Democracy beyond elections – Part II

In the second part of our series on democracy and governance, we’ve spoken to Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT). PCGT was formed to ensure enactment of laws and policies, and to promote honesty, transparency and accountability in governance. They routinely help citizens to fight against corruption by helping them file Right to Information (RTI) applications, and has started a cell to assist any member of the public forced to pay a bribe. Here are their views on governance and public accountability in India.

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KC: What is your view on the state of governance in India? How do you think the relationship between voters and elected representatives (whether as individuals, parties or coalitions) has changed?

PCGT: Current state in the country is total failure of governance ridden as it is with corruption, and loss of faith in rules of land.  Citizens as voters are victims of the system though cannot escape the blame for their apathy to politics until recently.

KC: Is information more accessible because of democracy and/or technology? Do you think technology has changed the way the system works?

PCGT: Absolutely.  Internet, e-governance wherever available, RTI has put the system on its toes and we welcome it.

KC: What’s your vision of good citizenship and good leadership? Can you give examples of good citizens or good leaders from India or abroad? If you have a model do share with us.

PCGT: Highest ethical practice in governance should be the norm rather than exception.  There are many examples of this both here and abroad.  Our model would be where citizens take the responsibility of asking questions to the government, complimenting its efforts when government does right and oppose strongly when it goes against public interest.

Mr. Ribeiro, Chairman of PCGT, is an apt example of good citizen and leadership.

KC: It’s been said that India is a democratic polity but not a democratic society. Do you believe this statement? What are its repercussions? 

PCGT: To some extent, we agree as most citizens think only for themselves and not for the society as a whole.  Sometimes we may have to sacrifice personal gains for larger public good.

KC: Any trends in the current elections you’d like to comment on? Would voting be driven by a particular factor like the youth vote, job creation or the state of the economy. Which factor do you think will drive voting this time around?

PCGT: This is a very important election and voting will be driven by a combination of many factors.  Yes, youth or first time voters will have a big say in electing their representatives and in what sort of government they want to elect in order to realize their dreams and aspirations.  Our advice to voters is to vote wisely keeping not just short time gains but long term future of India!

KC: How do you think the internet has changed the way we access information?

PCGT: Internet has definitely contributed to the transparency and openness in the administration to some extent as compared to the previous closed door policies of the government.

KC: What services do you provide for users or citizens?

PCGT: We entertain the people in distress with regard to the demands for bribes from government officials for doing the legitimate work or passing on the legitimate benefits that are due to the beneficiaries; we resolve their problems by helping them file RTI applications and getting their work done in government offices without paying any bribes.

KC: How do you want  people to use your website/services?

PCGT: By browsing our website we expect people to approach us for further resolution of their problems in a peaceful and democratic way.

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