India's North-East: Government without Governance?

Publication Date01 July 2016
AuthorAnita Bagai
DOI10.1177/0019556120160302
Date01 July 2016
SubjectArticle
INDIA'S NORTH-EAST: GOVERNMENT WITHOUT
GOVERNANCE?
ANITABAGAI
India
s
North-East has been
in
the throes
of
conflicts that
are myriad and multiple
in
nature-between
the state
and
the_social groups, among different ethnic groups as well as
between the Union and the state governments. The region is
in
a state
of
uneasy quiet punctuated by sporadic disturbances.
One
of
the critical reasons is disruption
of
governance.
Clearly the institutions
of
governance have failed
to
provide
socio-economic
and
political opportunities to its
people
thereby accentuating the problem
of
political alienation and
conflict. The article attempts to look into the roots
of
the
growing problems
of
governability; analyses the discourses
of
governance initiatives by the various governments; their failure
to negotiate the embedded ideas
of
community; and concludes
by establishing that peace and stability can be brought only by
re~toring
governance and a liberal sharing
of
space and rights.
THE CLOSING decades
of
the 20th century witnessed a new focus on the
somewhat old debate about the state, market and civil society. The twin
forces
of
globalisation and democratisation put increasing pressure on the
established systems
of
public administration. There was a steady resurgence
of
faith in markets on the one hand and a critical scrutiny
of
the role
of
the
state in promoting economic development on the other. While an argument
was advanced for pushing back the boundary
of
the state, the importance
of
ensuring that the state carried out its responsibilities towards its citizens
was also made. It
is
against the backdrop
of
these turbulent negotiations
of
respective domains
of
the state, market, and the civil society that the
concept
of
governance gained momentum. For most part
of
the 20th century,
the word 'governance' had escaped the discipline
of
Political Science and
Public Administration and was confined to decision making in institutions
like universities and corporations. It was only in the late 20th century that
the concept became a part
of
the public discourse and questions such as
what actors are involved in governance, the meaning
of
'good governance'
and what criteria are used to evaluate good governance came to the purview.
INDIA'S NORTH-EAST: GOVERNMENT WITHOUT GOVERNANCE?
I
353
ANITA
BAGAI
The concept
of
governance
is
more encompassing and wider than that
of
government which conventionally refers to the formal institutional structure
and location
of
authoritative decision making in the modern state. The
exercise
of
authority
is
upper most in government and remains significant
in governance, but
is
no longer its single focus. This is because the power
in governance
is
not so much wielded
as
shared, and authority
is
defined not
so much by the control
of
the ruler
as
by consent and participation
of
the
governed. The governance paradigm has challenged the state-centric pltblic
administration as well
as
the market-oriented New Public Management
(NPM). Instead
of
top-down bureaucracy, governance
is
about reworking
the relation between the state, market and civil society for attaining the
goals
of
people-centric self-development.
Emphasising the idea that governance is not synonymous
with
government, James Rosenau states that governance
is
a system
of
rules
that is as dependant on inter-subjective meanings as on formally sanctioned
constitutions and charters. More specifically,
it
is
a system
of
rules that works
only
if
it
is
accepted by the majority or most powerful
of
those it affects,
whereas governments can function despite having to deal with widespread
opposition to their policies. In this sense,
Governance is always effective
in
performing the function necessary to
systemic persistence, else it
is
not conceived
to
exist (since instead
of
referring
to
ineffective governance, one speaks
of
anarchy
or
chaos).
Governments, on the other hand can be quite ineffective without being
regarded as non-existent (they are viewed simply as "weak''). Thus, it
is
possible to conceive
of
governance without
government-of
regulatory
mechanisms
in
a sphere
of
activity which function effectively even
though they are not endowed with formal authority. (Rosenau 1992: 5)
Extending the same line
of
reasoning, Rosenau says it
is
possible to
conceive
of
a scenario marked by government without governance referring
to those formal authorities in the world who lack regulatory mechanisms to
function effectively. Taking into account the pernicious and corrupt policies
that the governments pursue, Rosenau promptly shows his preference for
governance without government over governments that are incapable
of
governance or have so to say usurped governance (Rosenau 1992: 5).
Against this backdrop, this article is an attempt at understanding the
quality
of
governance in the context ofNorth-East India. The region under
discussion is inhabited by a large number
of
communities who identify
themselves as tribes and has been in news because
of
insurgent violence and
ethnic movements. Is there really a crisis
of
governability in the region as
pointed out by some observers oflndian politics? Is it a case
of
government

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