From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the governance, importance of decentralisation.
The article examines the issues exposed by the pandemic with the current system of governance in India as well as the global level. Strengthening the local governments is suggested as the need of the hour.
How pandemic exposed the limits of systems
- Governance systems at all levels, i.e. global, national, and local, have experienced stress as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There was a breakdown in many subsystems in health care, logistics, business, finance, and administration.
- Solutions for one subsystem backfired on other subsystems.
- For example, lockdowns to make it easier to manage the health crisis have made but it was disastrous for the economy.
Following 3 are the problems exposed in the governance
1) Mismatch in abilities and functions
- Human civilisation advances with the evolution of better institutions to manage public affairs.
- Institutions of parliamentary democracy did not exist 400 years ago.
- Institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, did not exist even 100 years ago.
- These institutions were invented to enable human societies to produce better outcomes for their citizens.
- The pandemic has revealed a fundamental flaw in their design.
- There is a mismatch in the design of governance institutions at the global level with the challenges they are required to manage.
2) Interconnected issues
- All 17 Sustainable Development Goal are interconnected with each other.
- Environmental, economic, and social issues cannot be separated from each other.
- Experts working in silos or by agencies focused only on their own problems cannot solve these problems.
- As government responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic have revealed, a good solution to one can create more problems for others.
3) Local solution requires local problems
- Even if experts in different discipline arrives at silo-ed solutions at the global level, they will not be able to solve the systemic problems of the SDGs.
- Because, their solutions must fit the specific conditions of each country, and of each locality within countries too, to fit the shape of the environment and the condition of society there.
- Solutions for environmental sustainability along with sustainable livelihoods cannot be the same in Kerala and Ladakh.
- Solutions must be local.
- For the local people to support the implementation of solutions, they must believe the solution is the right one for them.
Decentralisation of governance
- Governance of the people must be not only for the people. It must be by the people too.
- There are scientific explanations for why local systems solutions are the best.
- Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, had developed the principles for self-governing communities from research on the ground in many countries, including India.
- Indian Constitution requires devolution of powers to local government too.
- During pandemic States in India, such as Kerala, have weathered the storm better than others.
- A hypothesis is that those States and countries in which local governance was stronger have done much better than others.
Consider the question “Examine the issues with the current system of governance which were exposed by the pandemic. Also explain why decentralisation could improve many problems the governance faces.
The government has to support and enable people to govern themselves, to realise the vision of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’. Which is also the only way humanity will be able to meet the ecological and humanitarian challenges looming over it in the 21st century.