in the conduct of public affairs. The rule of law must operate both in letter and spirit and must be credibly seen to be in operation.
I think that Shri U.C. Agarwal has made a significant contribution to the ongoing debate on good governance which is of primary concern to every citizen. He has carefully, perceptively and objectively analysed the many issues that impinge on the problem.
Shri Agarwal has taken a holistic and comprehensive look at issues in governance. Some chapters of the book dealing with different aspects of governance sufficiently highlight the present shortcomings of governance that require to be set right soon. The first chapter “Good Governance: Constitutional Goals, Achievements and Disappointments” by and large summarises Shri Agarwal’s observations and views on post-independence administration and its various weak points that need to be addressed. He has explained as to how things were going on fairly well for about three decades after independence and how and why, thereafter, the country’s governance and administration suffered perceptible qualitative setback leading to slowdown in its overall growth and development and rising public discontentment with governance.
I believe that Shri Agarwal’s erudite volume will have the requisite response from thinking citizens, students of administration and scholars, persons working in different areas of administration and politicians with sensitivity to public good. It has been for me a rewarding experience to read it.
Shri Agarwal has covered a very broad canvas of administrative, constitutional and political problems as they have all their direct or indirect relationship with the core issue of governance. He has explored issues such as the role of All-India Services in our federal setup, public perception of the police as it raises a host of questions, citizen and administration – interface or relationship, judicial delays and clamour for more judges, job reservations and so on.
He has given his attention to the need for fiscal discipline and social sector investment, to the importance of safeguarding autonomy of the Election Commission and the need for promotion of citizenship values as envisaged in our constitution, as well as the role of administration in national integration.
He also does not ignore the issue of the secular character of the state and the positive role that the majority religion can play in promoting it. He has a small piece on Sardar Patel to exemplify the issues of administrative and political leadership – a matter of worldwide debate these days. In the context of monitoring complaints about venality in high public offices, his contribution on Ombudsman and Right to Information and Open Government have their own usefulness, especially in the background of the discussion on “Why and How to vote for Democracy”. Our democracy has to be saved from unhealthy and undemocratic practices which have crept in.
In the chapter – “Caste-census: not only folly but disaster”, Shri Agarwal has made out a strong and convincing case against the proposed recording of castes of individuals during the 2011 census. That he says, with good reasons, would amount to taking official notice of caste and revitalizing casteism to hinder the goal of making India a truly secular and egalitarian state. I have made at best some mention of the problems that Shri Agrawal analyses, only to point out the wide gamut of governance that he has explored in his book.